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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Austria becomes free, sovereign, neutral and democratic

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On July 27th, 1955, more than ten years after the end of World War II, the Austrian State Treaty (Österreichischer Staatsvertrag) that reestablished Austria as a free, sovereign, neutral and democratic state officially came into force, forbidding a future union between Germany and Austria.

Interestingly, despite being prevented from joining Germany after World War I, and confirming that reunification with overwhelming majority on April 10th, 1938, according to the Moscow Conference hold on October 30th, 1943, Austria had been “the first free country to fall a victim to Hitlerite aggression.”

After a provisional government under Karl Renner (1870-1950) had been established on April 27th, 1945 in its eastern part backed by the Russians, the alpine territory with roughly seven million inhabitants was gradually occupied by the four Allied forces Soviet Union, United States, Great Britain as well as France and divided into four zones on July 9th, 1945.

The historic central district of Vienna had been jointly administered by an Allied Control Council. Although the first post–war democratic Austrian parliament had been elected on November 25th, 1945, every legislative regulation or political action of the government afterwards first required consent by the Allies and later on could still be vetoed by them.

The signing of the State Treaty took place on May 15th, 1945, at the Upper Belvedere, a baroque palace from 1723 near the capital badly damaged by bombs in 1945, but reopened to the public in 1953.

Signees included John Foster Dulles (1888-1959), US Secretary of State, Llewellyn E. Thompson Jr. (1904-1972), Supreme Commissar and US Ambassador, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (1890-1986),, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivan Ivanovich Ilyichev (1905-1983) Supreme Commissar and Soviet Ambassador, Harold Macmillan (1894–1986), British Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Arnold Wallinger (1903-1979), Supreme Commissar and British Ambassador, Antoine Pinay (1891-1994), French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roger Lalouette (1904-1980), Deputy Supreme Commissar and French Ambassador, and Leopold Figl (1902 –1965), Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Austria joined the United Nations on December 14th of that year. On the other hand, it’s still not a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). After the last foreign troops left on October 25th, 1955, from 1956 to 1964 October 26th was celebrated as Flag Day. In 1965, it became the Austrian National Day and since 1967 it has been a public holiday.

Austrians can consider themselves very lucky that the Red Army finally agreed to withdraw. They were also more or less exempted from their responsibility for the crimes committed by the National Socialists. Quite mysteriously, Adolf Hitler, born in Braunau am Inn on April 20th, 1889, seemed to have turned into a foreigner unrelated to his native land.

Being apparently discredited forever, the traditional idea of a German Nation comprising both Germany and Austria was slowly abandoned and became a fringe opinion that nowadays might make you end up in jail. In any case, both states will always have a special bond, as they are united by a common language, culture and history.

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