OBITUARY : Karl Gruber

The death of the Austrian statesman Karl Gruber calls for some commemoration, especially, perhaps, for his performance as his country's Foreign Minister in the years following the Second World War.

Previously a law student and engineer, he had been active in the Austrian Resistance movement (not that he would have exaggerated its significance in the scheme of things), co-operating with the US intelligence services in Switzerland, under Allen Dulles: and it was with the support of the American liberating forces (as well, notably, as that of his accomplished wife, Helga) that he won his way to become Provincial Governor of his native Tyrol. He was appointed Foreign Minister in the first Austrian coalition government, himself belonging to the Christian Democratic Volkspartei.

In that capacity, with the country only just restored to independence, under an unwieldy four-power regime, and with its whole future uncertain (as, indeed, it had been after the First World War), he had the formidable task of strengthening Austria's natural links with the West, while at the same time both standing up to and reassuring the Soviet occupying authorities: a role in which he displayed much courage, even at the cost of disagreement with some of his colleagues.

From the Austrian desk of the Foreign Office, and as a British link-man for the protracted Austrian Treaty negotiations, I got to know and like Gruber well. Not least was I concerned, like him, to challenge the once orthodox view that, for the Russians, Austria was an integral part of the German problem, so that no separate settlement could be looked for there: a view that was to be strikingly disproved by the eventual conclusion of the Treaty in 1955.

Thereafter, he had a distinguished career as ambassador to Washington (twice), West Germany and Spain (which became a second home on his retirement), besides holding various government posts in Vienna.

He also wrote several, including two quite controversial, books about his experience in which marked pro- American proclivities were demonstrated. He was a forceful, individualistic character (with a leonine appearance, and even disposition, that almost might have likened him, across the years, to Michael Heseltine); and he continued to the end to enjoy respect and influence in domestic political life.

Incidentally, among his hard-pressed young assistants in that early period was one who sometimes confided to me his difficulties with his master: Kurt Waldheim, later himself to be Foreign Minister, United Nations Secretary- General and President of the Republic - and a man whose later troubles Gruber might well have had some sympathy with.

It remains to record that a main private interest for Karl Gruber was his dogs, of which he had several generations, and the last of which died subsequently: of a broken heart.

Michael Cullis

Karl J. Gruber, politician, diplomat: born 3 May 1909; State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Austria 1945-46, Minister of Foreign Affairs 1946- 53; Lecturer in Economics, Vienna University 1946-61; Ambassador to the United States 1954-57, 1970-73; Ambassador to Spain 1961-66; Ambassador to Federal Republic of Germany 1966; Secretary of State 1966-69; Ambassador to Switzerland 1973-75; married 1939 Helga Ahlgrimm; died Innsbruck 1 February 1995.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Recruitment Genius: HR Consultant

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An HR Consultant is required to join thi...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable