Why the statue of a controversial former Vienna mayor will be tilted

Rather than tear it down, or leave it untouched, an expert panel in Vienna has recommended tilting the statue of a controversial former mayor 3.5 degrees to the right.

Karl Lueger Statue Vienna
Former Vienna Mayor Karl Lueger's statue, seen here defaced with the word "shame" in 2020. Lueger brought gas an water to Vienna, but was noted for an antisemitism that inspired Adolf Hitler. Photo: Alex Halada, AFP

Karl Lueger was an extremely popular Vienna mayor from 1897 to 1910. Yet, over a hundred years later, he remains a widely discussed figure in Austrian history due to his antisemitic views and politics. Now, an expert committee has proposed tilting his statue as a nod to his controversial legacy.

His time in office came during a Viennese golden age. Karl Lueger brought both fresh running water and gas to the Austrian capital for the first time. While he was mayor, the city saw the heyday of Austrian historical heavyweights like Gustav Mahler, Gustav Klimt, and Sigmund Freund. Under Lueger, the city built the public transport foundations Vienna is still known for today.

But he was also one of the most notorious antisemites in Austrian history. Historians widely agree that his rhetoric against Jewish people was a key inspiration for Adolf Hitler in the decades that followed. In Mein Kampf, Hitler described Lueger as “the most terrific German mayor of all time.”

Lueger is noted to have employed common antisemitic rhetoric to mobilise Vienna’s middle classes into blaming Jews for social problems. He called Jews “specialists in vile profits” and accused them of “expropriation of the indigenous population.”

In recent years, Vienna has struggled to deal with his controversial legacy. In 2012, the city renamed the “Karl Lueger Ring” road to “University Ring,” something the far-right Freedom Party called a “scandal” at the time. In 2021, at a time when crowds in Bristol toppled the statue of British slave trader Edward Colston, Vienna chose to leave Lueger’s four-metre-high bronze statue standing. He also still has a bridge and a square named in his honour.

Rather than tear it down, or leave it untouched, a city expert panel has recommended tilting Lueger’s statue 3.5 degrees to the right, as a way to “contextualize” his legacy.

“With racist rhetoric and populism, Karl Lueger made antisemitism a political program,” a tweet from the City of Vienna noted.

After convening an expert panel of artists and political experts, Vienna went with the tilting proposal from artist Klemens Wihlidal, noting that it would show how Austrian society was breaking away from uncritical praise of the former mayor.

City officials have so far not said precisely when the statue will be changed.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: Just how widespread is anti-Semitism in Austria?

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The best events to check out in Vienna this October

Looking for something to do in Vienna this October? Here's some ideas for you.

The best events to check out in Vienna this October

Vienna International Film Festival

Cinema lovers rejoice! The Viennale is for you.

The annual international film festival, which takes place from October 19th to October 31st this year, will include feature films from Austria, Argentina, France, Belgium and the USA – to name but a few. 

Screenings take place at various venues across Vienna, such as Gartenbaukino on Parkring, Stadkino im Künstlerhaus and Urania on Uraniastrasse.

The full Viennale programme will be published on October 10th at 8:00 pm, to help you plan your festival.

Beer festivals

Did you think Oktoberfest was just for Germany? Well, think again!

Kaiser Wiesn is still running at the Vienna Prater until October 8th, if you haven’t managed to get there yet. Of course, dirndls and lederhosen remain strictly optional.

The Wiesn, which is the biggest Oktoberfest-style event in Austria, will see groups of friends come together to enjoy huge beers, regional delicacies and live music. There are also lots of children’s activities planned.

Visitors can enter for free during the day but tickets are needed for many of the evening performances.

A person gives a thumbs up to beer

Thumbs up to beer. Photo: MabelAmber/Pixabay

Meanwhile, if you fancy trying out some beer a little later on – after the month has ended – there’s the Craft Bier Fest in Vienna.

Taking place on November 10th and 11th at the Marx Halle, you can expert a huge variety of beer from a selection of different breweries as well as street food. 

Day tickets can be bought in advance for €15 each, and a two-day ticket costs €25. 

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Austria in October 2023

Food festivals

Veganmania – Austria’s largest food festival and devoted to vegan food – kicks off its 25th year on October 6th, running through the 8th at the Rathausplatz.

Stands sell plant-based and sustainably grown food, along with cosmetics and clothes made in the same tradition.

The festival includes both Austrian and international cuisine, as well as musical performances.

From the 13th to 15th at the Burggarten, you can also celebrate Wien Herbsttage – or Vienna Autumn Days. The festival features culinary delights like rare fruits and vegetables. There’s also plenty of chutneys, chocolate, and spirits as well.

Viennese coffee house crime night

You read that right. On October 10th, over 30 Vienna cafes will take part in Crime Night, now in its 19th year.

Admission is free to see authors of the horror and murder mystery genres discuss their books – with writers from both German-speaking countries and international authors on hand.

Admission is free.

READ ALSO: How to drink coffee like an Austrian

Gamers and e-sports fans

Game City hits Vienna City Hall and the surrounding plaza October 13th to 15th, and features Austria’s largest meeting of its console gaming community.

In addition to game tournaments that people can watch, there’s separate areas for both kids and adults to try out the latest consoles and games.

Attendees often come dressed as their favourite video game characters – complete with elaborate makeup – although this is of course optional.