Disputed Zones: Monuments and Street Names
It is significant that until the year 1928 there was no monument commemorating 12 November 1918. The monument to Dr. Karl Lueger erected by the bourgeois side in 1926 moved the Social Democrats to create their ‘own’ site of memory.
As a result of an initiative by the Social Democratic Party and the free trade unions in 1928 a monument beside the Parliament building on the Ringstrasse boulevard was unveiled as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations. That a site of memory for the Social Democrats was being erected here is shown by the three Social Democrat politicians depicted on the monument: Jakob Reumann, Vienna’s first Social Democrat mayor, Ferdinand Hanusch, Secretary of State for Social Security, and Victor Adler, the party’s founder. The party’s newspaper, the Arbeiter-Zeitung, reported:
We, we alone, are the creators, the founders of this republic! … In the centre of the city, where the monuments to the Habsburg emperors and their military commanders stand, the Social Democrat workers will tomorrow unveil the monument to the great leaders of our struggle. … The Republic was ours. And it shall become ours.
During the civil war in 1934, to be precise on 13 February, the monument was draped with flags with the Jerusalem cross and provided with portraits of Engelbert Dollfuss, Emil Fey and Rüdiger Starhemberg, this act representing the visible conquest of this symbolic space by the authoritarian corporate state. That covering up the monument was indeed a form of ‘occupation’ also became clear a few weeks later when it was removed entirely. On 12 November 1948, having been restored, the monument was put up again. In 1961 there was an attempt to blow up the monument by placing explosives behind it, which has never been explained.
On 12 November 1968 the two political parties celebrated the memorial day together for the first time in the Second Republic: Chancellor Josef Klaus of the conservative ÖVP and President Franz Jonas, a Social Democrat, commemorated the founding of the republic by laying wreaths, albeit not on the monument to the republic but in the sanctuary in the outer Burgtor archway. The monument was not and still is not a site of memory for the republic which is outside the realm of party politics – there is no such site; it retains its party political associations.
The renaming of streets also caused controversy. For example in 1919 a section of the Ringstrasse boulevard, until then known as the Franzensring after Emperor Franz II (I), was renamed Ring of 12 November. This and other changes led to storms of protest in the Reichspost, a Christian Socialist newspaper:
Among the old Viennese street names which the Social Democrat city council has condemned to be given a new name, thus adding to the postal chaos, there is also the Amalienstrasse in Ober St. Veit [named after Amalia, the consort of Emperor Joseph I]. … It is outrageous that these gentlemen from the Social Democrats should in their fanaticism show so little social sensitivity as to have the courage to waste money on such a fruitless matter as renaming these streets.
Such objections did not, however, keep the Christian Socialists in 1934 from changing the name of the section of the Ringstrasse in front of Parliament to Dr. Ignaz Seipel-Ring in honour of the Christian Socialist Chancellor from 1926-9. In the following years parts of the Ringstrasse, a location full of symbolism, were renamed several times; today the section in front of Parliament is named after Dr. Karl Renner, a Social Democrat who was Chancellor and subsequently President of Austria.
That the renaming of streets is still an issue with considerable symbolic content and one discussed with similar arguments and emotions even today is shown by the discussions in connection with the section of the Ringstrasse in front of the University: formerly Dr. Karl Lueger-Ring, it has been known since 2012 under the neutral name Universitätsring.
Translation: Leigh Bailey
Denkmal der Republik. Unter: http://www.demokratiezentrum.org/index.php?id=229 (20.06.201)
Reisacher, Martin: Die Konstruktion des „Staats, den keiner wollte“. Der Transformationsprozess des umstrittenen Gedächtnisorts „Erste Republik“ in einen negativen rhetorischen Topos. Diplomarbeit Wien 2010. Unter: http://othes.univie.ac.at/10190/1/2010-06-07_0252520.pdf (20.06.2014)
Republik-Denkmal. Unter: http://austria-forum.org/af/AEIOU/Republik-Denkmal (20.06.201)
„We, we alone, are the creators ...": Arbeiter-Zeitung vom 11.11.1928, 4, zitiert nach: http://www.oeaw.ac.at/cmc/schafftwissen/erste_republik/repREF/0120/0120a.html (20.6.2014) (Translation)
„Among the old Viennese street names ...": Reichspost 14.11.1919, 5f. Unter: http://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?aid=rpt&datum=19191114&zoom=33 (20.6.2014) (Translation)
- 12 November 1918 as a Site of Memory
- The New State in Search of its National Holiday: 12 November as the Site of Political Dividing Lines
- Austria, the Country without a National Anthem
- Disputed Zones: Monuments and Street Names
- Myths and Narratives: ‘The Rest is Austria!’ … or something like that
- Myths and Narratives: ‘The Reluctant State’ and ‘The State that Nobody Wanted’
- No Role to Play and yet part of Austria’s Heritage: the Habsburgs after 1918