VIENNA (EJP)— The controversial “Hitler Room” at Vienna’s Volkstheater theatre that was recently awarded cultural-heritage status as part of an official project to protect Third Reich architecture is to be turned into a discussion area.
The Austrian Federal Office for the Care of Monuments (BDA) ordered the room, which was specially erected for a planned visit to the Theatre by Hitler in 1938, to be rebuilt after theatre director Michael Schottenberg had dismantled it to use it as stage props.
Schottenberg justified his action by saying that he had dismantled the room “for moral and ethical reasons and because of my political conscience”.
But now that it has been rebuilt, he has said he wants to use it for readings, lectures and discussions about Austrian history.
The BDA had justified its original decision by citing the room’s “cultural and historic importance” that required that it be protected.
The room was constructed in honour of Hitler, and in 1939 the theatre was turned into a place for loyal Nazis to enjoy plays as part of the party’s ’Kraft-durch-Freude’ (Strength-through-Joy) programme. It is uncertain whether Hitler ever saw the room, though.
Vienna’s city council has ordered a survey of all buildings dating back to the Nazi period, ranging from those that Hitler ordered built to the homeless hostel where he once lived as a struggling artist. It will then use the survey to select those it deems worthy of receiving protected status.
There are reportedly hundreds of such buildings in the Austrian capital. Architectural historian Helmut Weihsmann devoted 200 pages to cataloguing buildings in question in his book “Bauen unterm Hakenkreuz. Architektur des Undergangs” (Construction under the Swastika: The Architecture of Destruction).
City councillors say that they want to prevent a recurrence of what happened to the “Hitler room and to have appropriate buildings preserved so that they will serve as a continuing reminder of a dark period in the country’s history.
Critics, though, fear that Austria may be looking to cash in on the sort of Hitler tourism that has already become a big hit in neighbouring Germany.
Millions of people fascinated by the Nazi regime and World War II visit Germany every year to see buildings and sites associated with him and the Third Reich.
But Hitler’s early life in Austria, the country’s subsequent close ties to his regime and the Third Reich’s ultimate Anschluss mean that the Alpine state, and Vienna in particular, are also closely linked to the Nazi dictator.
A shelter situated in Meldemann Strasse in northern Vienna closed its doors two years ago. But it was once home to Adolf Hitler. The young dictator-in-waiting moved to the Austrian capital in 1907 aged 18. He lived in the homeless shelter after he was rejected by the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts, which he would later accuse of being dominated by Jews.
During his time at the hostel, the future Fuehrer would sit in the non-smoking section of the reading room and paint, mainly picture postcards, or start political debates. And in the evenings, he would study books that fitted in with his vision of Aryan supremacy.
BDA is also looking at other constructions including the Austrian capital’s giant Flaktürme, or anti-aircraft towers, and the ’Hermann Göring Plant’ in Linz.