The ministers of defence of the Second Republic - a series

Manfried Rauchensteiner

Ferdinand Graf

The series of the 17 ministers of defence of the Second Republic starts with Ferdinand Graf:

* 15. Juni 1907, Klagenfurt, † 8. September 1969, Wien, röm. kath. Höhere Bundeslehranstalt für Elektrotechnik (ohne Abschluss); 1928-1933 Sekretär des Kärntner Bauernbundes, 1933-1938 Direktor des Kärntner Bauernbundes, 1938-1940 Gestapohaft, KZ Dachau und Flossenbürg, 1941-1943 Soldat der Deutschen Wehrmacht, 1943-1945 Lohnverrechner einer Baufirma, 1945-1969 Direktor des Österreichischen Bauernbundes, 19.12.1945-5.11.1949 Mitglied des Bundesrates, 8.11.1949-14.12.1962 Abgeordneter zum Nationalrat, Wahlkreis 24 (Kärnten), 20.12.1945-29.6.1956 Staatssekretär im Bundesministerium für Inneres, 29.6.1956-15.7.1956 Bundesminister für Angelegenheiten der Landesverteidigung im Bundeskanzleramt, 15.7.1956-11.4.1961 Bundesminister für Landesverteidigung; 1961-1969 Präsident des Aufsichtsrats Creditanstalt-Bankverein.

Graf, who was born in 1907, complied with many conditions making him first choice. He had been Christian Social, Farmers’ Associate, vigilant, and functionary of the Patriotism Front. He was arrested in 1938 and had to stay in concentration camps until the end of 1940. A few months later, he was conscripted into the Wehrmacht and fought on the Eastern Front until 1943. At the end of the war, however, he was in the right place at the right time, that is to say in Vienna, where he was able to benefit from Leopold Figl, who he had picked up with in a concentration camp, and was considered a forthcoming man after a short time. When, after the National Council elections in May 1956 in the federal chairmanship of the Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP), the question of the personal filling of a ministry of defence arose, and it had become necessary to appoint the first minister of defence of the Second Republic, the still acting and at the same time designated Federal Chancellor Julius Raab is said to have stated: “Come on, folks, who do you think? Graf, of course. He is already sleeping in his uniform on.” As a matter of fact, Graf had already dealt with questions of establishing the armed forces for years, but as a state secretary in the ministry of the interior had been outshined by his head of department Oskar Helmer. In 1956, he had arrived at his goal. Graf was considered a “spearhead” and became a minister of defence with ferventness. Thus, Graf felt deeply violated when 1961 the new Federal Chancellor Alfons Gorbach followed Julius Raab, who had had to retire because of health reasons, nominated Karl Schleinzer as the new minister of defence, and not him (Graf). Graf was deeply mortified.

Nonetheless, he remained in the federal chair of the ÖVP, but kept silent there as well as in the parliament, which was amazing for such an eloquent anti-communist. Graf also continued to be federal finance consultant of the ÖVP and was materially well secured because he furthermore became president of the supervisory board of the largest-scaled nationalised bank in Austria, the Creditanstalt-Bankverein, and from 1967 onwards was member of the advisory board of the Österreichischen Industrieverwaltungs AG (ÖIAG). So, after all, his party did not drop him at all.

In 1968, Graf had an apoplexy and never recuperated from it. He died one year later.