|President of Austria |
31 December 1950 – 21 June 1951
|Preceded by||Karl Renner|
|Succeeded by||Theodor Körner|
|Chancellor of Austria|
20 December 1945 – 2 April 1953
|Preceded by||Karl Renner (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Julius Raab|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
26 November 1953 – 9 June 1959
|Preceded by||Karl Gruber|
|Succeeded by||Bruno Kreisky|
|Born||2 October 1902|
|Died||9 May 1965 (aged 62)|
|Political party||People's Party|
|Alma mater||University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna|
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 before Sebastian Kurz.
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. In 1930, Figl married Hilde Hemala (1906-1989) and had two children.
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 with the later executed resistance fighter Heinrich Maier to Vienna. The folder of his dossier was marked with the abbreviation 'VG' indicating that a Volksgerichtshof (People's Court) trial, often ending with a death penalty, was planned or in preparation. 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. 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 1930, held in December 1945, the ÖVP won with 49.8 percent of the vote and an absolute majority of seats 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 an exclusively ÖVP 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 1959–1962, but soon returned to Lower Austria, to become governor of his home state.
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 and president of the Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs from 1994 to 2000.
Honours and awards
- Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX
- Honorary Ring of Lower Austria (1952)
- Grand Gold Decoration with Sash of the Order for Services to the Republic of Austria (1954)
- Golden Commander's Cross with the Star of Honour for Services to the Province of Lower Austria
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)
- "Who was who in America". 1961.
- "Figl, Leopold".
- Parlamentskorrespondenz Nr. 666 vom 2. Oktober 2002 / www.parlament.gv.at: : Feierstunde zum 100. Geburtstag von Leopold Figl im Parlament
- Gerhard Jelinek: Reden, die die Welt veränderten
- Pribich, Kurt (2004). Logbuch der Pfadfinderverbände in Österreich (in German). Vienna: Pfadfinder-Gilde-Österreichs. p. 277.
- Philipp Lehar (2009). "Pfadfinderarbeit als Beitrag zur Integration?". PPÖ-Brief (in German). Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs. 2/2009: 11.
- Pribich, Kurt (2004). Logbuch der Pfadfinderverbände in Österreich (in German). Vienna: Pfadfinder-Gilde-Österreichs. p. 191.
- "Beatification for Leopold Figl is to be initiated". DE24 News. 22 December 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
- "1965". Hagiography Circle. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
- "Questions to the Chancellor" (PDF). Austrian Parliament. 2012. p. 5. Retrieved 30 September 2012.