Vienna’s Most Controversial Statue Is of a Still-Beloved Mayor Who Wedded Anti-Semitism to Democratic Politics

Oct. 20 2021

In the past two years, the United State has seen a series of controversies over the fate of statues of historical figures whose real or imagined sins have rendered them unfashionable. Just this week, New York City’s municipal government decided to remove a sculpture of Thomas Jefferson from city hall. The people of Vienna, influenced by the American example, have been dealing with a more complex case: the prominent likeness of Karl Lueger, who was the city’s mayor from 1897 to 1910. An immensely popular figure who did much to modernize the city, Lueger and his Christian Social Party also made anti-Semitism a key part of their political platform, and Viennese enthusiasm for Lueger did much to convince Theodor Herzl that Jews had no future in Europe. Liam Hoare explains:

The monument is one of the largest in Vienna. At its summit stands Lueger, thirteen feet tall, cast in bronze, staring out eastward across the Ringstrasse, [the grand boulevard that surrounds the city’s historic central district], as if addressing an expectant crowd. His feet are placed upon an enormous octagonal stone pedestal which is layered like a wedding cake. Its sides are engraved with reliefs depicting his various achievements: the municipalization of the gas and electricity supplies, the preservation of the forests surrounding Vienna, entitlements for widows and orphans, and charitable housing for the destitute. Its scale, position, and propagandistic quality all stand to burnish the cult of Lueger.

Even if Lueger himself was not [personally] an anti-Semite—and the historian Florian Wenninger tells me he suspects he was not—it was certainly the case that through anti-Semitic rabble-rousing, anti-Jewish agitation, and a party platform steeped in nationalism and xenophobia, as well as Germanic and Catholic supremacism, Lueger rode a wave of hatred and hostility among the Viennese lower-middle class to reach the highest office in city hall.

It was Lueger who, for instance, campaigned against the “Judaization” of the University of Vienna, which Lueger decreed to be a matter of “Christian” honor, and for a numerus clausus [restrictive quota] to protect “German-Austrians” against the influx of what he termed Hungarians and Galicians, [by which he meant Jews]. Rhetorically, Lueger often couched his anti-Semitism as a defense of Christianity, but his underlying ideology was evidently grounded in ideas of ethnicity or nationhood.

Another famous Viennese, Adolf Hitler, was one of Lueger’s most devoted admirers.

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More about: Adolf Hitler, Anti-Semitism, Austria, Theodor Herzl, Thomas Jefferson, Vienna

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror