Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of History and Politics


In February 1942, during the earliest planning stages for post-war Europe, Austria was seen as a 'hideously complicated problem1- by Washington and London alike. Surprisingly, when one considers existing literature on the post-war occupation of Austria, this sentiment remains a fitting description of Anglo-American relations with Austria during the ten years of the Allied occupation. For me, born in occupied Vienna and growing up in that city during the 1960s, this is a compelling revelation, since during that period one of the most powerful staples of the political education of young Austrians was that Austria had been saved by the Americans and the British from a fate worse than occupation - that of Communism. My own recent examination of an aspect of US post-war foreign policy and practice and their effects on Anglo-American relations2 raised a fundamental question: why did Austria remain occupied for ten long years, when the conditions for evacuation, as set down by the Allies during the war, had been fulfilled within the first nine months after liberation? To appreciate the significance of this question, it is crucial to understand what the aims of the Allies were. Austria was to be separated from Germany originally in a deliberate attempt to weaken the German war effort and then to deprive Germany permanently of Austrian support. To achieve this purpose, the Allies decided to restore Austria to independence. The conditions for independence would be deemed to be satisfied once Austria was demilitarised, her administration severed from that of Germany, adequate denazification measures in progress, and a freely elected Austrian government installed. By the end of 1945 these conditions were fulfilled. Why, then, did Austria have to wait until 1955 to regain her freedom? Although this question has not been asked for the first time, the small body of literature which attempts to answer it has done so only in a limited way. 3 Most noticeable in existing treatises on the subject is an emphasis on the relations between Austria and the Soviet Union and a bias towards acceptance of the Cold War thesis as proclaimed by the Americans. The Soviets, no doubt, until recently made comfortable villains and this may be part of the reason for the prominence given to the occupation period up to 1950. The years 1951 to 1955 are usually either ignored or given short shrift. It would appear that 1950 has presented a convenient point of termination for those who contend that Soviet intransigence prevented the conclusion of an Austrian treaty. By emphasising Soviet unwillingness to respond favourably to Anglo-American demands and, I suggest, by giving too much credence to the letter rather than the spirit of American documents, a skewed picture has been allowed to emerge, perpetuating the myth of the American saviour. My primary aim, then, has been twofold: to investigate the portrayal of America as the party which untiringly strove to free Austria from the occupation, and to explore the British part in the occupation and assess its effect on Anglo-Austrian as well as Anglo- American relations. To that end I have examined British and American policy towards Austria and the Soviet Union, Anglo-American tactics at treaty negotiations, and the extent to which London and Washington took Austrian wishes and complaints into consideration. This raised many important questions. Why, for instance, was there such disagreement, particularly after 1950, between Britain and the United States over the benefits to Western security of ending the occupation? In what ways did British and American assessment of Soviet policy differ between 1943 and 1955, and what effect, if any. did Austrian demands to end the occupation have on British and American views of Austria's role in Europe? The answers emerging paint a fascinating picture of Britain as the original cold warrior - both under Churchill and Attlee - but then, as the American ideological crusade gained momentum, insisting on a common-sense solution to Austrian security and Austria's place in Western Europe. Britain's pragmatic approach to the Austrian problem was, however, repeatedly frustrated by American intransigence and by Britain's own efforts to safeguard her economic interests in Austria. The evidence also suggests strongly that from 1948 onward American military considerations prevented the ending of the occupation until, in 1955, it was no longer politically feasible to keep it going. By 1955 the Americans feared that their failure to sign the treaty would prejudice the containment of Soviet Russia by encouraging further Austrian-Soviet bilateral deals. They also feared being placed in an untenable propaganda position by remaining the only occupying power unwilling to end the occupation. These factors and a shift in emphasis of US foreign policy towards Asia, as well as a greater reliance on massive retaliation rather than mere containment, determined American action in 1955. A crucial consequence of Austria's occupation was her choice of neutral status after being nurtured as a 'Western outpost' for ten years. It has invariably been asserted by writers outside Austria that neutrality was imposed by Moscow. But this is far too simplistic a view. The question needs to be asked, in what way did Austrian assessment of Soviet policy differ from British or American assessment, and why did Austria's initial sense of relief at the arrival of American and British occupation forces change to disillusionment? It is my contention that Austria embraced neutrality because satisfying the role imposed by the United States had become an intolerable burden and threatened - as, indeed, was acknowledged by some of the more determined cold warriors in Washington - to last for the duration of the East-West conflict. This, as we now know, would have added some thirty-five years to the occupation. Austria's own part in the ending of the occupation has not been adequately explored. The Austrian Government, if its actions are considered at all, is often treated as if it were a homogeneous entity, when in fact it consisted of the representatives of two diametrically opposed ideologies, who as recently as 1934 had fought a civil war against each other, A fundamental question, therefore, is why did the two major political parties in Austria - the Socialist Party (SPG), comprising Socialdemocrats and its left-wing faction, the Revolutionary Socialists, and the People's Party (OVP), an amalgamation of conservative Christiansocials and former right-wing corporate-state enthusiasts - co-operate in a coalition government throughout the occupation? What problems did the leaders of the coalition parties face, and why did the Socialist Party half-way through the occupation insist on the formation of new political parties? The importance of these issues lies in the essential connection between the burden imposed by the occupation, the potential for serious internal instability which it engendered, and the growing disaffection between Austria and the Anglo-American powers. I have divided the thesis into ten chapters. The running civil wars between Socialist and Conservative forces during the 1920s and early 1930s - culminating in the brutal suppression of Austrian Socialdemocracy by the authoritarian Dollfuss Government in 1934 - were pivotal in the forcible incorporation of Austria into the German Reich in 1938. Chapter One explores Anglo-American attitudes in the 1930s to the civil war and to the Anschluss in order to show what bearing they had later on Allied planning. The Allied proclamation in November 1943 that Austria was to be re-established as an independent state is examined in the light of the first of many serious misconceptions about Austrian aspirations, the belief - very likely inspired by Churchill's predilection for a Danubian Empire centred on Vienna - that independence held little appeal for the Austrians. Chapter Two shows how as early as 1944 British assessment of Soviet aims in Europe and the presumed threat to British European policy clashed with the Americans' reoccupation with the Far East and caused considerable disagreement between the two governments over the proposed post-war control of Austria. By 1945 Britain saw itself as the only power sufficiently aware of and prepared to fight the Soviet-led Communist threat to Europe. It was this notion of its role in Europe that caused the British Government to refuse recognition of the Austrian Provisional Government established by Karl Renner in Soviet-occupied Vienna in April 1945. The ensuing isagreement between the British and US governments provides one of the earliest examples of the Austrian Government quietly proceeding with the administration of the country while the occupying powers fought amongst themselves. British reactions to the Provisional government's preparations for the first post-war elections, to be held in November 1945, offer an instructive glimpse of British anxiety over the Communist threat, a concern which was only temporarily alleviated when the Austrian Communists suffered a decisive defeat in the elections. The focus of Chapter Three is the first battle of wills between the Austrian Government and the occupation forces over the inordinate number of occupation troops in Austria and the devastating burden they imposed on the country's resources and population. This chapter also explores the different responses by the British and Americans to these complaints and to the Communist threat thought to be posed to Austria's future independence. In direct contrast to their attitudes after 1950, in 1946 the Americans wanted a quick end to the occupation, whereas the British saw the problem as one of physical protection of Austria by the presence of Anglo-American occupation troops to deter the Soviet military, and insistence on co-operation between the Socialist Party and the People's Party to forestall the Austrian Communists. The ambiguities in British policy towards liberated Austria are explored in Chapter Four. These include the war-guilt clause contained in the British draft treaty, perceived as a monstrous injustice by the Austrians, who protested that they had been the victims of Nazism. The British draft also set the stage for a protracted battle between HMG and the Austrian Government, supported by Moscow, over British oil interests in Austria. In 1947 the first negotiations for an Austrian treaty witnessed a new-found determination by the Americans to defy the Soviets' alleged economic subversion of Austria. The resulting conflict between the Austrian leaders, who saw the Soviet claims as reparation demands susceptible to business-like settlement between Vienna and Moscow, and the Anglo-American negotiators, whose tactics were believed to prolong needlessly the occupation and thus pose a threat to internal stability, contributed to Austrian is enchantment with Western aims and to Austrian determination not to participate in ideological crusades against the Soviet Union. The impact of the Communist coup in Prague and of deteriorating East-West relations in Berlin on Anglo-American willingness to grant Austria her freedom are examined in Chapter Five. British policy had changed from the notion prevalent in 1946, that Austria should be protected from Communism by the physical presence of Western troops, to the conviction that a politically stable Austria - which in Britain's opinion could only be guaranteed by the conclusion of the treaty and the ending of the occupation - was vital to British European policy. In contrast, the worsening international ideological conflict saw the emergence in the United States Government of a policy of 'no treaty, but keep pretending'. The period also saw a shift in relations between Austria and the Anglo-American occupation forces. The administrative authorities were believed to be reactionary, insulting and insensitive, and Anglo-American troops were rivalling early Soviet behaviour in their treatment of the population. Austrian awareness of the Western Powers' reluctance to evacuate the country provoked a campaign against the occupying powers and a growing inclination to embrace neutrality as an answer to the problem. Chapter Six analyses the effects on the treaty negotiations of American domestic disputes over US foreign policy and the consequent unwillingness on the part of the Austrian Socialists to continue to restrain their political ambitions for the sake of American Soviet policy. It was during this period, when the hard-liners were gaining the upper hand in Washington, that the British - conscious of the potential harm to Austrian-Western relations - argued most fervently in favour of an end to the occupation. Anglo-American efforts to keep Austria 'friendly' are examined in Chapter Seven. These efforts are scrutinised against a background of the waning fortunes of the British Labour Government and US determination to keep Austria occupied until East-West relations in general were resolved in America's favour. Closely linked to Anglo- American inertia on the treaty question were the Austrian Government's difficulties in dealing satisfactorily with the economic grievances of the Austrian workers, leading to the incongruous situation of the Government having to defend itself both against Communist-led disturbances and efforts by the Western occupation powers to safeguard their own economic interests in Austria. The introduction in 1952 of the so-called abbreviated treaty, one of the most provocative actions of the Americans, is examined in Chapter Eight. This proposed treaty set both the British.and French against Washington and had the unintended effect of being welcomed by Austria as an 'evacuation instrument'. At the same time, one of the most galling issues of the occupation - the requirement that Austria pay for occupation costs - led to serious disagreement between Britain and the United States, as the US Government attempted to lessen the burden on Austria while insisting on onerous rearmament measures for Britain. Chapter Nine covers the period from October 1952 to February 1954. It deals with the essential connection between the constraints of the continuing occupation and the emergence of those political forces in Austria which favoured Austrian-Soviet bilateral negotiations to gain Austrian freedom, and saw neutrality as the deciding factor in future negotiations. These developments also witnessed a reassessment by Britain of Austria's role in Europe, thus bringing both Austria and Britain into conflict with US aims concerning Western defence. The concluding chapter examines the last year of the occupation, when Austrian leaders defied Anglo-American efforts to keep Austria 'on ice' and engaged directly in negotiations with Moscow, promising Moscow the security of a neutral Austria in exchange for Austria's freedom. The evidence has vindicated my doubts about the received opinion of the American role in the prolonged occupation. The portrayal of America the Saviour is changed to one of a determined ideological warrior, whose grip on Austria was relaxed only when continuation of the occupation threatened to damage the overarching aim of containing the Soviet Union. Anglo-Austrian relations during this period were determined by the inherent conflict between Britain's political aims for Austria and Britain's economic hardships, which obliged dependence on American goodwill regarding European security. A comment made early during the occupation by an Austrian diplomat in Washington is suggestive of the complexities governing Anglo-American-Austrian relations. He warned his government that although the US Government's aims in respect of the occupation coincided with those of the Austrian Government, ultimately Washington would bow to the needs of Britain if a conflict between Austrian and British interests arose.4 Yet as the occupation progressed, the tables were turned and London bowed to American policy in prolonging the occupation. Thus, as a result of the British Labour Government's demise in 1951 and the weakening of the British will in the face of American obduracy, the Austrian Government pursued the idea of neutrality as the only alternative to continued occupation. By 1955 the Soviet Government, driven by pragmatic rather than ideological considerations, represented the only reasonable negotiating partner in the Austrians' quest for independence.