Rudolf Kirchschlaeger; Was Austrian President, 1974-86
Former President Rudolf Kirchschlaeger, who fathered the deal that led to Austria’s independence after 10 years of occupation following World War II, died of a heart attack Thursday, the president’s office said. He was 85.
Kirchschlaeger represented his country during the Austrian Neutrality Pact negotiations in 1955, which led to the pullout of Allied and Soviet troops. He served as president from 1974 to 1986.
Kirchschlaeger was born March 20, 1915, in Upper Austria to a working-class family. He financed his law studies through a state grant and by working at small jobs cleaning windows, delivering coal and shoveling snow.
In 1938 he had to leave the university when his grant was refused because of his reluctance to join the Nazi party.
In his final interview, Kirchschlaeger lamented Austria’s recent isolation after the election of a far-right party whose leader was linked to statements sympathetic to Nazi policies.
“I find it sad that we have so few friends in Europe--or the world--to protect us from being cast simply as “Nazis” from a “Nazi state,” he told the Austria Press Agency earlier this month.
From 1967 to 1970, Kirchschlaeger served as ambassador to what was then Czechoslovakia. During the “Prague Spring,” Kirchschlaeger left the doors of the embassy open to people trying to flee Soviet troops.