Austrian chancellor. During his entire political career the conservative and pious Catholic Raab acted as the champion of business, particularly craftsmen and small businessmen. His political persona paralleled that of the transformation of the First (1918-33/38) and Second Austrian Republics (1945-). Deeply immersed in the political antagonisms between the main political camps until the Anschluss (1938), when Nazi Germany absorbed Austria, he emerged as a great pragmatist and consensus builder in the postwar coalition governments between the formerly hostile camps. As the chancellor who regained full Austrian sovereignty after World War II, he entered the history books as the “State Treaty Chancellor.”
Raab was born into a bourgeois family on November 29, 1891, in St. Pölten in Lower Austria. He matured in the waning years of the Habsburg monarchy. Military service during World War I interrupted his studies in civil engineering at the Technical University in Vienna. As a young, highly decorated lieutenant, Raab distinguished himself throughout the war on the Russian and Italian fronts in a sapper regiment, which by the end he commanded. At war's end he finished his studies and joined his father's construction company.
After working his way up in the Christian Social Party in Lower Austrian local politics, he was elected to parliament in 1927 as its youngest member. Chancellor Ignaz Seipel asked him to act as a moderating force in the radicalized Lower Austrian home defense formations (Heimwehr). As Heimwehr leader, Raab engaged in the politics of anti-Communism and anti-Semitism. He once attacked the Socialist leader, Otto Bauer, on the floor of parliament as an “insolent Jewish pig.” Raab supported the authoritarian Dollfuss/Schuschnigg corporate state (1934-38) and acted as minister of trade in the final weeks before Germany's annexation of Austria on March 12, 1938. Raab kept a low profile during World War II and made it through the war unharmed in the construction business.
In April 1945 Raab quickly reemerged as a founding father of the Second Republic. He was present at the formation of the new conservative People's Party (ÖVP). Chancellor Karl Renner appointed him minister of reconstruction in his provisional government (April-November 1945). Raab played a crucial role in cleaning away the rubble and starting to rebuild war-torn Vienna. The Soviets, who occupied a zone of “liberated” Austria along with the American, British, and French zones after the war (1945-55), perhaps bearing his independence and opposition to Soviet economic demands, vetoed Raab's appointment as minister of trade in the newly elected national unity government led by his old party friend Leopold Figl.
Raab emerged as the eminence grise among conservatives, pulling the strings of domestic politics behind the scenes. He acted as Figl's floor leader in parliament, chaired the People's Party from 1952-60, and acted as president of the Chamber of Business and conciliator among the various ÖVP interest groups. In 1952 Raab instigated a tighter currency and economic policy and precipitated both a budget crisis and a new election from which he emerged as the new chancellor in spring 1953.
After Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death in March 1953, Raab became a champion of easing tensions with the new leadership in the USSR. Against the advice of the new Eisenhower administration in the United States, he initiated behind-the-scenes bilateral diplomatic contacts with the Soviets and tested the feasibility of Austrian neutrality. The Western powers watched with trepidation as Raab's bold policy departure brought Austria its State Treaty in spring 1955, which ended the postwar occupation. Soviet concessions leading to the “Austrian solu