CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 75: Austria 1947

Memorandum by the Deputy Director, Office of European Affairs (Reber) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Thorp) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas (Saltzman)

top secret

I should like to call attention to the two attached top secret telegrams from Vienna (P–8025 November 5 and 1153 November 1348) regarding the appeal by the Austrian Government to the United States authorities for an increase in the basic Austrian ration. These are two [Page 1206]of a series which indicates the need to increase the ration to 1800 calories at the earliest possible date.

The Austrian population has been maintained since the end of hostilities on a caloric intake slightly above the famine level. Despite the fact that this is one of the lowest levels of consumption in Europe, the Austrians have shown a remarkable self-discipline in resistance to Soviet pressure and Communist blandishments. It is uncertain how much longer self-discipline and political stability can be maintained unshaken unless the ration is increased to 1800 calories. Vienna’s top secret telegram 1153 indicates that it is planned to make some increase in the ration, perhaps to 1700 calories, on the basis of the present program of food shipments in order to cope with the political situation. It also suggests that this increase will merely serve as a temporary expedient in arresting the development of the ration issue as a question of the most serious political importance. A standard of 1800 calories represents to the Austrians not merely another increase in food consumption but a tolerable diet under the circumstances, as contrasted with undernourishment at any lower ration. This goal has become weighted with political and psychological associations disproportionately great. The fixing of the ration at 1800 calories would thus strengthen the hand of the present Austrian Government in relation to Communist pressure, and would strengthen the position of the United States. This is all the more urgent in view of the failure of the four powers to reach agreement on the Austrian treaty when the Treaty Commission adjourned on October 11, and in view also of the remote possibility that an agreement may be achieved in London in the forthcoming CFM meeting.

I recommend on the basis of these considerations that every effort be made to work out with General Balmer and a technical expert from Vienna (who are now in Washington for discussions) a program of food imports which will make possible the announcement of a ration of 1800 calories in Austria as soon as it is clear whether a Congressional appropriation for the Interim Aid Program will permit the maintenance of this standard during the first quarter of 1948.49

Since we do not see how any program can be formulated on the basis of increased grain shipments, owing to limited grain availabilities [Page 1207]at this time, it is essential to provide funds for the additional imports of other food stuffs required for a ration of 1800 calories. We believe that such a ration increase should also depend on increased collections of indigenous food. Any announcement of an 1800 calorie ration should accordingly be accompanied by a statement that the increase is dependent on the increase of local collections. The successful implementation of this plan would impress the Austrians with the fact that this standard is dependent on their own efforts as well as on the direct relief of the United States. This would also strengthen the hand of the Austrian Government against the separatist trends which have developed in the Western provinces as a result of the fear that Austria will ultimately be partitioned. An increase in the ration to 1800 calories appears urgent if we are to continue to expect the Austrian Government to persevere in its cooperation with the United States and in opposition to Soviet and Communist pressures.

  1. In his message P–8025, November 5, from Vienna, not printed, General Keyes reported that the Austrian Government had appealed to United States authorities for an increase in the basic Austrian food ration. Telegram 923, November 8, to Vienna, not printed, authorized General Keyes to inform the Austrian Government to proceed with the ration increase but warned that the increase would have to be kept to the minimum. The State Department could not give any assurance that additional United States funds would be available for Austrian relief supplies above those currently programmed for the Foreign Relief Program pending further action by the Congress (800.48 FRP/11–847). In telegram 1137, November 10, from Vienna, not printed, General Keyes and Minister Erhardt stated that it was their view that the future of the Austrian Government depended upon an increase in the food ration (800.48 FRP/11–1047). Telegram 1153, November 13, from Vienna, not printed, reported that General Keyes would inform Austrian Government authorities that the United States concurred in raising the basic caloric level to 1700 beginning immediately but would urge postponement of further increases to 1800 pending more definite assurances from Washington regarding additional supplies (800.48 FRP/11–1347).
  2. On December 17, 1947, Congress enacted Public Law 389, entitled “Foreign Aid Act of 1947”, providing for immediate aid urgently needed by the peoples of Austria, China, France, and Italy. The Third Supplemental Appropriation Act, 1948 (Public Law 393, 80th Congress, December 23, 1947), appropriated $522 million to the President to enable him to carry out the provisions of the Foreign Aid Act. For the texts of these laws, see 61 Stat. 934 and 941.