The Post-World War II Allied Occupation of Austria: A Case Study in Successful Nation Building?

Günter Bischof, University of New Orleans

Paper for presentation at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Oslo, on May 15, 2007

“Occupation is not a science but a deep art that can only be learned through

This essay briefly assesses the historiography on the post-World War II quadripartite occupation of Austria. I first speculate why in recent analyses of historical case studies of the United States as an occupation power, as well as in U.S. “nation building” efforts, the case study of the highly successful American occupation regime in postwar Austria is blithely ignored.

Secondly, I run through the cycles of preoccupation in contemporary history research with the Austrian occupation and note that the highpoint of occupation studies came with a cohort of Austrian “baby boomers” mining the newly opened Western archival holdings in the 1980s. Occupation studies—as has much of the scholarly engagement with political and diplomatic history--have largely fallen by the wayside as a priority in recent gender- and cultural studies driven Austrian contemporary history research.

Finally, some tentative suggestions are made about what we can learn from the occupation of postwar Austria for the current occupation challenges in Iraq after the transition from war to peace in the building of a stable political and economic nation.