Friday, October 8, 2010

Vienna Holocaust sites odd and bizarre

It's Friday, time yet again for another posting of Interesting Jewish Stories & Facts (IJS&F). Today we visit Vienna and explore two unique memorials to the victims of Nazi madness during World War II.

A controversial monument, hidden among the grandiose pieces of Alfred Hrdlicka's Memorial Against War and Fascism in Vienna, continues to draw attention and debate. It can be found at the Albertinaplatz, just across from the Albertina Museum.

At first glance, the sculpture looks like a hunk of rock, covered with barbed wire. But after studying the piece for a moment, you'll be able to make out the form of a bearded man on his hands and knees, scrubbing the street with a brush.

It's meant as a remembrance of what happened to many Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their supporters after the Germans marched into Austria in 1938. The barbed wire was added after locals and tourists began using the sculpture as a bench.

Many people, including Simon Wiesenthal, the noted Nazi hunter who was headquartered in Vienna, found the piece offensive. Wiesenthal used his considerable clout to lobby for a more appropriate memorial and was eventually successful.

The new memorial is cold and stark, difficult to embrace. But British artist Rachel Whiteread's "Nameless Library" stops tourists cold when they stumble across it in Vienna's Judenplatz.

With its sharp edges and familiar, yet bizarre facade, the Holocaust Memorial (photo above), dedicated to the 65,000 Austrian Jews slaughtered by the Nazis, begs for a moment's study. It's meant to be a library, but one turned inside out, the concrete siding composed of blocks molded to look like books with their spines turned to the inside.

The aim, Whiteread told the Guardian newspaper a dozen years ago when the memorial was unveiled after years of controversy, is to "invert people's perception of the world and to reveal the unexpected." Mission accomplished.

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion, Ms. Whiteread needs to better acquaint herself with the history of the Holocaust prior to introducing her "professional artistry."

    It is of utmost importance that the artist draw from "facts" rather than compensate for her "personal" interpretation. This project reflects to be an inaccurate translation of the historical fact, and the artist should have better expressed herself through a historical rather than a personal viewpoint.