Ruprechtsstiege Project: a site-specific temporary installation with Lisl Ponger for the Hotel Metropole. Der Erinnerung eine Zukunft geben project of the Vienna Festwochen 2015.
The Hotel Metropole was situated on Morzinplatz in Vienna’s first district. A modern Jewish-owned hotel, it was confiscated by the Nazis after the 1938 Anschluss and turned into the largest Gestapo headquarters in the Third Reich. Nearby houses were used as Sammelwohnungen [collection or concentration housing] for Jews due to be transported to concentration and extermination camps.
Three flights of stone steps join Ruprechtsplatz to Morzinplatz in a back-to-front L-shape. They are a continuation of Judengasse, the eastern limit of what is known as the textile district of Vienna and the site of our project which is, in essence, concerned with visual reproductions of clothing.
All used clothes carry the narrative memories of their previous wearers. Strewn over the length of this three-part stairway, even if only photographically, they also remind us of the systematic, orchestrated—as well as spontaneous—violence and contempt that radiated from the nearby site of the largest Gestapo headquarters (State Security Police) in the Third Reich. That violence was also present in the population. One might also call to mind the ‘divestment’ process of Aryanisation—the confiscation of private property—civil rights and, ultimately, life itself. The clothes also suggest absence and abandonment too. Forced abandonment by their owners, the abandonment of people by fellow members of the same society.
The systemic embodiment of that encouragement, justification or excuse for that behaviour is provided by the colourful symbols on the part of the steps intended for the use by parents pushing children’s prams and buggies – the triangles and stars criminalising Jews, political opponents, Roma and Sinti, gays and so-called asocial elements (alcoholics, pacifists, mentally ill, vagrants) etc.
The display elements are only affixed to the vertical part of the steps not the treads. Thus a person descending from the church on Ruprechtsplatz may well overlook what has been added to this public space whereas those approaching from Morzinplatz will be aware of the intervention from much further away.
Directive for Jews to hand in used clothing (1942)
Those Jews who are required to wear identification badges are required to hand in old clothes (outer garments of both men and women) and woven fabrics (linens, other fabrics and rags) surplus to running a modest household. They should be washed. No compensation will be paid. This also applies to Jews from occupied and/or affiliated areas. The collection point is situated in the ground floor offices of the Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde, Wien I., Seitenstettengasse 4. Each donor will receive a written confirmation containing name, address and details of the fabric handed in. Failure to comply with this directive will invoke immediate and severe State Police (Gestapo) action.
Israelitische Kultusgemeinde, Vienna.
Emigrant Aid Organisation for ‘non-mosaic Jews’ in Ostmark, Vienna.