A Tour behind the Facades of Linz

Die Presse (03/12/2009)

Jewish quarter, places of revolution and art of the future: With the “Austria Guide” Linz can be rediscovered

What’s hidden behind the façade? It appears damaged. Strips, both wide and narrow, without any plaster can be seen on the wall of the Brückenkopf building located on Linz’s central square; and beneath the stucco, red brick and grey grout peer through.

Standing in front of the house, Casimir Paltinger blinks from the spring sun. In a beige trench coat he stands in front of the LINZ09 information center, there where the Jewish family Samuely once sold confectionary goods, not very far from their residence, there where Hitler last had the Brückenkopf building built. Paltinger is an “Austria Guide,” a certified tour guide. The tour, which reveals the invisible and basically unknown sides of the city, is called “Linz, Transformed.” Also the house standing at the Brückenkopf will remain as is until the end of the year next to the installation, “Among Us.” Where the façade only apparently is breaking apart, artist Hito Steyerl abstracts the landmarks of expulsion, deportation and return, and let it be chiseled into the plaster. Like no other city, Linz has worked through its NS past. Through LINZ09, this section of history becomes a part of the cityscape, not only “Among Us,” but also the exhibition, “Cultural Capital of the Führer,” in the Schlossmuseum, or the temporary markers of historic sites of NS terror organized by “In Situ” (Dagmar Höss, Monika Sommer, Heidemarie Uhl) reminds one of everyday life during the NS era.

Through the narrow alleys of the old city a path leads to the “old market.” The theme, upon which it currently focuses is ‘red’ Linz, says Paltinger while walking. He means not only social democracy, but rather also the Communist influences in the city. There is still a lot more for him to research. “After the model of the Russian October Revolution, Linz saw workers and soldiers unions in 1918.

City of Fractures and Revolutions

Linz has always been a fractured city and site of revolutions. In the former Hotel Schiff, where “LINZ09 – Resting Place,” with cushions and insulations against noise is an oasis of quietude in the middle of the business sector of the city, civil war took place in February, 1934. Along the walkway, the “hostage columns” remind one of the historic figure, Stephan Fadinger, leader of the rebels during Upper Austria’s Peasant Wars in 1626, who met his death when riding up and down along the city walls until he was hit by a bullet from a guard belonging to the besieged city.

The “old market” lies quietly in the sun; at this time of day there is little hustle or bustle, something usually save for the evenings when people begin filling Linz’s old city’s bars and restaurants. One has to lower one’s view of the colorful facades in order to notice it, says Paltinger. Chiseled into the light colored cobblestones of the pavement is a square area not much larger than the normal size of a sausage stand: “Here stood the first synagogue of Linz.”

Linz has a well known Jewish tradition which reaches far back into history. Since the second half of the 13th century, Jewish families lived in the old city. Until 1420 there was a Jewish quarter, and it was not an isolated ghetto. Then came the years of persecution: Jews could choose between becoming christened or suffering death by fire. In the place of a synagogue dating from the Middle Ages, one built a chapel of the Trinity. It also failed to survive the centuries.

For more information, see: www.linz09.at