Anti-war Monument Stirs Austria’s Socialists and Conservatives
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Anti-war Monument Stirs Austria’s Socialists and Conservatives

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A stone and bronze monument against war and fascism that is to be built in this Austrian capital has stirred a political and cultural battle that seems to stem from a deep-seated desire of many Austrians to forget their country’s Nazi past.

The debate appeared to be settled Tuesday when Mayor Helmut Zilk announced that the monument will be erected as planned, in a square behind the State Opera and the famed Albertina museum in the inner city of Vienna, where thousands of tourists pass each day.

The highly visible site was supported by the Socialist Party, which heads the governing coalition, but it was fought tooth-and-nail by the Conservatives, who preferred to have the monument placed in Morzin Square, where Gestapo headquarters was located from 1938 to 1945.

The Conservatives were accused of opposing the memorial altogether, but lacking the courage to say so publicly, tried to shunt it to a site where it would be almost hidden from view.

Old zoning laws were invoked by the Conservatives to try to oppose the central location.

When that failed, they objected to the artist commissioned to do the work, the world renowned Austrian sculptor Albert Hrdliczka.

Hrdliczka, 66, had once been a Communist, as was his father, but he quit the party in 1965. Hrdliczka was among the Austrians who opposed the election of Kurt Waldheim as president of Austria.

Hrdliczka’s massive work of stone, bronze and marble includes a small, kneeling bronze figure cleaning that overwhelmed the Viennese at the time of the Anschluss in 1938.

Mayor Zilk stressed that he would not give in to pressure, and that the memorial will stand as originally planned.

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