Vienna spends £430,000 tilting statue of antisemitic mayor 3.5 degrees instead of ripping it down

The statue daubed with word ‘Shame’ has been a battleground for years


Vienna’s statue of its antisemitic former mayor, Karl Lueger, will be tilted 3.5 degrees in a concession to campaigners who say it should be removed altogether.

The statue has been a battleground between opponents and defenders of Lueger, his legacy, and the memorial since 2020 when the monument in Vienna’s first district was graffitied with the word "schande", meaning "shame".

Vienna’s culture secretary Veronica Kaup-Hasler rejected calls from Jewish community leaders, Holocaust survivors, and Jewish students, artists and activists for the statue's removal. Instead, she announced last year that the monument would be subject to an “artistic contextualisation”.

A temporary installation, “Lueger Temporary”, which draws attention to 16 other sites in Vienna bearing Lueger’s name, was erected on parkland across from the Lueger monument last October.

The plan to slant the monument 3.5 degrees rightward, first proposed by local artist and musician Klemens Wihlidal in 2010, will be implemented next year. It is expected to cost €500,000 (£430,000).

This subtle alteration is intended to give viewers a sense of disorientation - Wihlidal said his “minimal” intervention would leave the monument fundamentally untouched, but that he hoped resetting the statue would alter people’s perspective on it. Critics want the statue to be taken down.

Lueger, who served as the mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910, was a modernising force in Viennese politics, riding to power by whipping up antisemitic and Catholic supremacist hatred among voters.

Lueger’s Vienna was the crucible in which Theodor Herzl’s Zionism was forged, while Adolf Hitler described the man as one of the German-speaking world’s great mayors.

Austria’s Union of Jewish Students president Victoria Borochov called the statue-tilting plan a “slap in the face for all those affected by antisemitism”, adding that the proposed design failed to “clearly address Lueger’s antisemitism”.

Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community of Vienna, has also called for the statue to be taken down and for the site to be used to house a Holocaust museum.

Kaup-Hasler said: “Keeping the public discussion going instead of erasing traces of the past is enormously important to me - especially with this project.”

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