back 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 - 1935 Former Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Gedächtniskirche (Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Memorialchurch).
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 demagogy.

“I believe in Dr. Lueger, creator of Christian Vienna. Father Lueger, who lives in Vienna, praised be your 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 original)

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.

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.
Anti-Semitic election poster of the Christian Social Party for the National Council election in 1920.

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.
Multiple other 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.