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Does the party include non-Catholic Christians?" I asked Dr. Gruber.
" The party as strictly an Austrian People's Party," he replied. " It is therefore predominantly Catholic because Austria numbers far more Catholics in its population than citizens of other creeds.
" In view of the conflict between Catholic and Communist philosophy it would appear that a Coalition such as exists in Austria could only operate under extreme difficulties. Can such a Coalition operate effectively?" I asked.
" Yes!" There was no hesitation in the answer,
" The Communists in Austria have not interfered in any way with religion. On the contrary many of them have attended religious services all over the
country. Their main preoccupations have been economic in the home sphere and in foreign policy," replied Dr. Gruber.
"Recently there were reports on Austrian Radio that there was conflict Over the question of the CI ucifix being displayed in schools. That would seem to indicate some cleavage on the question of education in Austria," I said.
" The controversy on the Crucifix," replied Dr. Gruber. " arose out of a confusion created by a departmental order. The minister in charge of education decided to permit local authorities to decide whether the Crucifix
should be retained or not. Departmental confusion arose out of the interpretation of his decision, It has no significance."
" What is the economic state of your country at present?" I asked.
" Bad!" The reply was emphatic. " There would have been a very dangerous crisis during the past few weeks if we had not received a little relief from the Allied authorities. We were down to 700 calories per day. Our people were starving."
" What steps can the Allies take to relieve this condition?" 1 asked.
" That question," replied Dr. Gruber, " goes right down into the roots of the present situation in Austria. Our country is not self-supporting in food. Before the present situation arose we depended on our imports from our neighbours, the Czechs and Ilungarians and others. These countries are now reaching famine level themselves. There is also the question of normal commerce between countries. Restrictions in the various zones of occupation in Austria are hampering the restoration of normal conditions in a fatal manner."
" The present system of occupation hampers Austrian recovery?"
" Can the Austrian Government pass its own laws?" I asked.
" It can," said Dr. Gruber, " with the approval of the occupation authori• tics which represent four nations with differing philosophies and policies." " How does this affect the commercial life of the country?" I asked.
" In this way," replied Dr. Gruber. "A man might have a factory in the British zone dependent on raw materials in the Russian zone. If he cannot import this material from one part of Austria to another his factory cannot operate. Our country depends on export. It often happens that factories are idle for this reason. And the granting of permits in any zones, irrespective of which power is in control, is veiy difficult to obtain. These restrictions are making the return of a healthy industry and commerce impossible,"
" You have expressed the opinion,"
said, " that the iirst step towards a stable peace in all departments of Central European life is a just peace treaty with Austria. What would you consider as the proper number of soldiers to occupy Austria at present?"
" None." Austria's Foreign Secretary smiled and was emphatic.
" In view of the Allies' desire to protect their legitimate interests, what would you consider a just total for all four Powers?"
" Twenty thousand."
Again there was no hesitation. The total number of Allied soldiers, British, Russian, U.S. and French occupying Austria to-day is ten times that number: 200,000.