Leopold Figl

Leopold Figl

Figl as Lower Austrian governor, about 1962
Acting President of Austria
In office
31 December 1950  21 June 1951
Preceded by Karl Renner
Succeeded by Theodor Körner
14th Chancellor of Austria
In office
20 December 1945  2 April 1953
President Karl Renner
Theodor Körner
Deputy Adolf Schärf
Preceded by Karl Renner (Acting)
Succeeded by Julius Raab
Foreign Minister of Austria
In office
26 November 1953  9 June 1959
Chancellor Julius Raab
Preceded by Karl Gruber
Succeeded by Bruno Kreisky
Personal details
Born (1902-10-02)2 October 1902
Rust, Michelhausen,
Died 9 May 1965(1965-05-09) (aged 62)
Vienna, Austria
Political party Austrian People's Party (ÖVP)
Alma mater University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Profession Agricultural engineer
Religion Roman Catholicism

Leopold Figl (2 October 1902 – 9 May 1965) was an Austrian politician of the Austrian People's Party (Christian Democrats) and the first Federal Chancellor after World War II. He was also the youngest Federal Chancellor of Austria after the war.


Born a farmer's son in the Lower Austrian village of Rust im Tullnerfeld, Figl after graduation as Dipl.-Ing. of Agriculture at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna became vice chair of the Lower Austrian Bauernbund (Farmer's League) in 1931 and chairman in 1933.

After the authoritarian revolution of Engelbert Dollfuss, who had served as his mentor within the Farmer's League, Figl became a member of the federal council of economic policy and became leader of the paramilitary organisation of Ostmärkische Sturmscharen for the state of Lower Austria.

After the Anschluss, the Nazis deported Figl to Dachau concentration camp in 1938, from which he was released in May 1943. He then worked as an oil engineer, but in October 1944 Figl was rearrested and brought to Mauthausen concentration camp. On 21 January 1945, he was brought to Vienna. The folder of his dossier was marked with the abbreviation 'VG' indicating that a Volksgerichtshof trial (often ending with a death penalty) was planned or in preparation.[1] Figl was released on 6 April 1945, when troops of the Soviet Army advanced to the centre of Vienna in an operation which became known as the Vienna Offensive .

After the defeat of the Nazis, the Allies occupied Austria at the end of World War II. The Soviet Military Commander, Tolbukhin, asked Figl to manage the provision of food for the population of Vienna.[2] On 14 April 1945 he refounded the Bauernbund and integrated it into the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), which was founded three days later. Figl was elected vice chair. On 27 April he became interim Governor of Lower Austria and vice-minister.

At the first free elections since 1934, held in December 1945, the ÖVP won a smashing victory, taking 49.8 percent of the vote and an absolute majority in the legislature. Figl was proposed as Chancellor; the Soviets agreed, because of his opposition to the Nazis and his managerial abilities. Although he could have formed a one-party government, the memories of the factionalism that had plagued the First Republic led him to continue the grand coalition between the People's Party, Socialists and Communists. The coalition (from which the Communists were pushed out in 1947), remained in office until 1966 and did much to solve the serious economic and social problems left over from World War II. The USA's Marshall Plan was also a great help.

After internal criticism, Figl resigned as Chancellor on 26 November 1953. His successor, Julius Raab, was less flexible towards the SPÖ, but was Chancellor when the Austrian State Treaty, which granted full independence to the country, was signed on 15 May 1955. However, Figl was strongly involved in its achievement, as he remained in the government as foreign minister. His appearance on the balcony of Belvedere Palace waving the signed paper and speaking the words Österreich ist frei! ("Austria is free!"), as rendered by the Deutsche Wochenschau newsreel, has become an icon in the Austrian national remembrance. (The words were actually spoken before, inside the Palace, but the pictures on the balcony were underlain with the sound track made inside.)

At the national elections of 1959 the SPÖ gained ground on the ÖVP, and the ratio of seats between the two parties in parliament was now almost 1:1. This gave the SPÖ the bargaining power to demand that Bruno Kreisky succeed him as foreign minister. Figl then became president of the National Council 19591962, but soon returned to Lower Austria, to become governor of his home state.

Figl was patron of the Pfadfinder Österreichs between 1960 and 1964 and president of this Scout association from 1964 until his death.[3]

He died from kidney cancer in 1965 in Vienna, and is buried in an Ehrengrab at the Zentralfriedhof. His son Johannes was International Commissioner of the Pfadfinder Österreichs[4][5] and president of the Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs from 1994 to 2000.[3]

Honours and awards

Various locations have been named for Figl:


  1. Parlamentskorrespondenz Nr. 666 vom 2. Oktober 2002 / www.parlament.gv.at: : Feierstunde zum 100. Geburtstag von Leopold Figl im Parlament
  2. Gerhard Jelinek: Reden, die die Welt veränderten
  3. 1 2 Pribich, Kurt (2004). Logbuch der Pfadfinderverbände in Österreich (in German). Vienna: Pfadfinder-Gilde-Österreichs. p. 277.
  4. Philipp Lehar (2009). "Pfadfinderarbeit als Beitrag zur Integration?". PPÖ-Brief (in German). Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs. 2/2009: 11.
  5. Pribich, Kurt (2004). Logbuch der Pfadfinderverbände in Österreich (in German). Vienna: Pfadfinder-Gilde-Österreichs. p. 191.
  6. "Questions to the Chancellor" (PDF). Austrian Parliament. 2012. p. 5. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
Political offices
Preceded by:
Karl Renner
Chancellor of Austria
Succeeded by:
Julius Raab
Preceded by:
Karl Gruber
Foreign Minister of Austria
Succeeded by:
Bruno Kreisky
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