The “Hitler balcony” is to open and become a place of enlightenment

Updated March 13, 2021, 10:08 a.m.

  • In 1938, from the balcony of the Hofburg, Adolf Hitler announced the “annexation” of his homeland to the German Reich.
  • As a result, the “Hitler balcony” was made taboo.
  • That should change now.

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The pictures are known. In 1938 the dictator Adolf Hitler proclaimed from the balcony of the Hofburg to the cheering of the masses the “connection” of his homeland to the German Reich. But today the place is taboo.

The so-called Hitler balcony on Vienna’s Heldenplatz was to be made accessible to visitors in the future, according to the will of the director of the House of Austrian History (HdGÖ), Monika Sommer. “An entry ban as before is not an appropriate approach,” said Sommer of the German Press Agency (dpa).

On the balcony, Hitler announced the “annexation” of his homeland to the German Reich

Just the view from there of the Chancellery, the Parliament, the official seat of the Federal President and the Vienna City Hall is suitable for educating people about democracy as a counterweight to dictatorial developments. “As a first step, there should be guided tours for those who are interested,” said Sommer.

In a survey of the visitors to the HdGÖ, which is housed in the Hofburg, a clear majority were in favor of opening up and dealing with this historically burdened place.

The Austrian-born dictator Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) “annexed” his homeland to the German Reich on March 15, 1938 to the cheering of the masses from the approximately 200 square meter terrace of the Hofburg, which is usually called the balcony proclaimed. The move was an essential stage on the way to World War II.

Flags hang on the large balcony of the Hofburg in preparation for Adolf Hitler’s speech. Here in 1938 Hitler announced the “annexation” of his homeland to the German Reich.

© Glöckler, Herbert / apa / dpa

For decades after the defeat, the Alpine republic saw itself more as a victim of Hitler than as an accomplice. A complicity in the atrocities of the Nazis has only been explicitly recognized by politics since the 1990s.

The area, which has been practically closed since 1945, was exceptionally the place for a speech in 1992 – by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Its message was: “The balcony is nothing. It is a symbol, nothing more. The purification, the change cannot come from the balcony. It has to come from below.”

From Sommer’s point of view, this message has by no means received the attention it deserves.

Also read: Hitherto unknown letters shed new light on Adolf Hitler’s life

Sommer wants to redefine a taboo place

With her move to integrate the balcony into the exhibition area of ​​the HdGÖ, Sommer would like to redefine this taboo place. “Even 76 years after the end of Nazi rule, Nazi-contaminated houses are still causing heated debates.

Opening the terrace of the Neue Burg would be an important symbol for the republic’s new way of dealing with these disturbing places, “says Sommer. In this way, official Austria on Heldenplatz could set an example for future-oriented history politics and democracy education.

The HdGÖ, which opened just two years ago, is the only major contemporary history museum in Austria and had more than 100,000 visitors in 2019. In an article, the historian Dirk Rupnow from the University of Innsbruck criticized the lack of resources with only 15 full-time positions and a budget of 1.2 million euros.

“There is still or again no clear political commitment to a central Austrian museum for the history of the republic and contemporary history from 1918,” said Rupnow. (dpa / msc)

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