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
1948Monument to the prisoners of WWII
2018 Monument to the prisoners of WWII
1948 Stift Klosterneuburg
2018 Stift Klosterneuburg
2018 Alexander Serda
Form of government
1948 Parliamentary Republic
2018 Parliamentary Republic
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
2018 National monument (BDA 18.1.2018 GdStr 315/1)
Interview with Britta F.
Interview with Manfred K.
Interview with Sabine D.