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Dr. Karl Lueger, mayor of Vienna by Ludwig Grillich

Karl Lueger (German pronunciation: [luˈeɡɐ], not *[ˈlyːɡɐ]) (October 24, 1844 – March 10, 1910) was an Austrian politician and mayor of Vienna.



Born in Vienna, he graduated in law from the University of Vienna (receiving his doctorate in 1870). He founded and led the Christian Social Party which took political power from the German Liberals in Vienna and combated the Social Democrats. A faction in the Austrian parliament, the Christian Social Party won Vienna city council in 1895 and subsequently helped Lueger win mayoralty. After three refusals, Emperor Franz Josef (who allegedly loathed him as a person) finally sanctioned his election in 1897. He was the mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910.

Performance as Municipal Administrator

Dr-Karl-Lueger-Ring is part of Vienna's famous Ringstraße.

He proved to be an outstandingly good mayor of Vienna as far as municipal organisation and politics go. A significant part of the infrastructure and organisations that are responsible for the high standard of living in contemporary Vienna - such as the second main aquifer (Hochquellwasserleitung) which provides tap water of mineral water quality to large parts of the city, and the integrated public transport system owned by the municipality - were created during his terms of office.

This part of his legacy is the reason why he is generally viewed as a positive figure in Viennese history.

Further influence on Austrian politics

His general style of politics later inspired some of the right-wing leaders of the Austrian first republic in 1918-1933, such as Ignaz Seipel, Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg. Unlike with Adolf Hitler, he did not so much inspire antisemitism in them (none of these three were particularly anti-Semitic), but rather provided one important role model for their generally combative, unrelenting stance towards ideological political opponents (especially communistic socialists). This ultimately proved to be highly detrimental to the cohesion of the Austrian first republic as a whole.

The three politicians mentioned here also played decisive roles in the Austrian Ständestät. This was a right-wing, authoritarian government (1933-1938), which was unilaterally and forcibly established by the political right after the first republic failed in 1933.

Lueger and anti-Semitism

Lueger was known for his anti-Semitism and was an admirer of Édouard Drumont. Decades later, Adolf Hitler saw him as an inspiration for his own virulent hatred of anything Jewish. Lueger advocated racist policies against all non-German speaking minorities in Austria-Hungary. He voted, in 1887, for Georg Ritter von Schönerer's proposed bill to restrict the immigration of Russian and Romanian Jews. Léon Poliakov wrote in The History of Anti-Semitism:

It soon became apparent that especially in Vienna any political group that wanted to appeal to the artisans had no chance of success without an anti-Semitic platform. [...] It was at that time that a well-known phrase was coined in Vienna: "Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools." The situation was exploited by the Catholic politician Karl Lueger, the leader of Austrian Christian-Social party with a program identical to that of the Berlin party of the same name led by Pastor Stoeker. In 1887, Lueger raised the banner of anti-Semitism. [...] However the enthusiastic tribute that Hitler paid him in Mein Kampf does not seem justified, for the Jews did not suffer under his administration.[1]

Other observers contend that Lueger's public racism was in large part a pose to obtain votes. Historian William L. Shirer wrote that "…his opponents, including the Jews, readily conceded that he was at heart a decent, chivalrous, generous and tolerant man. So there is not a lot of evidence to support his large effect on the views of Adolf Hitler."[2] According to Amos Elon, "Lueger's anti-Semitism was of a homespun, flexible variety - one might almost say gemütlich. Asked to explain the fact that many of his friends were Jews, Lueger famously replied: 'I decide who is a Jew.' "[3] Viennese Jewish writer Stefan Zweig, who grew up in Vienna during Lueger's term of office, recalled that "His city administration was perfectly just and even typically democratic."[4]

Lueger overtly supported the Guido-von-List-Gesellschaft, an occult nationalist society.

He created the Antisemitic and Anti-Hungarian nickname Judapest.[5]

In Vienna, Lueger has a ring of the city named after him, and at least two statues honoring him. It has been very difficult to decide what to do with monuments honoring historical figures whose reputation has been widely called into question as Europeans (and others) reflect on the historical background to the Holocaust. After the occupation of Austria in 1938 street names carrying Jewish names or the names of pacifists were changed. After WWII, Austria started a full-scale program of de-Nazification on both cultural and topographical levels. Nazified street signs were torn down and their names changed back from Nazi to Habsburg heroes.[6] Lueger's monuments present a difficult case because they are genuinely local, yet he was inspirational for the Nazis.

For some, the Lueger monuments show that Vienna has sacrificed its obligations to war crimes victims in exchange for keeping its nostalgic appeal as the grand Imperial City. For example, when Austrian-born neurobiologist Eric Kandel won the Nobel Prize in 2000, he "stuck it to the Austrians" by saying it was certainly not an Austrian Nobel, it was a Jewish-American Nobel. After that, he got a call from then Austrian president Thomas Klestil asking him, "How can we make things right?" Kandel said that first, Doktor-Karl-Lueger-Ring should be renamed. Kandel was offended that the University of Vienna was on that street.[7]


  1. ^ Léon Poliakov: The History of Anti-Semitism. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003. ISBN 0812218639. p.24
  2. ^ William L. Shirer (1990). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-72868-7. 
  3. ^ Amos Elon: The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933, 2002, p.224
  4. ^ Stefan Zweig (1964). The World of Yesterday. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-5224-2. 
  5. ^ History of the word, (Jewish-Hungarian Cultural Site)
  6. ^ Mia Swart, Name Change as Symbolic Reparation after Transition: the examples of Germany and South Africa, 9 German Law Journal, 2008.
  7. ^ Science, 6 June 2008, 320:1269

External links

Preceded by
Josef Strobach
Mayor of Vienna
Succeeded by
Josef Neumayer

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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