Anschluss Monument

Location

Oberschützen, Austria

47.34404, 16.21181

Author

Multiple authors*

Group of Architects and Artists

Built in

1939

Modified in

1945

Built by the Nazis just after the annexation of Austria, this temple-like monument is still standing and wasn’t addressed until 1997 when a stone plaque was installed. It is due to be repurposed as a memorial against war and fascism.

The Anschlussdenkmal (Anschluss Monument) in Oberschützen was built by the Nazis as a symbol of the Anschluss, or Austria’s annexation by the German Reich on 12 March 1938. The monument, in what then became the Ostmark, was inaugurated on 21 May 1939. It should also be noted that the Anschlussdenkmal replaced an older monument, actually a reminder that the province of Burgenland had been annexed to the Republic of Austria.

The Styrian architect Rudolf Hofer was responsible for the planning of the temple-like structure of pillared arcades. It was decorated with a two-metre-high gilded imperial eagle (Reichsadler) designed by sculptor Wilhelm Gösser and ceramist Hans Adametz. The eagle, which faced towards Hungary, was placed at the centre of the eight-metre-high and twelve-metre-long square structure, on a two-metre-high pedestal on which were engraved the Nazi inscription Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Führer! and a large swastika. The sculpture itself was surrounded by fire cauldrons. It is worth noting that the Anschlussdenkmal was built by the local population of Oberschützen and the Hitlerjugend.

During the Nazi era the monument was used for a number of ceremonies and political rallies. In 1945 the Soviets destroyed the gilded Reichsadler, the inscriptions and the fire cauldrons. The monument itself remained in place after the war; no one thought of destroying it but, equally, no one thought of an appropriate way of dealing with this stone witness of the darkest period of Austrian history. Until 1995 there was no visible sign to remind people of the original function of this largest remaining Nazi memorial. Since then, a stone information panel has been affixed. The deeply engrained absence of remembrance culture even allowed the former right-wing politician Jörg Haider to celebrate his Burschenschaften [student fraternities] there in 1991.

In 1981 artist Peter Wagner tried to realise an art project entitled Black Box. But his plan to envelop the entire monument in black failed in the face of opposition from the inhabitants of Oberschützen. Indeed, many had helped with the installation of the original monument in 1939. More than twenty years later, in 2008, Wagner created the art installation entitled PFLÖCKE/Korridor consisting of 70 wooden piers symbolizing 70 drilling piles, one for each year. Multiple subsequent acts of vandalism are testimony to the ongoing difficulties entailed by right-wing politics in Austria.

After almost 80 years, the first genuine remembrance project was initiated in 2017 when the local Museumsverein Oberschützen organised the first ever symposium on the memorial. One of the first successful steps undertaken by the municipality was to lease out the site. The obscure memorial is to be renovated, starting in September 2018. Meanwhile, historical research is underway and its lasting transformation into a memorial against war and fascism is due to be completed by 2021.

*Rudolf Hofer (architect), Hans Adametz (ceramist), Wilhelm Gösser (sculptor) 

Text by Joshua Koeb

Function

1939Monument

1945 Monument

2018 Memorial against dictatorship and racism (planned)

Ownership

1939 German Reich

1945

2018 9 private ground owners

Condition

1939

1945 Partly demolished

2018 Good

Property Management

1939

1945

2018 Oberschützen Local Community

Form of government

1939 Dictatorship

1945

2018 Parliamentary Republic

Spatial Planning Agency

1939

1945

2018

Type of heritage and protection

1939

1945

2018 National Monument (BDA 8.2.2002 GdStr 169)

Interview with Dietmar

Local Resident

Transcription
So I was born in ‘42. And it went up in ‘39. It says so there. To think we were playing there as kids when they shot down the eagle, the Hungarians, and the Russians. Shot it down to the ground, with its wings. And gold! It had a bit of gilding. We scraped the gold off and put it in a matchbox. We thought, that way we’ll be rich. – I remember it was a stone quarry, rubble, nothing else. It lay there for a long time until it was cleared away. And then they covered the plinth in new concrete. – Because it’s a monument, it’s a thing. Personally I think it’s a good thing they’re doing something. After all, it’s there. Back then, it was a Nazi thing. – Yes, there even a small plaque there. Frauneder, the mayor, the former mayor, had it put up. Before that there was nothing. It was all overgrown, with shrubbery. There was a separate road leading there, asphalted, you know?

Interview with Joachim and Karin

Tourists

Transcription
[Karin] It’s a war memorial from the First or the Second World War by the look of it. Just by its appearance. So we just wanted to know what it was. That’s why we came here. – There are lots of sites in Nuremberg. Because of that we thought it might be something similar. [Joachim] If you’re interested in that particular period, not just history, but specifically that period, then you have to go to Nuremberg. [Karin] They’ve got a documentation centre there that’s really done a great job of working through it all. Yeah, you’ve still got all the sites with all the splendour and the claim to power visible for everyone to see. It’s incredible. And it’s interesting that here, seemingly, there’s very little, it’s true. [Joachim] Munich, Capital of the Movement. Linz was also something, I’m not sure what. Nuremberg was the city of the Reich party rallies, so it’s all still well preserved. And some of it is being reinstated. Back then you had the claim to power, documented by a cathedral of light, that’s how they expressed it. The reason it’s a cathedral of light is that they were on the Zeppelin Field reviewing a parade at night, and from the whole of the Reich they got flak searchlights, set them up in a circle and had them shine into the night sky. You could see it from Nuremberg to Würzburg. That was of course the claim to power being raised! To be visible over and above the individual. And then, when you project it back onto a person who personifies it all, right?

Interview with Walter Riess

Activist

Transcription
Right, so it’s a structure from the Nazi era that’s unique in its kind anywhere in Austria, unlike anything else in size and message. There are only one or two commemorative plaques in Austria, and smaller ones in Styria and in Carinthia, that commemorate the Anschluss to Hitler’s Germany. This structure was the work of an ambitious Gauleiter from the area, back then. By the name of Tobias Portschy, who, with the support of ardent Nazi activists – in this very town, this school town – wanted to erect a monument to the military march-past. An existing monument that had been erected in 1931 to commemorate the annexation of the province of Burgenland to Austria in 1921 was considered too small by the Nazi organizers to serve as a backdrop for a military march-past. So up on this hill his intention was to erect this temple-like structure as an ideological bastion and as a monumental backdrop for the march-past of Nazi units. The ground-breaking ceremony took place in ‘38, in other words too late to coincide with the Anschluss itself. It was then inaugurated, consecrated (in inverted commas), in May 1939 by Tobias Portschy’s successor, the Gauleiter for the province of Styria, because at that point Burgenland had ceased to exist. Now and again it was the venue for Nazi rallies, where they used the eagle, which bore the inscription Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer [One People, One Empire, One Leader], the imperial eagle to document the fact that evil, i.e. the enemy, came from the East. So god knows the ideology was not a peaceful one. They also managed to create a pro-war mentality, with this monument as a backdrop. It remained as it was for a very long time after belonging to several landowners at once. It was quite polarising, often the target of critical antifascists, of artists, calling for an end to the site being left as it was, without providing any explanation for it. What is its back story? What does it stand for? And that is now to be realized, in 2018, as part of the 1938 Bedenkjahr [the ‘questionable year’] anniversary, as part of an initiative sponsored by the municipality, which is now the leaseholder of the monument for thirty years.