Vienna Has a New Theodor Herzl Square

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (07/02/04)

Renaming the Gartenbaupromenade - Demonstrations and a Massive Array of Police

Vienna - Amidst a massive array of police, Vienna’s Gartenbaupromenade was ceremonially renamed on July 03, 2004 Theodor Herzl Platz on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Jewish writer and founder of Zionism. The selection of the small but prominent pedestrian zone in the inner city on the Ringstraße expresses respect for Herzl’s ideas and impact on history, said Vienna’s city councillor, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, in his speech.

His influence is a "part of this city" and for that reason one has chosen a central place. Inasmuch, the renaming of the Gartenbaupromenade is "a symbolic act," emphasized Mailath-Pokorny. Israel’s Ambassador to Austria, Avraham Toledo, said that "this beautiful square" is last but not least chosen due to its being in the vicinity of the daily newspaper, Die Presse, for whose predecessor, the Neue Freie Presse (New Free Press), Herzl had long written articles.

The President of Vienna’s Israelite Religious Community, Ariel Muzicant, was also pleased about the honor bestowed upon "a great Viennese and great Austrian." Muzicant said that with his vision, Herzl changed the world. Muzicant referred to him as a great humanist, whose opponents would denigrate his vision by comparing it with the current day conflict in the Middle East."

Some of these opponents gathered in front of the Marriot Hotel not far from the square. About 20 people participated in a demonstration, primarily orthodox rabbis chanting "Zionism is Atheism." They went on to say that this is an insurgence against God’s Will. Since the Jews were not to have a state of their own before the arrival of the Messiah, the founder of the idea should not be honored with a square.

The search for an appropriate location in the Viennese inner city for Theodor Herzl Square has been long. The initial favored place in front of the Albertina was decided against because the monument there is dedicated to all groups of victims against war and fascism.