National Geographic : 1951 Jun
Occupied Austria, Outpost of Democracy BY GEORGE W. LONG With Illustrations by National Geographic Photographer Volkmar Wenizel S MARTLY uniformed American MP's stopped our travel-stained automobile at the Enns River bridge, highway link between the United States and Soviet Zones in occupied Austria. Vienna-bound, we had reached the fringes of the Iron Curtain. A burly sergeant examined our passports and military passes. Returning them, he warned, "Keep to the main road-it's well marked. Stop only if absolutely necessary, and check in with the MP at the Vienna city line. Good luck!" In the middle of the bridge hung a life-size crucifix, typical of devout Austria. At the far end bemedaled Russian sentries glanced at our papers and waved us on. Driving this American highway corridor through Soviet-occupied territory, we fol lowed the not-so-blue Danube (Donau) to the Austrian capital. It was Whitmonday; all Vienna seemed to be returning from the long holiday week end. Local police, wear ing swords, directed the avalanche of traffic through small, well-kept towns. Russian sol diers were conspicuous by their absence. Austria First Nazi Victim Ranked as a liberated nation, not a former enemy, Austria has its own Federal Govern ment and exchanges diplomats with foreign countries as does any other sovereign State. But six years after V-E Day, caught in the East-West struggle, this first victim of Nazi aggression remains occupied and divided into British, French, United States, and Soviet Zones. Vienna (Wien), far inside the Rus sian Zone, is also occupied by the Four Powers (map, page 751). As Americans we circulated freely in the three western zones, which are without internal barriers. But in the Russian Zone we were strictly confined to the Enns bridge-Vienna highway and to the capital itself. Once the core of the autocratic Hapsburg Empire, this Alp-ribbed Republic thrusts a Maine-size segment of democracy deep into Central Europe. Soviet satellites Czechoslo vakia and Hungary, and Communist Yugo slavia encircle its eastern borders. More than a third of its 7,000,000 people live in terri tory occupied by the Red Army. Yet in two postwar general elections Austria has given Communist candidates a bare five percent of the votes. Last year even Soviet Zone Austrians, in their first free local elec- tions since the war, voted to oust every mayor appointed by the Russians in 1945. And last October a Red-inspired, Soviet-backed gen eral strike in Vienna fizzled when a vast ma jority of the city's workers refused to join it. In the 16th and 17th centuries autocratic Austria stopped invading Turks at Vienna's walls and saved Europe from rising tides of Moslem expansion. Today its republican descendant is a staunch outpost of the West against another surge of eastern power. From the balcony of his city hall office, Dr. Theodor Korner, Vienna's mayor, pointed out the city's landmarks to us. A former general in the armies of Emperor Franz Josef, Dr. Karner at 78 still walks and stands with mili tary erectness. "In the old days," he told us, "I had only one boss, the Emperor. "Now, as mayor of this occupied city," he added with a chuckle, "I have four." We found a spirit and solidarity in Vienna that is matched in few places today. Amid tidied-up scenes of war devastation men pa tiently restored the blasted monuments of a glorious past (page 755).* Despite a future that is uncertainty itself, municipal planners sketched the outline of a new city. And with almost careless courage Austria's Government, a coalition of once bitterly hostile parties, resists Soviet pressure. Viennese Parade for Peace Standing one night on a street corner of the inner city, we watched a candlelight peace parade led by Franciscan friars wind for miles through narrow medieval streets. Old and young, the halt, the hale, and the blind walked solemnly in the eerie, flickering light, their voices raised in fervent hymns. But when Viennese pray, parade, and sing for peace, they don't mean peace at any price. All over the inner city posters showed a white dove in a Communist cage. "No peace with out freedom," they warned. Next day we looked down on the climax of the city's vast Corpus Christi procession. Student corporations, Boy Scout troops, girls' clubs, and thousands of sturdy burghers jammed the Graben and near-by St. Stephen's Square while Theodor Cardinal Tnnitzer cele brated Mass (page 764). Across from our vantage point Russian soldiers and workers * See "Tale of Three Cities," by Thomas R. Henry, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, December, 1945.