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Franz Olah dies aged 99

By William Green

Former Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) and Social Democratic (SPÖ) Interior Minister Franz Olah has died at the age of 99, it has been announced.

He passed away this morning at a provincial clinic in Baden.

Clinic Director Johann Pidlich who announced the news said no further information would be released at the request of the family.

Olah had been a patient at the clinic for some days.

SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann said: "Austria has lost an outstanding political personality. Social Democracy expresses its deep sorrow."

ÖGB Vice President Sabine Oberhauser said: "Franz Olah was a great fighter for the cause of workers even if the ÖGB and he later had differences."

President Heinz Fischer said that Olah had contributed significantly to the building of democracy and the trade-union movement.

Olah was born in Vienna on 13 March 1910. After attending school in Budapest for three years, he returned to Vienna and learned to build pianos while developing ties to Social Democracy and the trade-union movement.

He had constant run-ins with the police in the 1930s and was on the first train which transported Austrians to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau in 1938. He was a prisoner in various concentration camps until just before the end of World War II.

Olah became an MP in 1948 and was second president of parliament from 1959 to 1961. He became ÖGB president in 1959 and was Interior Minister in 1963 and 1964.

He made a name for himself in combating a wave of Communist strikes in 1950 in the Soviet-occupied zone of Austria, which he considered violent attempts to change the country’s political structure.

Olah then fell out with the SPÖ and resigned from the party in 1964 only to be caught up in a financial scandal.

He established the Democratic Progressive Party in 1965, and it won three seats on the Vienna city council in 1969.

He once said of some of the problems he had later in his life: "The only goal was my political destruction."

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