Karl Lueger statue
Foto: Lilly Panholzer
Karl Lueger statue
Skizze: Mona Liska
Elections in Austria have shown just how much anti-Semitism continues to be politically instrumentalised by parties and social groups. Anti-Semitic statements by politicians are not only tolerated but also rewarded with votes. Anti-Semitism is usually a part of a more extensive racist rhetoric that attempts to make cheap populist points.
History has shown us just how important it is to take action against all forms of anti-Semitism. Thus it is even more serious that in Vienna there is still a statue to a politician who, over a century ago, used anti-Semitism as a political strategy in order to secure a power base for himself in the city. The statue to the former mayor, Lueger, cannot be allowed to romanticise history any longer. It should be transformed into a monument against anti-Semitism and racism.
Anti-Semitism has a long tradition in Vienna that stretches back to well before the Nazi era. In the 1880s the lawyer Dr. Karl Lueger discovered how effective hostility against Jews could be, incorporating it in his demagogy/rhetoric and using it for his rise to power in Vienna. He brought together various forms of anti-Semitism in the Christian Socialist Party which finally rewarded Lueger with the office of mayor in Vienna, a post he held from 1897 till 1910. Karl Lueger was one of the most admired politicians of his time. During his period of office Vienna gained notoriety for being the first anti-Semitic capital of Europe (cf. Albert Lichtblau, Die Geburtsstätten des “horror judaei”). Lueger’s infamous and much-quoted dictum was: “I say who is a Jew and who isn’t”.
If one compares the Lueger quote with the speeches of other Austrian politicians of the first and second republics, then a pattern of argumentation emerges that still determines the political discourse in Austria today. This leads to a climate in which, for example, Martin Graf (FPÖ) can be elected to the office of third Parliamentary President (Speaker of the House) by the majority of Members of Parliament despite the fact that he is a member of the German nationalist, extreme right wing fraternity, “Olympia”. Even today, despite being involved in numerous scandals, he still chairs parliamentary sessions.
The honour done to former mayor Lueger by having a monument and a section of the Vienna Ringstraße named after him, cannot be left unqualified. The statue stands for patriarchal hero worship and an undifferentiated way of dealing with history. It thus becomes a monument to trivialising, and tolerating anti-Semitism.
The demands of the work group to redesign the site are intended to create a counter-monument, one that maintains the public visibility of the discourse against anti-Semitism and racism in Austria.