The figure of Dr. Karl Lueger is under constant critical discussion. Now a recent artistic
intervention on the monument has sparked new controversy around his memorial in the center of Vienna. Following
the Black Lives Matter protests in the city activists sprayed the word “Schande”, in English “shame” over the
memorial, starting a new call for its removal. Lueger used anti-Semitic hate speech as a tool for his political
career. He laid the foundation that allowed Adolf Hitler’s raise to power. Yet there are still many structures in
the city of Vienna that are named after him in memory of his legacy as a major. The most prominent probably being
his memorial statue in the heart of the city.
This case study investigates the roots of Luegers popularity and rises questions about the justification of his
ongoing presence in the landscape of Vienna.
In August 2019, a protest of
right-wing extremists took place on Vienna's Kahlenberg. The FPÖ politician Ursula Stenzel ended the protest with
a speech in front of the memorial.
Jakob Gunacker is part of an Identitarian
movement. He is holding a speech in front of the memorial about immigration.
Politically motivated groups still symbolize and idealize Lueger and use his memorial as a
gathering point for speeches and demonstrations that often follow an anti-immigrant or xenophobic agenda.
The source of Luegers popularity
Lueger Schilling -
Lueger was one of the first politicans in Austria that build a personal cult around himself.
Often referred to as the “beautiful Karl”, or “God of Vienna” he receveied praise in many songs, poems and a
play called “Lueger, der große Österreicher”(Lueger, the magnificent Austrian) by Hans Naderer that was
performed as an expression of the Austrofascist regime. Lueger understood himself as a politican for the common
man. And he knew how to communicate efficently towards this group by using strong retoric, sarcasm and
“I believe in Dr. Lueger, creator of Christian Vienna. Father Lueger, who lives in Vienna,
name, protect our Christian people (...) but deliver us from the evil of the Jews. Amen.
”prayer to Dr Karl Lueger”, text from a flyer - 1896 (translated from the german
The father of right-wing populism
During Dr. Karl Luegers tenure, Vienna gained the negative reputation of the first
anti-Semitically governed metropolis in Europe. Lueger realized the effectiveness of a demagogically and
rhetorically employed "hostility to Jews" and used it for his rise to power in Vienna.
Anti-Semitic election poster of the Christian
Social Party for the National Council election in 1920.
He was the
founder and leader of the Christian Social party in the 1880s and they quickly rivaled the Social Democrats
(Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ) that had some famous Jewish members such as Otto Bauer.
Anti-Semitism united the Christian Social Party and contributed to bringing Lueger into the position of major of
Vienna which he should inherit from 1897 to 1910.
Luegers anti-Semitic political views are often
described as purely opportunistic. He took advantage of the economically grounded anti-Jewish mood in which
Jewish industrialists and bankers were considered to be the cause of social problems. Hitler admired Lueger for
his speech-making skills and effective use of propaganda in gaining popular appeal. He studied Lueger carefully
and modeled some of his later behavior on what he learned.
Transforming Luegers Legacy
It is hard to tell how much of the admiration towards Lueger is based on his achievements as a major and what’s
the remains of an intense personal cult and the appropriation of his character to achieve political goals during
his lifetime and after.
The Lueger memorial is currently contextualized through a table that was added
by Vienna’s City Councilor for Culture in 2016. I don’t think that this contextualization is enough, considering
that the memorial is still used as a gathering point for right-wing fascists.
reminiscent of Luegers time as a major have already been removed or renamed. I hope that the recent protests and
discussions serve as a katalysator for a more proper contextualization, or eventually the removal, of the memorial.