With the formation of the Association of Industrialists in 1862, the first national lobby of industry came into being. Thirty years later, a large part of the 600 regional, local and industrial trade organisations formed the Central Association of Austrian Industrialists, an association of associations. The Union of Austrian Industrialists, an association of individual companies, followed in 1897. These forerunner organisations of today’s Federation of Austrian Industries were based upon voluntary membership, unlike the mandatory membership of the Chambers of Commerce. The 19 of March, 1896 saw the first edition of official body of the central association, ‘die Industry’.
Franz Josef inaugurates the House of Industry
Between 1906 and 1909, the House of Industry was erected on Schwarzenbergplatz, Vienna as the seat of the 3 central federations. King Franz Josef inaugurated the building on 11 March 1911 to the delight of 500 guests. With the exception of the first floor (which accommodated the Association of Industrial Insurers and the Anglo-Elementar Insurance until 1935), the building was occupied solely by the Industrial Employers Associations.
The Industrial Club represented the interests of large-scale and heavy industry, whilst the Central Association of Austrian Industrialists represented individual professional associations. Small and medium-sized enterprises secured their interests through the individual membership of the Federation of Austrian Industrialists.
Break-up by the Nazi Regime
After the collapse of the Danube monarchy, the three associations banded together to form the Imperial Federation of Austrian Industry from which the Principle Association of Austrian Industry arose a short time later. The political upheavals of the First Austrian Republic also left its mark. With the introduction of the corporative system in 1934, the Federation of Austrian Industry was created, only to be dissolved 4 years later when Austria joined the Deutsche Reich in 1938. The new powers saw that the Federations was broken-up and dispersed among individual departments of the Chamber of Commerce. The tight concentration of diverse expert and subgroups under one roof, however, enabled the representation of the frequent bilateral interests of ‘Ostmark’ industry to the Berlin central offices.
The House of Industry was largely spared from war damage: In an air raid on the city rail line (today’s U4 line) in February 1944, the neighbouring building, Heumarkt 10, was bombed. Only the roof and a few offices of the House of Industry were affected.
Austrian independence brokered
The address Schwarzenbergplatz 4 achieved special historical significance at the end of the Second World war when it became the seat of the Allied Control Council. The Federation of Austrian Industrialists, founded on 18 November 1946, were paid a modest rent by the new tenants who had little respect for their new home. The Russian occupying forces set alight a large part of the Archives for heating in the winter of 1945/46. The rest of the facilities did not fair much better. Nonetheless, the finest hour was to come in 1955 as the final and decisive stages of negotiations before the signing of the State Treaty were held here, in what was then temporarily called ‘Stalinplatz’.
In previous years, the Allied Council had always met in the small ballroom. This hall was deemed too small for the Ambassadorial Conference therefore it was moved to the large ballroom. It was there in May 1955 that the final details of the treaty were negotiated. The meeting of the foreign ministers of the four signatory powers also took place there on 13 and 14 May.
The last allied military parade
It is in front of the House of Industry that the last allied military parade was celebrated by the thousands of Austrians who attended the ceremony. On 27 May 1955 the allied flags on the roof of the building were finally lowered. The Federation of Austrian Industrialists returned to their original quarters; since then it has been the seat of the representation of industrial interests. Organisations and institutions closely related to the Federation of Austrian industries also found their place on the premises. On 23 May 1996, in view of the international activities and the changing industrial landscape, the general assembly decided to change the name of the association to the ‘Federation of Austrian Industries’.
Continuity since 1911
The House perceives its role today, as it was described by Minister president Richard von Bienert in his official speech at the inauguration in 1911:
“Built by its own hand, the new home of Austrian Industry will become the most important site of representation of industrial interests in the future. A natural meeting point for all endeavours that engage in open cooperation for the welfare and prosperity of domestic production, thus fulfilling one of the most important tasks in the area of economic and public life.”
Numerous historical and current photographs can be found in the iv-net Bildarchiv using the search keyword ‘Haus der Industrie”