JTA — The city of Vienna will tilt the statue of an antisemitic former mayor 3.5 degrees to the right in order to shift the viewer’s “perspective on it,” a move that some Jewish leaders are calling an inadequate way to deal with a dark chapter of the city’s history.
The city’s Twitter account announced the decision last Wednesday and included an image of what the tilted statue will look like.
Karl Lueger served as mayor of Vienna for 13 years until his death in 1910. He was known for antisemitic rhetoric that is said to have inspired Adolf Hitler, who lived in Vienna as a young man. Hitler wrote in “Mein Kampf” that he had “undisguised admiration” for Lueger.
The statue, situated in a square called Dr. Karl Lueger Platz in the city’s center, has been hit with vandalism for years by protesters who call for its total dismantling. In 2020, the city put up fencing to deter protesters from spray-painting it.
Viennese artist Klemens Wihlidal had proposed the slight tilt, which is slated to happen sometime in 2024.
“With this, I would like to cause an irritation, or even more, a moment of insecurity, which may only become perceptible upon a second look,” he said in a press release, according to CNN. He added that he hopes the viewer will feel like the statue is “about to topple over or at least expect that it won’t stand for much longer.”
Das Konzept zur Kontextualisierung des Karl Lueger Denkmals ist laut eigens dafür eingesetzter Jury beschlossen: Die Figur des früheren Wiener Bürgermeisters wird sich künftig um 3,5 Grad nach rechts neigen. Pläne für das Projekt stammen vom Wiener Künstler Klemens Wihlidal. 1/7 pic.twitter.com/fvlYBMdvoc
— Stadt Wien (@Stadt_Wien) May 31, 2023
Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community of Vienna, told CNN that fully taking down the statue “would be more appropriate and in line with a sincere culture of remembrance,” adding that “squares, streets, bridges and other monuments are still named after antisemites all over Austria.” A street named after Lueger was renamed in 2012.
“Tilting the statue is a halfhearted approach to dealing with this issue,” said Ariel Muzicant, president of the European Jewish Congress and a former president of Vienna’s Jewish community. “At the very least, the local authority should change the name of this square and of many other locations in Vienna bearing Lueger’s name.”