Art historian and critic, Professor of Art History (Modernity and Postmodernity) at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna and Chairperson of the Institute of Art and Cultural Sciences.
I support the project by the pressure group wanting to transform the Karl Lueger statue. It will open one’s eyes to monuments as sites for generating political symbols. Over and above the concrete occasion, the concern here is with an exemplary history of exclusion, discrimination and persecution, one that is closely linked to the City of Vienna. It illuminates the connection between political and aesthetic modernity seen from the point of view of collective dealings with memorial culture.
Curator and journalist, Vienna
Perhaps the demand for a “re-design” anticipates the results of a discussion. Monuments, as part of the historical fabric of a city, require commentary, contextualisation, criticism, education, information and, quite certainly, “dealing” with them in ways that may sometimes include redesigning them. I support the action being taken, not least in order to be included in the “Who is Who of Austrian left wing extremism” (as the culture speaker of the Freedom Party, Heidemarie Unterreiner, put it in a press release dated December 10, 2009).
Unfortunately the much more prominent “monument” is the name attached to the prestigious section of the Ring (the circular road around Vienna’s centre). This is especially the case because street names and addresses are an official part of the present of any city. “Monuments” like this can only be removed: Eric Kandel, a Nobel prize winner for medicine from Vienna who was forced into exile, demanded the only possible way of dealing with the situation: the re-naming of the Dr. Karl Lueger Ring.
Hitler praised Karl Lueger in “Mein Kampf” for the anti-Semitic lessons he had received during his years in Vienna. A historical critical commentary to the monument to the teacher is overdue.
Professor of Art History at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna
As a new Viennese I’m astounded that this city honours such an aggressive anti-Semite with a monument that portrays him as a benefactor instead of a forerunner of Nazism. As an art historian I reject the idea of destroying the monuments of past epochs just because their leanings no longer fit in with the present. They are cultural artefacts that place a piece of physical history, with all its contradictions, before our eyes and we should use care in our dealings with them. As a person who thinks politically I wish for critical engagement with the causes that led to the greatest barbarity in human history because that is an elementary pre-condition for preventing a repetition.
For these reasons I am in favour of the initiative to turn the Lueger monument into a memorial with all my heart, because it shows how to deal sensibly with this stumbling block in a way that is both historically aware and culturally sensitive. With its squares, buildings and monuments Vienna consists of a multiplicity of historical layers that have been laid down on top of each other over the centuries and in which the presence of history is visible. In is high time that the Lueger monument was given another “layer”, one which neither destroys nor covers up the old but one which is new and critically perceptible.
with feminist leanings.
The male-dominated history of governance is not only quasi doubled in its representation in public space, it is inscribed in stone into what is really a fleeting consciousness of the past. In this way a monument mutates into a negation of its (at least possible) purpose: rapt pathos cemented into place instead of simply thinking about the past. Whether artistic intervention here can be an inventory of selective perceptions—which, due to the general repression of state-legitimated degradation of fellow citizens that was turned into “an announcement of the truth” by official decree—is as open a question as that concerning the current conditions for mobilising resistance to a populism that generates fear because it wishes to occupy these official positions once again. And thus—hopefully and supportively—the project really is a necessary step in transforming a ‘monument’ into a memorial.
the editorial collective
Two of us have recently visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau memorial sites with the Verein Gedenkdienst [Memorial Service Association]. Our group consisted of people from Vienna who were interested but had never been there before. They had very different motives for and approaches to undertaking the journey. At the group meeting for reflection held on the last evening, after we had been to Birkenau, what we had seen and heard seemed to have overtaxed some of us. An answer to the question “why?” was despairingly sought – some people just couldn’t get it into their heads that it was purely and simply anti-Semitism. In talking about resentment against foreigners “it’s always been like that” or “even animals exhibit similar behaviour” was used to try and shift the responsibility from the perpetrators and their view of the world onto a constant inherent in everyone so that no-one can do anything about it.
It is therefore possible to travel to Auschwitz and Birkenau, to be confronted with these sites, to inform oneself about everything that took place there and still not learn anything. Karl Lueger, “his comrades-in-arms”, his supporters and his “apologists” – led directly to the extermination camps. To allow a section of the Ring and a square to continue to bear his name and, in addition, to leave a monument to him uncommented, is the continuation of this down-playing and a permanent contribution to the construction of a normality that attempts to cut off Nazism and the Shoah from Viennese history and to characterize it as “foreign”.
The initiative that has been trying for years to have Arnezhoferstrasse in Vienna’s second district—named after an inflammatory anti-Semitic preacher of the 17th century—recently received a statement from city councillor Andreas Mailath-Pokorny in which, amongst other things, he says “It is a mistake to believe that one can dispose of or remove the history of a city or a particular aspect of it, even if it is unpleasant one, by removing the symbols. Renaming streets belongs amongst the tools of authoritarian or totalitarian regimes and because of that must be rejected … Critical and watchful awareness cannot be seen in erasure but in the correct ordering and ascription of names.”
Dear City of Vienna, it is also a mistake to believe that on the level of political symbolism nothing more has to be done than to point out the historically “unpleasant aspects” and allow them to stay in place. It is an even bigger mistake to believe that renaming streets and similar actions are something to do with totalitarian regimes – taken to its logical conclusion, that would mean Vienna would have to have at least ten Adolf Hitler squares, streets, and roads. And no matter how consistent that might be, in the face of the triple honour accorded Karl Lueger in the city’s public space, it is unthinkable. And if Councillor Mailath-Pokorny then thinks that instead of “erasing” names like this it is necessary to have “historically correct ordering and ascription of names”, then our first question is why this has not already taken place. We also would like to ask just how far the “correct ascription” can go in Vienna because the proposals presented to the City of Vienna council by the Second District Committee for a supplementary plaque to the street sign outstrip each other in their down-playing.
For these reasons we fully support this initiative in the certain assumption that it will find a clear language to categorize the Lueger monument in the history of Vienna, the history of the Shoah and that of the present.
Professor at the Institute for Political Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna
Karl Lueger was not only a successful Vienna mayor but also the first politician that employed political anti-Semitism for political ends. It was for this reason that Emperor Franz Joseph prevented his inauguration as mayor a number of times. His anti-Semitic sallies are legendary. They go from “anti-Semitism will only rot away when the last Jew has rotted away” to “anti-Semitism which is really driven into us”. In 1890 Lueger explained that anti-Semitism “is really driven into us by the insatiable vindictiveness with which Jews pursue their real or alleged enemies”. It was Lueger’s anti-Semitism that moved Hitler to write in “Mein Kampf”, “Today, more than before, I consider the man to be the greatest German mayor of all times”.
In Vienna around a dozen monuments, squares, street names and bridges remind us of Lueger. There is not one site that reminds us of his anti-Semitism. Internationally it had fatal repercussions that the University of Vienna’s official address is Dr. Karl-Lueger Ring 1.
A statue in memory of Lueger that does not encourage reflection on anti-Semitism is a monument to forgetting and not worthy of a democracy. Many have changed their views, now it is time to change its form.
Philosopher and art theoretician. Department Head Kunst und Medien, Vertiefung Theorie at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste
“I say who’s a Jew…” Dr. Lueger’s most infamous dictum, from a politician who in any case achieved the most dubious fame through his brutal populism, makes one distraught today because of its astounding topicality. The racist construction of “the Jew” as a radically subjective gesture of the exercise of power in today’s populism, is dominated in the first place by the media, not the Freedom Party. There are also signs that it is becoming noticeably coupled with violent anti-Semitic incidents. Against this threatening background, it is high time to thematise Lueger’s history anew and in a new way, to connect up the dispositive of today’s anti-Semitism with this historiography, with the artistic and formal demands of the Pressure Group to transform the Karl Lueger statue.
Journalist and exhibition curator, Berlin. Writes regularly for Kunstforum International, die tageszeitung etc.
The initiative of the pressure group to transform the Karl Lueger statue into a critical commentary of the anti-Semite Karl Lueger is certainly worth supporting. A demand for its demolition, as might have been made in the 1970s and 1980s, would have missed the chance of understanding history and making it graphically comprehensible. It is by no means understandable that Karl Lueger is still honoured as a former mayor of Vienna even
when his anti-Semitic position has been sufficiently proven and is well known. But a removal of the statue and re-naming the square would only eliminate history, including contemporary history, without a trace. However the scandal lies in the current ignorance of politicians and the general public with regard to a historically anti-Semitic person despite the experience with the mass murder of European Jews.
Against this background I can only express my unconditional support for the goals of the initiative – by redesigning it to create a counter-monument which resists anti-Semitism and racism in Austria – and I will promote its implementation.
With their street names and monuments, public spaces give an account of how memorialisation is officially dealt with. In Lueger Platz the name and the monument are official reminders of an anti-Semite. Up till now, however, the subject that has been negotiated here has not been the history and presence of anti-Semitism but, rather, the statue and square that honour the anti-Semitic politician as a great man. The absence of any commentary from the official side means that within the city boundaries there is a daily confirmation that in Vienna the ‘loose change’ of political currency may be an anti-Semitic and racist self-image.
The pressure group to transform the Karl Lueger statue, with its objective of redesigning it to make it into a monument against anti-Semitism and racism in Austria, makes it clear that memorialisation does not have to stay as it is – that the self-image is contested and must be attacked. I support this project in every respect.
Historian, cultural and media activist and member of the board of the Kulturrat Österreich
[Cultural Council of Austria, an umbrella organisation which is a platform for those active in art, culture and media]
Disruptive action is certainly called for as long as yesterday men have high positions in the republic, erode parliamentary democracy with extreme right-wing ideas and repeatedly attempt to grab the high ground of the discourse. Fight the favour we them do by looking away and forgetting; counter racism and anti-Semitism.
Verein Gedenkdienst, the association enables and organises a substitute service at holocaust memorial sites as a civil alternative to military conscription.
Throughout the world the name Sigmund Freud stands for tremendous scientific progress, for a contribution to the emancipation of humanity, for enlightenment in the best sense of the word. Karl Lueger stands for the opposite of all that: a provincial reactionary, unscrupulous, always ready to denounce fellow citizens and to forge an appeal to the lowest possible instincts in order to obtain a political advantage. Vienna had no place for Sigmund Freud, no square, no street. After 1945 not only the section of the Ring that had been named after him under the Austro-fascists was left as it was, but also the prominently-situated square with its statue. It would be completely natural to publicly honour Sigmund Freud. At the same time, wanting to erase Lueger from the city’s urban landscape would be wrong. He is part of the history of the city and in a certain sense embodies its discreditable side. We are talking about saying that openly, of placing the man in the context he deserves. It is in this sense that we support the wonderful initiative to re-design the Lueger statue and wish those involved the very best for the project.
Linguist, Distinguished Professor, Chair in Discourse Studies, Department of Linguistics and English Language, Bowland College Lancaster University
The Lueger statue should not disappear from the Vienna cityscape because pasts don’t just disappear. It is rather a question of redesigning it so that the historical meanings become visible; by embedding them in context and making people aware of the anti-Semitic positions connected with Lueger, the monument will be, so to say, “re-defined. This would not silence the past but engage with it. Alternatives? This way will give anti-racist positions the necessary place in public in Vienna.