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Karl Renner
Karl Renner 1905.jpg
President of Austria
In office
29 April 1945 – 31 December 1950
Chancellor Leopold Figl
Preceded by Arthur Seyss-Inquart (Acting)
Succeeded by Leopold Figl (Acting)
Chancellor of Austria
In office
27 April 1945 – 20 December 1945
Preceded by Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Succeeded by Leopold Figl
In office
12 November 1918 – 7 July 1920
President Karl Seitz
Deputy Jodok Fink
Succeeded by Michael Mayr
Personal details
Born 14 December 1870
Dolní Dunajovice, Austria-Hungary
(Now Czech Republic)
Died 31 December 1950
Vienna, Austria
Political party Social Democratic
Spouse(s) Luise
Religion Roman Catholicism

About this sound Karl Renner  (14 December 1870 – 31 December 1950) was an Austrian politician of the Social Democratic Party. He is called the Father of the Republic because he headed the first government in German Austria and the First Austrian Republic in 1918/19, and was once again decisive in establishing the present Second Republic after the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, becoming its first President.

The 1977–1978 academic year at the College of Europe was named in his honour.

Early life[edit]

Renner was born the 18th child of a German family of poor wine-growers in Unter-Tannowitz (present-day Dolní Dunajovice in the Czech Republic), then part of the Margraviate of Moravia, a crown land of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Because of his intelligence, he was allowed to attend a selective gymnasium in nearby Nikolsburg (Mikulov), where one of his teachers was Wilhelm Jerusalem. From 1890 to 1896 he studied law at the University of Vienna. In 1895 he was one of the founding members of the Friends of Nature (German: Naturfreunde) organisation and created their logo.

Political career[edit]

In 1896 he joined the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria (SDAP), representing the party in the National Council (German: Reichsrat) from the 1907 elections until its dissolution in November 1918. His interest in politics also led him to become a librarian for the Reichsrat. During these early years, he developed new perspectives on law — all the while cloaking his innovative ideas under a variety of pseudonyms (for example, Synopticus and Rudolf Springer) lest he lose his coveted post as parliamentary librarian.[1] He was especially interested in the problems of the Austrian state, whose existence he justified on geographical, economic and political grounds. On the nationality question, he upheld the so-called “personal autonomy,” on the basis of which the super-national state should develop, and thereby influenced the agenda and tactics of the Social Democratic Party in dealing with it. As a theorist he was reckoned as one of the leaders of Neo-Marxism.[2]

First Republic[edit]

In 1918, after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he was in the forefront of the Provisional and the Constitutional National Assemblies of those Cisleithanian "Lands Represented in the Reichsrat" (the formal description of the Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy) that predominantly spoke German and had decided to form a nation-state like the other nationalities had done. Renner became the first head of government ("State Chancellor") of that newly established small German-speaking republic which refused to be considered the heir of the Habsburg monarchy and wished to be known as Republik Deutsch-Österreich, i.e. "Republic of German-Austria". This name, however, was prohibited by The Entente, they also crushed the resolution of the Constituent National Assembly in Vienna that "German-Austria" was to be part of the German Weimar Republic. Even before the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy Renner had proposed a future union of the German parts of Austria with Germany, even using the word "Anschluss",[3]

Renner (centre) leaving the Château de Saint-Germain, having signed the treaty

He was the leader of the delegation that represented this new German-Austria in the negotiations of St. Germain where the "Republic of Austria" was acknowledged but was declared to be the responsible successor to Imperial Austria. There Renner had to accept that this new Austria was prohibited any political association with Germany and he had to accept the loss of German speaking South Tyrol and the German-speaking parts of Bohemia and Moravia where he himself was born; this forced him to give up his share in the parental farm if he, "the peasant proprietor who turned Marxist",[4] wanted to remain an Austrian government officer.

Renner was Chancellor of Austria of the first three coalition cabinets from 1918 until 1920 and at the same time Minister of Foreign Affairs, backed by a grand coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Social Party. A wide range of social reforms were introduced by Renner's government, including unemployment insurance, paid holidays, the eight-hour workday, and regulations on the working conditions of miners, bakers, women, and children. State aid was also provided for the disabled, together with health insurance for public employees. In addition, a law was passed that provided for collective bargaining and the mediation of disputes.[5]

From 1931 to 1933, Renner was President of Parliament, the National Council of Austria. After the authoritarian Austrofascism period from 1934, when his party was prohibited, he even welcomed the Anschluss in 1938. Having originally been a proponent of new German-Austria becoming a part of the democratic German Republic, he expected Nazism to be but a passing phenomenon not worse than the dictatorship of Dollfuss's and Schuschnigg's authoritarian one-party system. During World War II, however, he distanced himself from politics completely.

Post–World War II[edit]

Austria 50 Schilling 1970 Silver Coin: 100th birthday of Karl Renner

In April 1945, just before the collapse of the Third Reich, the defeat of Germany and the end of the war, Renner set up a Provisional Government in Vienna with other politicians from the three revived parties Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), Austrian People's Party (ÖVP, a conservative successor to the Christian Social Party) and Communist Party (KPÖ). On April 27, by a declaration, this Provisional Government separated Austria from Germany and campaigned for the country to be acknowledged as an independent republic. As a result of Renner's actions Austria was to benefit greatly in the eyes of the Allies as she had fulfilled the stipulation of the Moscow Declaration of 1943, where the Foreign Secretaries of US, UK and USSR declared that the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria by Germany was null and void calling for the establishment of a free Austria after the victory over Nazi Germany provided that Austria could demonstrate that she had undertaken suitable actions of her own in that direction. Thus Austria, having been invaded by Germany, was treated as an unwilling party and "the first victim" of Nazi Germany. Being suspicious of the fact that the Russians in Vienna were the first to accept Renner's Cabinet, the Western Allies hesitated half a year with their recognition, but his Provisional Government was in the end recognised by all Four Powers on Oct. 20[6] and Renner was thus the first post-war Chancellor. In late 1945, he was elected the first President of the Second Republic.

Karl Renner died in 1950 in Vienna and was buried in the Presidential Tomb at the Zentralfriedhof. Relatives of Karl Renner still live in the United States in the states of New York, California, and Utah. One of Renner's grandsons, Karl Deutsch-Renner, a well known journalist at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, died in Ottawa in 2005 at the age of 95. His brother John (Hans) Deutsch-Renner died in Washington D.C. in 2004. A granddaughter of Dr. Karl Renner and sister of Karl and Hans Deutsch-Renner still lives in northern California.

Political beliefs[edit]

Monument to Karl Renner next to the Austrian Parliament on Ringstraße, Vienna, Austria

For most of his life, Renner alternated between the political commitment of a Social Democrat and the analytical distance of an academic scholar. Central to Renner's academic work is the problem of the relationship between law and social transformations. With his Rechtsinstitute des Privatrechts und ihre soziale Funktion. Ein Beitrag zur Kritik des bürgerlichen Rechts (1904), he became one of the founders of the discipline of the sociology of law. His and Otto Bauer's ideas about the legal protection of cultural minorities were taken up by the Jewish Bund, but fiercely denounced by Vladimir Lenin. Joseph Stalin devoted a whole chapter to criticising Cultural National Autonomy in Marxism and the National Question.[7]


  • Synopticus (penname), Staat und Nation (Vienna, 1899). Reprinted as “State and Nation” in Ephraim Nimni (ed.), National Cultural Autonomy and Its Contemporary Critics, London: Routledge, 2005 pp. 64 – 82 ISBN 0-415-24964-3
  • Rudolf Springer (penname), Der Kampf der oesterreichischen Nationen um den Staat (1902)
  • Grundlagen und Entwicklungsziele der österreichischen-ungarischen Monarchie, die Krise des Dualismus, (“Foundations and development goals of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy: the crisis of dualism”; 1904)
  • Österreichs Erneuerung (“Austria's renewal”; 3 vols., 1916/17)
  • Marxismus, Krieg und Internationale (1918)
  • Die Wirtschaft als Gesamtprozess und die Sozialisierung (“The economy as an integrated process and the path to socialism”; 1924)
  • Staatswirtschaft, Weltwirtschaft und Sozialismus (“The national economy, the world economy and socialism”; 1929)
  • Die Rechtsinstitute des Privatrechts und ihre soziale Funktion (1929); translated into English by A. Schwarzschild as The Institutions of Private Law and their Social Function, with an introduction by Otto Kahn-Freund, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul (1949); reprinted in International Library of Sociology (1976; 1996)
  • Wege der Verwirklichung (“The way to realization”, 1929)
  • An der Wende zweier Zeiten. Lebenserinnerungen (“At the turning points in two eras: life recollections”), 2 vols. Vienna: Braumüller 1946

Literary remains (unpublished works; German: Nachgelassene Werke):

  • Wandlungen der modernen Gesellschaft (“Transformations of modern society,” 1947)
  • Hundert Jahre Karl Marx: Erbe und Auftrag (“100 years of Karl Mark: Heritage and Agenda”; 1947)
  • Arbeit und Kapital (1950)

Vol. 3, Vienna: 1953, reprint European Sociology 1975

  • Porträt einer Evolution in Nachgelassene Werke, vol. 2, edited by Adolf Schärf, Vienna: Verlag der Wiener Volksbuchhandlung, 1953.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ William M. Johnston, Karl Renner: The Austro-Marxist as Conciliator. In: The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social History, 1848–1938 Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983 ISBN 0-520-04955-1 p. 108
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Renner, Karl". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  3. ^ Ernst Panzenböck, Ein Deutscher Traum: die Anschlussidee und Anschlusspolitik bei Karl Renner und Otto Bauer. Materialien zur Arbeiterbewegung, PhD thesis, Vienna: Europaverlag, 1985 p. 93
  4. ^ William M. Johnston, Karl Renner, p.108
  5. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EvCfTIsTOskC&pg=PA110&dq=germany+paid+vacations+miners+1919&hl=en&sa=X&ei=gsVnU-P8Ms3XPL3hgLAP&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=germany%20paid%20vacations%20miners%201919&f=false
  6. ^ Rolf Steininger, Austria, Germany, and the Cold War: from the Anschluss to the State Treaty 1938–1955 New York: Berghahn Books 2008 ISBN 1-84545-326-3 p. 52
  7. ^ Bill Bowring, Burial and Resurrection: Karl Renner's controversial influence on the nationality question in Russia. In: Ephraim Nimni (ed.), National-Cultural Autonomy and its Contemporary Critics, London: Routledge 2005, pp. 162 - 176

Further reading[edit]

  • Heinz Fischer, Hugo Pepper(ed.), Karl Renner. Porträt einer Evolution Lauchringen: Baulino 1984 ISBN 3-203-50166-6,
  • William M. Johnston, Karl Renner: The Austro-Marxist as Conciliator. In: The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social History, 1848–1938 Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983 ISBN 0-520-04955-1 pp. 105–109
  • Ephraim Nimni (ed.), National cultural autonomy and its contemporary critics. Routledge Innovations in Political Theory,(16 essays) London: Routledge, 2005 ISBN 0-415-24964-3
  • Stephane Pierre-Caps, "Karl Renner et l'Etat Multinationale: Contribution Juridique á la Solution d'Imbroglios Politiques Contemporains", Droit et Societé 27 (1994), 421-441.
  • Ernst Panzenböck, Ein Deutscher Traum: die Anschlussidee und Anschlusspolitik bei Karl Renner und Otto Bauer. Materialien zur Arbeiterbewegung, PhD thesis, Vienna: Europaverlag, 1985 ISBN 3-203-50897-4
  • Pat Shannon: Review of The Institutions of Private Law and their Social Function In: Journal of Sociology Vol. 13, No. 3 (1977) p. 264 PDF
  • Jamie Bulloch, Karl Renner: Austria London: Haus Publishing, 2009 ISBN 978-1-905791-89-7

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Heinrich Lammasch
as Minister-President of Austria
Chancellor of Austria
1918 – 1920
Succeeded by
Michael Mayr
Title last held by
Arthur Seyß-Inquart
Chancellor of Austria
Succeeded by
Leopold Figl
Title last held by
Wilhelm Miklas
President of Austria
1945 – 1950
Succeeded by
Theodor Körner

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The Recorder
Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:32:02 -0700

"He's had to manage that very challenging job, and he's been able to pull it off," said W. Karl Renner, cochief of Fish & Richardson's post-grant practice group. As a jurist, he said, Smith brings "an approach that's even and measured and leads to good ...
Targeted News Service (subscription)
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:45:00 -0700

ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 22 -- Facebook, Menlo Park, California, has been assigned a patent (8,781,729) developed by David W. Nesbitt, Port Deposit, Maryland, and W. Karl Renner, Great Falls, Virginia, for "identifying a route configured to travel through ...
Targeted News Service (subscription)
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:45:00 -0700

ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 22 -- Facebook, Menlo Park, California, has been assigned a patent (8,781,729) developed by David W. Nesbitt, Port Deposit, Maryland, and W. Karl Renner, Great Falls, Virginia, for "identifying a route configured to travel through ...
Fort Mills Times
Tue, 01 Jul 2014 11:33:45 -0700

... Dr. Stuart Macphail, William Marsden Jr., Douglas McCann, Michael McKeon, Thomas Melsheimer, John Pegram, Frank Porcelli, Thomas Reger II, W. Karl Renner, Timothy Riffe, Frank Scherkenbach, Jonathan Singer, Terry Stalford, and Dorothy Whelan.
Tips - Total Regional
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 05:45:00 -0700

... dem Annemarie Obermüller mitwirkt, die beiden Landesgeschäftsführer der SPÖ-Oberösterreich Peter Binder und Roland Schwandner, die Mitarbeiter des Dr. Karl-Renner-Instituts OÖ (das Annemarie Obermüller hauptberuflich leitet), eine Dutzendschaft ...
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 05:33:45 -0700

Christoph Rebernik, Dr.-Karl-Renner-Straße 7/14, 8600 Bruck Mur Einzelfirma. MV: Dr. Klaus Hirtler, 8700 Leoben (K) LG Linz GALAXIS Immobilien und Leasing Gesellschaft m.b.H. Immobilienmakler und -verwalter, Am Winterhafen 1, 4020 Linz FN81050t.

Kleine Zeitung

Kleine Zeitung
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 04:49:08 -0700

So schließt sich der Bilderbogen mit dem Bild von Karl Renner, der nach der Unterzeichnung des oktroyierten Friedensvertrags aufrechten Gangs das Schloss vor Paris verlässt. Was mit den Schüssen vor der Lateinerbrücke in Sarajevo begann, fand hier ...
Sat, 19 Jul 2014 15:00:27 -0700

1919 - In Saint-Germain werden der österreichischen Delegation unter Staatskanzler Karl Renner die Friedensbedingungen der Alliierten zur Kenntnis gebracht. 1934 - Hitler erhebt die SS ("Schutzstaffel") zu einer selbstständigen, ihm direkt ...

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