Built in the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Aspang Station was part of the Vienna – Thessalonica railway project. From 1939 to 1942 it was the station from which over 47 train loads of Viennese Jews were deported – over 50,000 people. After the war and Austrian independence the station went into slow decline till it was eventually demolished in 2001 and the site scheduled to be part of a large-scale redevelopment project.
The sight of machines removing the tracks and digging trenches into the former platforms seemed particularly evocative especially since the safety barriers round the excavation had the same colours as the Austrian flag. With issues of restitution and memorialisation still being debated in Austria, the visual image also resonated up with the historically racist elements of Western tradition – measuring and classifying “races” and assigning them a position on a scale of purported civilisation. The US laws classifying anyone with “one drop of black blood” as non-white; legal sterilisations carried out on Native Americans and asylum patients into the 1970s; the invention and propagation of the pseudo-science of eugenics throughout Europe, etc.
The project was also a contribution to the Museum in Progress [Intervention in Progress 37] published in Der Standard 13 April 2005.