- From 1945 to 1955, the four victorious powers of World War II—France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States—occupied Austria. In July 1945, they agreed that the French would hold Vorarlberg and the Tyrol; the United States, Salzburg and Upper Austria south of the Danube River; the British, Carinthia and Styria; and the Soviet Union, Upper Austria north of the Danube, Lower Austria, and the Burgenland. The Soviet zone was the largest of the four. Vienna itself was divided in four, with the exception of the First District, which was an international area under the control of all four powers. In all, around 350,000 Allied troops were present in the country.Thus, until the Austrian State Treaty of 1955, the final authority of the country was an Allied Commission, headed by a council of four commissioners, one for each of the victorious powers. This body technically regulated the constitutional life of Austria, because all laws passed by the re-created National Assembly could not go into effect until the commission approved them unanimously. Moreover, after 1946, no single Allied power had a unilateral veto over proposals that came out of the Austrian legislature.Each of the zones experienced the occupation differently. Although none escaped problematic encounters with foreign military personnel and their policies, the Soviet administration of eastern Austria was frequently punitive. Private land of all kinds, industrial infrastructure, even personal property down to home furnishings, were summarily confiscated. Such behavior did much to convince the overwhelming majority of Austrians, regardless of party affiliation, that their only hope for material recovery lay in cultivating the closest possible relationship with the West. The Soviet domination of east central Europe’s economies during the Cold War further confirmed these views.Cold War tensions and other rivalries made it difficult for the Allies to agree on anything that came before them. Austrian political parties were used by the victors as surrogates for their own ideological and strategic purposes, with the fate of the Austrian Communist Party being particularly crucial. Nevertheless, although the Soviet Union took exception to over 550 statutes that came out of the Austrian National Assembly between 1946 and 1955, it was powerless to overturn them single-handedly. Therefore, the legislative agenda of the Austrian coalition government, drawn after 1947 from the Austrian People’s Party and the Socialist Party of Austria, went forward almost unhindered throughout the entire occupation. Its work was further aided by a provision that made legislative measures operative 31 days after they were passed if the Allied commission raised no objections.Strong Allied pressure was responsible for whatever de-Nazification measures the regime took. Former Nazi Party members were excluded from political office and, until 1949, from voting. In all, around 524,000 Austrians were covered by these regulations. But those who belonged to the only somewhat less authoritarian Fatherland Front were exempt from these restrictions. By 1949 a new political party, the League of Independents, had emerged to represent far right-wing views in the Austrian political debate. The allies found the occupation so expensive that they soon began trying to arrange a withdrawal from Austria. Once again, however, political and strategic considerations slowed the pace of negotiations, to the point where the Austrian political establishment feared that the country might be formally divided, as had happened in Germany. But the State Treaty was indeed signed in May 1955. The last Allied troops evacuated the country the following October.See also Foreign Policy.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.
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