Oral History Interview with
Dr. Guido Preglau
Member, UNRRA Bureau in Austrian Federal Chancellery, 1945-46; member, Central Office for European Recovery Program Affairs, 1947.
July 24, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson
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This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
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Opened May, 1997
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
Dr. Guido Preglau
July 24, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson
WILSON: Would you attempt to describe the political, economic and social climates into which this aid was introduced?
PREGLAU: Well, politically, Austria was occupied by the four powers, which meant limited power for the Austrian Government and Parliament. Any bill enacted by Parliament had to be approved by the High Commission for Austria. As early as April 27, 1945, that is,
before the end of hostilities, a provincial government had been formed in Vienna. On November 25 the first all Austria elections took place. On November 28 a new government was formed on the basis of the coalition of the three political parties existing. After the departure of the Communists, on November 19, 1947, the Christian Social People's Party and the Socialists remained in the coalition government.
Economically, a large part of Austria's industries had been destroyed or heavily damaged by war action or dismantling. The surviving industries were suffering from lack of raw materials and manpower; many prisoners of war had not been released. In addition, a large number of industrial enterprises situated in the Russian occupation zone were claimed to be German property and, as such, placed under Russian administration, exercised by what it called "(Omitted) ." Consequently, these were removed from Austrian control. There was also a lack of imported raw materials, lack of food, and a problem of displaced persons. The
far-reaching limitations on movement between the zones of the four occupying powers hampered trade within the country and with other countries. Moreover, the unfavorable structure of economic conditions inherited in 1918 persisted. Socially, one of the main legislative tasks after the war was to eliminate all laws and institutions introduced by the Nazis after the Anschluss, as far as they were incompatible with the Austrian constitution, and its democratic principles. There was also the problems of unemployment and of hunger. "(Omitted) "also brought about social changes.
WILSON: Very good.
What economic problem did you consider most serious and urgent? That would be the first question.
PREGLAU: Well, it was supplying the population with cheap food at lower prices, and industry with raw materials. These were the basic needs that were uncontested.
WILSON: What were the conditions which your government
believed were necessary for the achievement of complete recovery? How was recovery defined?
PREGLAU: Politically, it was the re-establishment of full independence, and, economically, it was a reconstruction of the economy in order to enable Austria to make full use of all its national resources.
WILSON: What were the most serious obstacles to recovery and to further economic development in your country and in all the countries included in ERP?
PREGLAU: Lacking full independence, the greatest handicap was that out of the total population of somewhat over six million, 150 thousand had been killed in action, 24 thousand had lost their lives through bombing raids or other hostilities, 170 thousand were listed as missing, and 120 thousand were disabled. In addition, 100 thousand Austrians were prisoners of war, whose skills were not available for the reconstruction effort, and then, of course, there was a lack of raw materials and food. Also there was a lag in international trade due to the lack of foreign exchange and monetary stability, the
interference of the occupying powers with foreign trade relations and communications, and the fact that the transportation network had not yet been fully reconstructed.
WILSON: Very good.
What were the most significant political, economic, and social conditions within your country which contributed to recovery and to economic development?
PREGLAU: The re establishment of democracy, and the full utilization of all intellectual and material resources.
WILSON: What were your expectations regarding the nature, extent, and duration of American aid at the end of the war?
PREGLAU: It was a widespread despair that was felt in view of the devastations caused by the war; and on account of the uncertainty as to the political fate of Austria, complete recovery was hardly imaginable at the end of the war. The
first and foremost aim was physical survival. Consequently, the U.S. aid was expected to consist mainly of food supplies for an indefinite period of time.
By June of 1947, little optimism had developed in the meantime with regard to Austria's political future. Consequently, the country's economic recovery had risen. With the food situation slowly improving, the U.S. was expected to supply raw materials and equipment for the reconstruction of war damaged industries as well.
WILSON: Do you believe that the aid programs of the Truman administration facilitated the economic and political union of Europe? If so, in what ways? Was it the serious intent of the U.S. Government that these do so?
PREGLAU: Without any doubt, by comparing, or at least in using the European countries to cooperate, one has the impression that this was a serious intent of the U.S. Government.
WILSON: Did you view U.S. economic aid as primarily
anti-Communist in purpose? What were the broad motives of the Truman administration in your view in providing this assistance?
PREGLAU: It was not primarily anti-Communist, although it was undoubtedly an intended byproduct. The broader basic motives appear to be humanitarian ones.
WILSON: Well, this doesn't apply to Austria perhaps. What in your view were the most serious difficulties anticipated and experienced regarding cooperation among the nations receiving aid?
PREGLAU: The still-existing resentments between former belligerent nations, the difficulty to assess the real needs of each country, and to insure a fair distribution of the aid available which was naturally limited in quantity.
WILSON: Were you kept fully informed regarding the influence of domestic considerations within the United States, the role of Congress and so forth?
WILSON: Was the reaction to these aid programs within your country uniformly favorable? Would you identify any interest group, or groups, as being particularly important in creating support for and carrying forward the programs?
PREGLAU: Yes, with the exception perhaps of the Communist Party.
WILSON: Yes, very good.
Would you describe or comment on the mechanics of administering the aid, especially your role from the point of view of your country? Were significant changes required? Did the arrangements put into effect by the ECA require important administrative changes?
PREGLAU: Even while the preliminary UNRRA surveys were going on, the Austrian cabinet on January 1st, 1946, decided to set up an industrial UNRRA office within the framework of the Federal Chancellery, to prepare and implement expected aid. Thereby, the Austrian Government created an administrative
organization, which by '47 and '48 had acquired a great deal of experience and cooperation with American aid service; it was therefore not difficult to assume the new responsibilities created by ERP [European Recovery Program]. That was an advantage which considerably facilitated not only the quick take off of the ERP plan, but also its subsequent application.
In December of 1947 the Austrian Federal Government decided to centralize ERP matters in a new Central Office for ERP Affairs. Professor Wilhelm Taucher, a former Cabinet Minister was appointed to handle the new agency. The Central Office consisted of the following divisions: Central Division, Economic Division, Programs Division, Procurement Division, Settlements Division, and Control Division. In addition, the office comprised subsidiary control offices in "(Omitted) ", upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, the Tyrol, "(Omitted) ", Vienna, lower Austria, and "(Omitted) " . And there was the ERP office in Paris; we also had an Austrian delegation to OEEC,
as well as the ERP office in Washington.
WILSON: What was the nature of, and results of public relations efforts regarding ERP and other programs? Would you comment on the organization of this effort and their relative success? Which activities might have been most successful?
PREGLAU: Having a radio station and newspaper at their disposal, U.S. occupying forces in Austria were certainly particularly successful in this respect. On the Austrian side the public relations officer attached to the Central Office for ERP Affairs was responsi