Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Figl, Leopold (1902–1965)

Austrian chancellor and foreign minister. Born in Rust in Lower Austria on 2 October 1902, Leopold Figl studied at the College of Soil Sciences and became a secretary for the Lower Austrian Association of Farmers in 1927. He rose to deputy director of that organization in 1931 and became director in 1933. In 1937 he accepted appointment as director of the Federal Farmers' Union. He also served as a member of the Federal Economic Council from 1934 to 1938, helping organize a Pan-European economic conference in Vienna in 1936. Arrested in 1938 and sent to Dachau, Figl was released in May 1943. He was rearrested in October 1944 and sent to Mauthausen, where he remained until the war ended in April 1945.

After the war, Figl resumed his political activity, leading the drive to reinstate the Austrian constitution of 1929. As governor of Lower Austria and president of the reformed Farmers' Union, Figl helped relieve the postwar famine in Vienna. He became undersecretary without portfolio and a member of President Karl Renner's Political Cabinet Council in the Provisional Government. A sophisticated negotiator and political improviser with close ties to the Austrian Socialist Party (SPÖ), Figl was elected to parliament as a representative of the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) and named chancellor of Austria in December 1945.

Figl's program as chancellor emphasized cooperation in the name of Austrian unity and independence. He stressed democracy, de-Nazification and the depoliticization of the police and the judiciary. Although he approved the formation of Austro-Soviet joint-stock companies in July 1945, Figl resisted Soviet pressure to legitimize the transfer of Austrian properties in 1946, protesting the Soviet usurpation of control over the Danube Steamship Company in particular. During his term as chancellor, he was also instrumental in establishing a neutral, independent identity for Austria. Figl resigned under pressure in 1953, but he immediately became foreign minister and served in that post until 1959. The crowning achievement of his political career was the conclusion of the Austrian State Treaty in 1955. Following his party's defeat in the 1959 elections, Figl served briefly as president of the Austrian parliament before becoming governor of Lower Austria. He died in Vienna on 9 April 1965.

Timothy C. Dowling


Further Reading
Carafano, James Jay. Waltzing into the Cold War: The Struggle for Occupied Austria. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002.; Kunz, Johannes, ed. Leopold Figl: Ansichten eines grossen Österreicher. Vienna: Edition S., 1992.; Trost, Ernst. Figl von Österreich: Das Leben des ersten Kanzlers der Zweiten Republik. Vienna: Amalthea, 1985.
 

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