September 30, 2015 Leave a Comment
VIENNA — As befits the city of Sigmund Freud, Vienna has two faces — one sweet, one sinister.
Behind the schnitzel and strudel, Mozart and the opera, lurks the legacy of the Nazis who forced Jews to clean sidewalks with toothbrushes. In 1988, to much controversy, Vienna placed Alfred Hrdlicka’s “Memorial Against War and Fascism,” featuring a sculpture of a Jewish mancleaning the street, right behind the State Opera, lest Austria again forget.
Now, to the astonishment of many and the alarm of some, the burning question in Vienna’s elegant cafes is, Which face will prevail in the city’s bellwether elections on Oct. 11?
Roughly one in four of Austria’s 8.7 million residents lives in Vienna. For almost the last century — aside from the Nazi years, 1938-45 — the left has ruled “Red Vienna,” long prized for its pioneering public housing and welfare, and its cultural ferment.
But against the backdrop of Europe’s refugee drama, the far-right Freedom Party is threatening the Social Democrats’ hold in what may portend a more general rise in populist, anti-immigrant sentiment across the Continent.
The Telegraph from the UK shouts louder
Austria’s Right-wing populist party makes huge gains fuelled by migrant crisis fears
Austrian Freedom Party doubles its share of the vote in state of Upper Austria as Vienna expects nearly three times the number of asylum applications received last year
The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) won 30.4 per cent of the vote in the state of Upper Austria, the country’s industrial heartland, a striking improvement on its performance in the state’s last election in 2009 when it took half as many votes with 15.3 per cent.
This isn’t to say all Austrians are implicated in this surge of anti-immigrant feeling. Many, many greeted refugees at train stations and in the streets. It does mean, as in the United States, that divisions are no longer ignored; fear is rising. And if that’s the tide that will lift all boats, we’d better be thinking about better drainage and stronger barriers.