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LE MONDE ESSAYFrom the end of the war to state treatyand neutrality: Austria 1945-1955Neither the non-national-socialist political elite from before 1938 nor the broaderpublic knew precisely how to rehabilitate a democratic system in the aftermath oftwo dictatorships.Oliver Rathkolbwas born in Vienna in 1955,received his doctorates inlaw and history at theUniversity of Vienna and isa university professor atand head of theDepartment of ContemporaryHistory of theUniversity of Vienna.75 regime through the Allies, we still tend toyears after the end of the war and thecrushing of the national-socialist terrortake the rebuilding of the democratic structures carriedout by Austria’s provisional government underKarl Renner for granted.The founding of the Second Austrian Republicthrough the proclamation of 27 April 1945 throughthe representatives of the recently established AustrianPeople’s Party (ÖVP), the Social Democratic Partyof Austria (SPÖ) and the Communist Party of Austria(KPÖ) is often brushed over as a given and part of the“course of history”. Vienna, however, had just been liberatedby the Red Army on 13 April following bloodyand deadly battles. Austrian resistance groups hadplayed a strategically important but only marginal rolein all of this. Neither the non-national-socialist politicalelite from before 1938 nor the broader public knewprecisely how to rehabilitate a democratic system inthe aftermath of two dictatorships, the Dollfuß-Schuschnigg regime from 1933 to 1938 and the totalitariannational-socialist terror from 1938 to 1945. Inthe beginning, however, the political influence of theRenner government was limited to the Soviet Zone,i.e. Vienna, Lower Austria, what would later becomeBurgenland and the Mühlviertel region in Upper Austria.The incoming Western Allies, US units in Tyrolfrom 28 April, the French army in Vorarlberg one daylater and British troops in Carinthia from 7 May, werecompletely surprised and diplomatically speakingquite irritated that – contrary to the initial agreementsbetween the Allies – there had been a one-sided Sovietinitiation and recognition of Renner’s provisional nationalunity government prior to the establishment ofan Allied Commission. It would take many monthsbefore the suspicion that Renner’s government was apro-Soviet and pro-Communist puppet governmentcould be refuted. This is why some of the Allies initiallyrefused to recognise the government.In the first few months after the destruction of theNazi regime, British and US occupation authoritiesinitially prohibited any form of political activity intheir occupation zones. Only newspapers from the Allieswere permitted, even resistance activists were alsoexcluded. In Upper Austria and Salzburg, US forcesmade use of a bureaucratic caretaker government.Only in Tyrol – the French zone – the successful resistancemovement, which had also liberated Innsbruck,was able to take a seat in the provincial administrationwith Karl Gruber as a representative. The British, onthe other hand, initially also pursued total control likethe Americans.What became clear relatively quickly was that itwas impossible to enforce a total “shut down” policy,i.e. to ban any form of political activity. From August/September 1945, the controls were loosened, and politicalparties were permitted once again, and the firstAustrian party papers and independent press organswere able to publish again. On 20 October, following aconference by the provinces and the integration of politiciansfrom Western Austria into Renner’s government,its jurisdiction was de facto extended by theAllied Council over the whole of Austria. The Austrianpublic – women especially, since over 64% of voterswere women – spoke at the National Council electionsof 25 November 1945 (44.6% Social Democratic Partyof Austria, 49.8% Austrian People’s Party, 5.4% CommunistParty of Austria) in favour of a westwardcourse for the nation.The new government did not seek to engage withthe authoritarian Dollfuß-Schuschnigg regime ofLeopold Figl - the former concentration camp internee laterserved as Austrian Chancellor and Foreign Minister.PHOTO : MATTHIAS CREMER, UN PHOTO/ALBERT FOX1933–1938 politically but applied the “Burgfrieden”truce concept in order to focus on working togetheron the creation of an independent state and the withdrawalof the four Allied Powers (USA, USSR, UK andFR). Once again, the suffering endured under the Naziregime was used as a justification, as well as the “Geistder Lagerstrasse” (“Spirit of the Camp Road”), denotingthe collective suffering of members of the AustrianPeople’s Party and the Social Democratic Party ofAustria in the Nazi concentration camps, which helpedthe brushing aside of earlier controversies. Therehad, as a matter of fact, been selective contact withconcentration camps, but the majority of the 1945 SocialDemocratic elite (such as Karl Renner, AdolfSchärf or Oskar Helmer) had not been sent to one,whereas several People’s Party politicians (such as LeopoldFigl, Felix Hurdes, Heinrich Gleissner or LoisWeinberger) had gone through individual experiencesand were called upon for the indirect justificationof the non-engagement with the 1933/1934-1938 years.The myth of the “Camp Road” was meant to putan end to the past, just like the myth of the “victimtheory”, which posed that Austrian collaboration withthe Nazi destruction and expansion machinery couldbe reduced to only a few perpetrators. The “Prussians”were to blame for the Second World War and the Holocaust,and the Allies were to be considered occupiers,not liberators.Accordingly, it was not a coincidence, but actuallymirrored to the political self-image of the society ofthe Second Republic that Minister of Foreign AffairsLeopold Figl was able to push through the annulmentof the “Co-responsibility Clause” prior to the conclusionof the Austrian State Treaty of 1955 without muchdebate. Figl was persuasive, since he had undergonehorrific torture as a political concentration camp prisonerby the hands of Nazi henchmen. At the sametime, the Allies had achieved everything they had geostrategicallypushed for: The Soviet Union had imposedhigher withdrawal requirements in the form ofcrude oil shipments and the USA were able to enforcethe rearmament of the western-oriented Austrian ArmedForces, which, though it had been obliged to remainmilitarily neutral through the Constitutional lawof 26 October 1955, ended up cooperating and sym-pathising with the West and with NATO. Moreover,western oil corporations received extensive oil andnatural gas drilling rights through the Vienna Memorandum.The actual “father” of the State Treaty, however,was Chancellor Julius Raab, who, after the deathof Joseph Stalin in 1953, pushed for direct talks andnegotiations with the Soviet Union, recognised thewindow of opportunity in February 1955 as revealedthrough his close confidante Ambassador Norbert Bischoffin Moscow and agreed to a trip to Moscow inApril.After the accession of the Federal Republic ofGermany to NATO, the German question had beensolved through the partition of Germany and theway had been paved for an Austrian solution as well,since the new strongman in Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev,demanded a summit meeting with new US PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower. The prize for this wasthe conclusion of the Austrian State Treaty: A winwinsituation for both superpowers and for JuliusRaab of the Austrian People’s Party and finally alsofor the Social Democratic coalition partner andVince Chancellor Adolf Schärf and State SecretaryBruno Kreisky at the top, who, despite some fearsand reservations, ultimately accepted the neutralisationof Austria.BOOK TIPSFrom the “bulwark of Germanity in theeast“ via the “bridge between the blocks“to the “island of the blessed“ and amember of the EU: Austria has changed,but the simultaneity between megalomaniaand an inferiority complex, betweenengagement and isolation, has remained.Zsolnay VerlagISBN 978-3-552-05723-4English edition (1945-2005) published byBerghahn BooksISBN 978-1-78238-396-344 Cercle Diplomatique 2/2020Cercle Diplomatique 2/202045