Leopold Figl

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Leopold Figl (born October 2, 1902 in Rust im Tullnerfeld , Lower Austria , † May 9, 1965 in Vienna ) was a politician of the Austrian People's Party  (ÖVP). From 1945 to 1953 he was the first Chancellor of Austria after the Second World War and after the Provisional Government under Karl Renner , the first chancellor of a democratically elected Austrian government since 1934. was the same as foreign minister, he followed in the negotiations for the Austrian State Treaty involved, the he signed for Austria in 1955.

Leopold Figl in his time as governor
Signature of Leopold Figl (State Treaty 1955)


High school and studies

The farmer's son grew up with four sisters and four brothers. His father died when Figl was 12 years old. Nevertheless, his mother was able to send him to high school in St. Pölten . As a high school student, Figl founded the MKV connections K.Ö.MV Nibelungia St. Pölten and Aggstein together with his future successor as Federal Chancellor, Julius Raab .

In 1923 Figl began studying at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. During his studies he became a member of KaV Norica Wien , then in the CV , now in the ÖCV . Later on, numerous other student associations from MKV and ÖCV awarded him honorary membership.

Farmers' union

As an agricultural engineer, after completing his studies, he was appointed deputy director of the Lower Austrian Farmers' Union in 1931 . In 1933 he became its director. After the Austro-fascist coup of Engelbert Dollfuss 1933/34 Figel was "corporate state" member of the Federal Economic Council and Lower Austrian leader of Ostmärkischen Sturmscharen , a paramilitary organization. From 1937 he was also chairman of the Austrian Reichsbauernbund.

Concentration camp inmate

When Austria was " annexed " to the German Reich , Figl was arrested as a prominent functionary of the corporate state on March 12, 1938 and taken to the Dachau concentration camp on April 1, 1938 on the so-called transport of prominent people . Figl was the first Austrian to be sentenced to corporal punishment for illegally using the word Austria in a conversation . He was placed over a box by two SS men in front of the assembled prisoners and guards and beaten 25 times on the back with a water-soaked ox pizzle , and this at a slow pace, in order to prolong the gruesome procedure. He had to keep counting as long as he could. When he was untied again, he was lying unconscious on the box with a bloodied battered back.

He was then given six months of custody in the dark : in a windowless cell with a cot, he was given bread and water twice a week. In September 1939 he was transferred to the Flossenbürg concentration camp . In April 1940 he was transferred back to Dachau. Figl fell ill with typhus there . After spending more than five years in a concentration camp, he was provisionally released on May 8, 1943.

Julius Raab found him a job in his construction company. Despite the persecution he suffered and the agony in the concentration camps, Figl worked underground and tried to secretly reactivate the farmers' union in Lower Austria. He was arrested again on October 8, 1944 and taken to Mauthausen concentration camp . On January 21, 1945, he and Lois Weinberger , Heinrich Maier and Felix Hurdes were transferred from Mauthausen to Vienna to the Vienna Regional Criminal Court . Figl's file had the abbreviation "VG", which meant an indictment of high treason before the People's Court . There he sat for months on the death row of the People's Court and was brought before the judge three times, each time with death in mind.

The collapse of Nazi rule saved Figl from execution. When advance of the Red Army , he and other death row inmates were released on April 6, 1945 the Regional Court. Before that, he went from cell to cell to calm down the angry inmates and prevent them from attacking their former guards.

ÖVP co-founder

After the liberation of Vienna by Soviet troops in April 1945, Figl received an order from the military command to supply the Viennese population with food. Through the experience of the corporate state and National Socialism , Figl had become a proponent of cooperation between all political camps. Figl founded the farmers' union on April 14th and became its director. When the ÖVP was founded three days later in the Schottenstift in Vienna (where a plaque still reminds of it today) he was elected its deputy chairman.

In the Political Cabinet Council

On April 27, 1945, the day the Republic of Austria was reestablished by the Austrian Declaration of Independence , Figl became provisional governor of Lower Austria and state secretary (= minister) without a portfolio in the provisional Renner state government . In this he formed the Political Cabinet Council with Renner and one SPÖ and KPÖ state secretary, which made and prepared all important decisions.

First Federal Chancellor of the Second Republic

After the first elections to the National Council , Figl was appointed the first Federal Chancellor of the Second Republic on December 20, 1945 by Karl Renner, who had been elected Federal President on the same day ( three-party cabinet Figl I ).

On December 21, 1945 Figl made his government statement in parliament:

“In a few days we will celebrate Christmas. For us, Christmas is a family celebration. Unfortunately, it won't be Christmas this year, as we would like it to be. If we have any, a beautiful package full of worries will hang on the Christmas trees. "

On December 24th he sent a Christmas message to the Austrians via radio. Neither manuscript nor recording of this Christmas address have survived. The journalist Hans Magenschab reconstructed the text in 1965 from memories of contemporary witnesses and from newspaper clippings. Figl's great-nephew Ernst Wolfram Marboe recorded the text that Figl had spoken in April 1965 in the Funkhaus on Argentinierstrasse for the 20th anniversary of the republic:

“I can't give you anything for Christmas, I can't give you any candles for the Christmas tree, if you have one at all, no piece of bread, no coal to heat, no glass to cut into. We have nothing. I can only ask you, believe in this Austria! "

- Leopold Figl, 1965 reconstructed Christmas speech from 1945 on Austrian radio

In 1946 Figl was promoted to Dr. hc from the Vienna University of Technology, in 1948 Dr. hc from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.

In August 1949, May 1 was declared a national holiday under the Figl government .

Foreign Minister of the State Treaty

Bust in the cellar of the Wachau domain

On April 2, 1953, Figl was replaced as Federal Chancellor by Julius Raab after criticism from within the ÖVP that he was too willing to compromise with the SPÖ . On November 26, 1953, Figl succeeded Karl Gruber as Foreign Minister of the federal government in Raab I and as such played a major role in the conclusion of the State Treaty .

After his signature on May 15, 1955 in the Belvedere Palace in Vienna, where he signed for Austria, Foreign Minister Figl spoke the words: “ Austria is free !” And showed the cheering spectators the contract from the balcony of the palace. Then he took the hands of the four Foreign Ministers Dulles , Molotov , Macmillan, and Pinay and interlaced them. (However, Figl's famous words were not, as is usually concluded from film reports, on the balcony of the Belvederes, where no loudspeakers had been installed, but in the marble hall, where the signing took place.)

Figl remained Foreign Minister in the Raab II federal government until 1959.

National Council President and Governor

1959 Figl was replaced as Foreign Minister by Bruno Kreisky (SPÖ); the SPÖ had fewer seats but more votes than the ÖVP. From 1959 to 1962 Figl was President of the National Council , then from 1962 to 1965 Governor of Lower Austria .

From 1960 to 1964 Figl was the patron of the Austrian Boy Scouts and from 1964 until his death it was president of this association.

When Khrushchev visited Figl's closer homeland, the Tullnerfeld , in 1960, the kukuru bet was made , the question of whether, as Khrushchev claimed, the Russian corn (kukuruz) was really ten times more productive than the Austrian one. Figl bet that the corn in the Tullnerfeld was just as good as that in the Ukraine and won the bet in 1961, but he never got the agreed pig.

Shortly after he became governor of Lower Austria, his incurable disease - kidney cancer, a late consequence of his imprisonment in the concentration camp - made itself felt. His party wanted to run him as a candidate for the federal presidency in March 1965, but he refused. He died two and a half months later.

Grave of Leopold Figl in the Vienna Central Cemetery

Figl's funeral procession was led on May 14, 1965, with strong sympathy from the population, past Parliament via the Ringstrasse to Heldenplatz , where the funeral service took place. Exactly ten years had passed since the historic conclusion of the State Treaty. Figl was buried in a grave of honor in the Vienna Central Cemetery (group 14 C, number 22).

Private life

Figl married Hildegard Hemala in 1930 (* June 5, 1906, † August 22, 1989), daughter of the Christian social politician Franz Hemala . From this marriage two children, daughter Anneliese and son Johannes, emerged. Figl's great-nephew, Markus Figl , is district party chairman of the inner-city Vienna ÖVP and since 2015 district chairman of the first district of Vienna .


Figl monument in front of Leopold-Figl-Gasse on Minoritenplatz in Vienna


  • Ernst Trost : Figl of Austria. The way to the State Treaty. Amalthea, Vienna 1985, ISBN 3-85002-203-X .
  • Ernst Trost: Austria is free! Leopold Figl and the road to the State Treaty. Amalthea, Vienna 2006, ISBN 3-85002-532-2 .
  • Hans Ströbitzer , Reinhard Linke (ed.): Leopold Figl and his time. Residence, Vienna / St. Pölten 2012, ISBN 978-3-7017-3302-6 .
  • Susanne Seltenreich: Leopold Figl. The way to the State Treaty. Gertraud Trska (editor), Leopold Figl Museum, Rust im Tullnerfeld 1991, ISBN 3-900992-6-2 .
  • Helmut Wohnout: Leopold Figl and the year 1945. From death row to Ballhausplatz. Residence, Vienna / St. Pölten 2015, ISBN 978-3-7017-3358-3 .


  • Leopold Figl, Reconstruction, Phylloxera and State Treaty. Film series People and Powers v. Andreas Novak / Tom Matzek, ORF 2020.

Web links

Commons : Leopold Figl  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Susanne Seltenreich: Leopold Figl - an Austrian. Vienna 1962, pp. 203f.
  2. Gertraud Trska: Leopold Figl. An optimist through and through. Leopold Figl Museum, Rust 1990, ISBN 3-900992-6-1 , p. 22.
  3. Parliamentary correspondence No. 666 of October 2nd, 2002. Ceremony for the 100th birthday of Leopold Figl in Parliament. parlament.gv.at of February 10, 2002, accessed on May 18, 2020.
  4. Gertraud Trska: Leopold Figl. An optimist through and through. Leopold Figl Museum, Rust 1990, p. 36.
  5. Johannes Kunz (Ed.), Robert Prantner: Leopold Figl. Views of a great Austrian. Edition S., Verlag der Österreichische Staatsdruckerei, Vienna 1992, ISBN 3-7046-0318-X , p. 16.
  6. Susanne Seltenreich: Leopold Figl - an Austrian. Vienna 1962, p. 17.
  7. Robert Sedlaczek : Leopold Figl's real Christmas message. In: Wiener Zeitung of December 21, 2005, accessed on May 20, 2020.
  8. a b Figl's radio speech 1945: The "Poldl" still moves us today. Die Presse on December 23, 2009, accessed on May 18, 2020.
  9. ^ Herbert Lackner : The lean years. In: Profile from April 3, 2005, accessed on May 18, 2020.
    Leopold Figl: “Believe in this Austria!” Lower Austria State Museum, accessed on May 18, 2020.
  10. ^ Roman Sandgruber : The American occupation in Upper Austria in the Forum OoeGeschichte.at
    Leopold Figl: Christmas speech
    1945. (mpeg-Autio; 365 kB; 0:23 minutes) In: mediathek.at. December 24, 1945, accessed on May 18, 2020 (This audio document of the speech was recorded in 1965 because no tape was played in 1945.)
    Figl's mysterious Christmas speech
    . orf.at of December 24, 2015.
  11. Federal Law No. 173 of July 14, 1949, Federal Law Gazette No. 173/1949 , p. 807 (pdf; 1.5 MB).
  12. 50 years of the Kukuruzwette. In: noe.orf.at. October 16, 2011.
  13. Thomas Chorherr : Great Austrians. Carl Ueberreuter, Vienna 1985.
  14. Felix Czeike , (Ed.): Historisches Lexikon Wien , Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna 1993 and 1995, Volume 2, p. 301, and Volume 4, p. 325.
  15. 10542 / AB XXIV. GP - Answer to the inquiry. (PDF; 6.9 MB) April 23, 2012, accessed on May 12, 2020 (list of all decorations awarded by the Federal President for services to the Republic of Austria from 1952).
  16. Lower Austria honors leading men . In: Arbeiter-Zeitung . Vienna November 24, 1960, p. 4 , middle ( berufer-zeitung.at - the open online archive - digitized).