Leopold Figl

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Leopold Figl
File:Figl leopold 01b.jpg
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 Catholic

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 troups of the Soviet Army started to advance to the centre of Vienna.

After the defeat of the Nazis, the Allies occupied Austria at the end of World War II. The Russian 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 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 underlayed with the sound track taken 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 1959–1962, 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] 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] He died in 1965 in Vienna and is buried in an Ehrengrab at the Zentralfriedhof.

Honours and awards

Various locations have been named for Figl:

  • Leopold Figl Museum in Michelhausen in Tulln, Lower Austria
  • Leopold Figl observatory on the Schöpfl (mountain in the northern Vienna Woods overlooking the Tullnerfeld, Figl's home region)
  • Leopold Figl observatory on Tulbinger Kogel in Lower Austria (ditto)
  • Leopold Figl court: Vienna 1, District, Franz-Josef-Kai 31-33 (Home, 1963-1967)
  • Leopold Figl Lane: Vienna 1, District (next to the historic Lower Austrian House)
  • Monument: Vienna 1, District Minoritenplatz (bust, 1973, between Villa and the Federal Chancellery)
  • Plaques: Vienna 1, District Schenkenstraße 2 (Home, 1928-1932) and Plaque: Vienna 3, District Kundmanngasse 24 (Home, 1937-1946)


  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. 3.0 3.1 Pribich, Kurt (2004). Logbuch der Pfadfinderverbände in Österreich (in German). Vienna: Pfadfinder-Gilde-Österreichs. p. 277. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Philipp Lehar (2009). "Pfadfinderarbeit als Beitrag zur Integration?". PPÖ-Brief (in German). Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs. 2/2009: 11. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Pribich, Kurt (2004). Logbuch der Pfadfinderverbände in Österreich (in German). Vienna: Pfadfinder-Gilde-Österreichs. p. 191. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Questions to the Chancellor" (PDF). Austrian Parliament. 2012. p. 5. Retrieved 30 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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