History-Political Intervention at Schillerplatz

Intervention in public space by Plattform Geschichtspolitik (2010)

The intervention was carried out as part of a history-political tour through the Academy of Fine arts Vienna within the symposium Regime – Wie Dominanz organisiert und Ausdruck formalisiert wird.

It consisted of two parts:

renaming

The renaming of Schillerplatz, the square the Academy is located at, into “Square of the Jews who got expelled from the square on the initiative of the Academy in 1938/39.” Several stickers with the new name were put up on street signs; some of them remained for a few weeks.

A short summary of the historical background to the renaming of the square: In March 1938 Nazis took over power in Austria and started their campaigns against Jews and those whom they classified as such. A wide range of measures included the expulsion from public institutions, such as the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, and from public parks. Some of the parks were excluded from that measure; one of them was Schillerpark, in front of the Academy building. The presence of Jews irritated the Academy’s provisional directorship and it issued a complaint to Vienna’s City administration, entitled “Schillerplatz should become Jew-free”:
The Academy’s provisional directorship perceived the approval of Schillerplatz as the whereabouts for the Jews with great astonishment. The unappealing strangers we would so eagerly like to see removed from the purlieus of our city now huddle by day, of all places, on the benches under our Schiller memorial, which summons reverence for our greatest poet within every race-conscious German. [...] The fact that no disturbance of the peace has arisen until now can only be ascribed to the considerate, calm tactful composure of our students. [...] The Academy commission feels compelled to indicate these facts and to request their amendment.
– Letter from the Secretary of the Academy, Eduard Josch, on behalf of the provisional direction to the vice mayor and head of the Office of Culture, Hanns Blaschke, from December 10th, 1938
In the following month, the Municipality of the City of Vienna conveyed that
the case concerning the visitation of the Schillerplatz garden by Jews [...] had been taken care of by the responsible authorities in the meantime.
– Reply from the Municipality of the City of Vienna on January 18th, 1939
To this day, the Academy of Fine arts Vienna has made no gesture of repentance on that matter.

Reconfiguration

A temporary reconfiguration of the memorial to the Nazi poet, Josef Weinheber. The bronze bust was covered with a poster saying: “A monument honoring a Nazi, belittles Nazism and the Shoah.” Posters on the monument’s socket gave some contextual information on Josef Weinheber’s Nazi activities and on the expulsion of Jews from the Academy and from Schillerplatz. It also included a sort of manifesto on how to deal with with manifestations in public space dedicated to Nazis or Austro-Fascists. This intervention led to a more detailed project on the Weinheber monument.