The Heimkehrer-Gedächtnismal

Location

Vienna, Austria

48.27815, 16.34647

Author

Mario Petrucci

Sculptor

Built in

1948

The entire site with the Heimkehrer-Gedächtnismal was re-opened in June 2018. The total refurbishment and closure of the area lasted more than ten years. Unfortunately, access to the memorial is closed, and it seems that the leaseholder and renovator, the architect Alexander Serda, has removed all the elements of the memorial. It is unclear whether the memorial is to be rebuilt at some point in the future.

The Heimkehrer-Gedächtnismal (Homecomers’ Memorial) is a stone monument at Leopold berg outside Vienna. It was created in 1948 by Italian-Austrian sculptor Mario Petrucci in memory of the many prisoners of the Second World War. The monument honouring those who returned from captivity, and also those who did not, was erected at the initiative of the returnees’ organization of the ÖVP Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP Heimkehrerorganisation) and the former chancellor Leopold Figl.

It was revealed to the public on 12 September 1948, a highly symbolic day, namely the 265th anniversary of the freeing of Vienna from the Turks. The choice of location for the monument is also of interest. Besides the anniversary date, the site also alludes to the end of the Turkish siege of Vienna and the decisive battle at Kahlenberg on 12 of September 1683. Vienna was still under Soviet administration at the time, so it is obvious that that particular occupation was interpreted in a similar way, and the unveiling of the monument was a political message.

The monument was erected above the ruins of a former castle tower, the Leopoldsberg Burg, which was and still is owned by the Chorherrenstift Klosterneuburg. Where the castle once stood is a small church also owned by the Klosterneuburg monastery.

The Heimkehrer-Gedächtnismal is made of quarry stone. Four semi-circular niches are complemented by a 5 m high pillar crowned with a wide dish. For a while, fires visible from afar were lit in the stone sacrificial dish on top of the pillar. Each of the four niches comprises a stone panel with an inscription: Dem Vaterland der Heimgekehrten Dank (In gratitude to the homeland of the returnees), Den Opfern schwerster Notzeit Gottes Frieden (God’s peace to the victims of the harshest adversity), Für kommende Geschlechter ernste Mahnung! (In serious admonition to future generations), and Herr mach uns frei um deines Namen willen! (O Lord, free us for your name’s sake).

The entire site with the Heimkehrer-Gedächtnismal was re-opened in June 2018, to the delight of visitors and hikers. The total refurbishment and closure of the area lasted more than ten years. Unfortunately, access to the memorial is closed, and there are no visible signs of the Heimkehrer-Gedächtnismal from behind the gate. It seems that the leaseholder and renovator, the architect Alexander Serda, has removed all the elements of the memorial. It is unclear whether the memorial is to be rebuilt at some point in the future.

Text by Joshua Koeb

 

Function

1948Monument to the prisoners of WWII

2018 Monument to the prisoners of WWII

Ownership

1948 Stift Klosterneuburg

2018 Stift Klosterneuburg

Condition

1948 Good

2018 Good

Property Management

1948

2018 Alexander Serda

Form of government

1948 Parliamentary Republic

2018 Parliamentary Republic

Spatial Planning Agency

1948

2018

Type of heritage and protection

1948 None

2018 National monument (BDA 18.1.2018 GdStr 315/1)

Interview with Britta F.

Pensioner

Transcription
The site used to be accessible to everyone, but now it’s been closed off for quite a while. And now it’s to be reopened again. Various things that used to be there have been cleared away for now. I can’t say if it will be put back. – I can only remember the brazier, not the memorial itself. All I know is that it was a bowl, roughly this big, I can remember it well, but not the actual memorial. But maybe it’s now been mounted down there, on the wall.

Interview with Manfred K.

Self-employed

Transcription
I went up to Leopoldsberg today to take a look at the memorial site and realised it’s not there anymore. I have to say I was a bit shocked so I asked around. It seems that some architect or other has bought it. So, of course, he’s within his rights, now that he’s bought it, to alter it whichever way he pleases. What I find shocking is that the Church or the federal province would allow something like that to be handed over. That you can just alter it that easily.

Interview with Sabine D.

Technical Worker

Transcription
I come up here quite a lot, and so of course I’m delighted it has been renovated, and it’s been done very nicely. But I think it’s a real shame when you’ve got very old monuments that have stood there for years and decades and perhaps even centuries when they simply disappear. I myself come from the Donaufeld too, and there are some lovely houses there, and they’re just disappearing. Like the Hopf-Haus near us for example. What’s important, I think, is that the City of Vienna attaches more importance to ensure these things don’t just disappear. It’s just gone. No-one knows where it is. It’s probably lying around in some warehouse somewhere.