In among the historic buildings on Vienna’s Judenplatz sits a giant square of stone. But there is more to this than meets the eye: the Holocaust Memorial is a poignant reminder of a dark chapter in Austrian history.
- Large monument designed by Rachel Whiteread
- Unveiled in 2000 and dedicated to the 65,000 Austrian Jews murdered by the Nazis
- See also: the Jewish Museum in Vienna
Closer up, the square of stone reveals itself as a kind of inverted library – what you might see if you took the walls away, with a set of doors at one end.
The sides of the Holocaust Memorial feature row after row of books, their leaves facing outwards. The doors are closed, with no obvious way of opening them.
The wide plinth bears the names of the concentration camps where an estimated 65,000 Austrian Jews were killed, as well as a dedication to the victims in German, English and Hebrew.
As with many works of this nature, it’s up to the observer to cast their own interpretation on the object. The sculptor, Rachel Whiteread, has described the purpose of such memorials as to challenge and to provoke thought. Which is why, for example, the book spines face inwards so their identity remains unknown.
Whiteread – the first woman to win the prestigious Turner Prize – won the international competition to design the Holocaust Memorial back in 1995. It would be another five years before installation, thanks to various bureaucratic and political issues, not least concerns about the location in a square dominated by 18th and 19th-century buildings.
As it happens, the end result has been pretty well received by the Viennese and visitors alike. And the location has its own particular resonance: the memorial sits opposite part of the Jewish Museum and on top of the excavated remains of a Jewish synagogue destroyed in a pogrom around 1420.
How to get to the Holocaust Memorial
Bus: Take lines 1A and 3A to “Schwertgasse”
Subway: Take line U2 to “Schottentor”, line U3 to “Herrengasse” or lines U1 and U3 to “Stephansplatz”. All three subway stations are a short walk from Judenplatz, taking you through some of the rather nice buildings that make up most of Vienna’s centre.
Address: Judenplatz, 1010 Vienna