Plans to raise a monument for Jan III Sobieski, the Polish king who helped save Europe in the Battle of Vienna, have come to a surprise halt. The City of Vienna and its Social Democratic mayor Michael Ludwig, who has been elected in May, now refuse to finish the construction.
The memorial for the Polish king was planned in 2013 and supposed to be unveiled to the public on September 12 2018, the 335th anniversary of the liberation of Vienna. As polskiradio reports, it is now ready to be delivered to the former Imperial Capital. There was no official statement from the city, however, “there were signals from, among others, the city council” that the monument could be seen as an offence to Turkish residents. This presumption was also expressed by the chairman of the committee for the construction of the monument. However, the designer, Czesław Dźwigaj said there were no such elements that express anti-Turkish resentments. He too was very surprised by the turn of events.
The plinth on which the memorial for Jan III Sobieski was supposed to be placed can already be seen on the Kahlenberg. In 2017, the pedestal was vandalized by leftists who crossed out the date with graffiti, over which they sprayed “No Nazi”. The name was also painted over. At that time, the Polish Foreign Ministry expressed its regret over this incident.
A critical request by the platform polonika.at to the Vienna state parliament was answered by the president of the Landtag, Ernst Woller, who, just like the mayor, is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria. He said that the advisory board for the building of the monument, only established in 2017, issued a negative opinion about the construction. Talks were underway between the mayor of Vienna, the monument initiative and the mayor of Krakow to solve the problem. The representatives of the committee now feel abandoned by the city of Vienna. What exactly led to the negative decision of the advisory board, Ernst Woller did not want to say.
The platform “Gedenken 1683” (Memory 1683) condemned this surprising as well as confusing decision via their spokesman Philipp Huemer, saying:
“It must not happen that a memorial, approved in 2013 and now completed, will subsequently be rejected by an advisory board established in 2017, for no apparent reason. This is a slap in the face of all those who have invested time, energy and money in the realization of the monument in recent years.”
He goes on to say that “If the presumption voiced by representatives of the Polish side that the monument might spread an “anti-Turkish mood” from the point of view of the city officials of Vienna turn out to be true, this would be a real scandal”:
“The liberation of Vienna in 1683 is a central event in Austrian and European history. The active prevention of a monument for it, out of consideration for alleged sensitivities of a certain population group, would be a devastating signal and definitely a step in the wrong direction.”
A commemoration march will take place on 8 September to properly remember this event. Finally, Philipp Huemer says:
“I invite all those who are rightfully disappointed in this questionable decision of the city of Vienna on 8 September to our memorial march at Kahlenberg. Let’s together show that our identity is not negotiable and let us set a necessary sign FOR a positive reminder of 1683!”