Lueger1 came from more common beginnings than Hitler, but with the help and encouragement of his caretaker father, he obtained a good education. By the age of 31 he was elected to the Vienna municipal council and ten years later to the Austrian parliament. He became a champion of the "little man" and fought to improve their condition and zealously fought against corruption.
Like Schonerer, Lueger was an unrelenting opponent of the liberals and their ideas of untrammeled liberty and individualism. Unlike Schonerer, he had faith in the multinational state and declared it was the Liberals and their newspapers that did much to stir up the other nationalities. He believed that under the Liberals, the universities functioned as shelters for subversive ideas, revolution, lack of patriotism and anti-religious activities. He identified the "obscenity" of the Viennese theaters and literature with Liberal thinking. He believed in a Christian moral code of ethics and believed Christian values were worthy. By the time Hitler was born, Lueger had played the leading role in forming the Christian-Social Party which would soon dominate Vienna's politics for nearly a generation.
Although not a racist, Lueger believed that Vienna was "built by German strength and courage" and should remain German in sprit forever. He regarded German nationalism with skepticism, but since he believed that accomplishments were more important than ideology, he was not above using the continuous anti-Semitic and anti-Slav currents in Vienna for his own purposes.
Although Lueger had a Jewish ancestor in his family tree2 he joined the anti-Semitic forces, though slowly and with qualifications. His party's program acknowledged a "Jewish problem," but only in the sense that the Jews, in their desire to make profits, were merely following the liberal way of life. "Eliminate the poison" of complete economic freedom, he believed, and the "Jewish problem" would go away.
Many of his attacks were directed against "foreign Jews" from Russia and the Balkans. As early as 1887, he supported Schonerer's "American Chinese Exclusion Act" to prohibit future Jewish immigration into Austria. Interestingly, a number of the Jews in Austria (as in other nations of Europe) considered themselves a part of mainstream life and were also opposed to the "immigration and influence" of the "new Eastern Jews." Lueger, consequently, possessed "numerous Jewish friends"3 and supporters who were referred to as "radicals" by other members of the Jewish community.
A year after Hitler was born, Lueger, angered over Jewish opposition, used the Austrian congress to accuse a large segment of the Jewish community of practicing revenge against anyone who questioned their activities. He emphasized that he had no quarrel with poor Jews or those operating small businesses, but he went on to state that the influence of rich Jews in money lending, merchandising, clothing manufacturing, real estate, law and medicine created unfair and oppressive competition for non-Jews. What angered the gallery and caused the spectators to "hiss," however was his attack upon Jewish schoolteachers who had the right to prohibit their Christian students from making the sign of the cross because the sensitivities of Jewish students might be injured.
In 1895, when Hitler was six years old. Lueger decided to run for mayor of Vienna and gave his last important parliamentary statement on the "threat" of the Jews and somewhat softened his stand. Nonetheless, the party's newspaper, the Volksblatt, was so fiercely anti-Semitic that the Archbishop of Vienna denounced it for spreading "heathenish race hatred."4
In his bid for Mayor, Lueger, who knew how to speak directly to the crowd, denounced the heartlessness, corruption and apathy of rich physicians, lawyers, politicians, merchants, manufacturers, editors and other businessmen, many of whom were Jews. He and his Christian Socialists called for the union of all Christians to combat "liberal Jewish materialism." His limited chastising of rich and influential Jews had frightening repercussions.
Spurred by Lueger's bid for Mayor, crowds gathered on the streets shouting "Lueger! Lueger! Down with the Jews." Groups of fanatical young men gathered on street corners and attacked passersby who happened to be dark-complected. Even segments of the Church got caught up in the fervor and priests visited schools and urged the students to support the anti-Semitic forces "against the dark power." The climax was reached when one priest concluded a Sunday anti-Jewish sermon by advising his congregation to "burn the Jews in honor of God."
To the dismay of the Liberals and the upper strata, Lueger and his Social Christians, who knew how to work with established groups, overthrew the liberal municipal government and took over two-thirds of the seats on the Vienna council. However, most governments with democratic trappings have safeguards to protect against "undesirables taking over." Austria was no exception. Fearful Jews, the privileged, and heads of the "Church"5 pressured the Emperor, Franz Josef, to refuse confirmation. The Emperor went along, but Vienna's Municipal Council defiantly rejected anyone but Lueger and was dissolved for its devotion. Vienna was placed under a state governorship. A new council undertook the job of picking a Mayor the following year and by a vote of 96 to 42 chose none other then Lueger.
To save face, Lueger's enemies came up with a new scheme. They arranged an audience with the Emperor where Lueger was induced to surrender what was rightfully his to a party comrade while he accepted the office of vice-mayor. No one in Vienna, however, was deluded into believing that anyone but Lueger was in charge. After Lueger won a fifth election, those persons of quality who opposed Lueger finally relented. In the spring of 1897 the "little people's candidate" finally took his seat.
For all his controversy, no one in Europe rivaled Lueger in civic-mindedness. On the day he took the office of Mayor he promised the working class a "new deal." He provided it. Thanks to his dictatorial Machiavellian style, agencies were organized to provide maximum efficiency and a horde of his "watch dogs" roamed the city and pounced on merchants, businessmen or anyone else using unfair trade practices or price gouging.
When bankers attempted to cut off his sources of credit, he founded a municipal savings bank that benefited all rather than just the rich. He kicked out a corrupt English gas company and constructed a municipal gas works. He built electric power plants and lighted a dark city. Tramcars were multiplied, improved and electrified. He provided safe and ample water. Parks and gardens were constructed throughout the city. Housing for the aged was constructed. A new marketplace and fish market were built. He rebuilt the hospitals and gave the city a magnificent new one near the Vienna woods. Hundreds of schools were renovated and over 100 new ones were constructed, the finest in the poorest areas.
Exceptionally poor and malnourished children accounted for the largest percentage of Vienna's school enrollment, so relief organizations were formed to provide free tickets to municipal baths, free books, writing materials, clothing, vacations, medical care and meals. On one visit to a grade school Lueger was pained to find children who were not of school age and who had accompanied their brothers or sisters to take advantage of the free meal--he did nothing to stop the practice.
Special nurseries were operated to care for children whose parents had to work. Schools were opened for adult education in learning a trade. An employment bureau was created with branches all over the city, and while Lueger was Mayor over 100,000 people were placed mainly through jobs he created. He also offered city burial services which provided decent but inexpensive internment in a cemetery with splendidly planned gardens and a church to memorialize the dead.
"Municipal Socialism" on a scale like Lueger's increased the number of city employees five fold during his tenure. But, with his watch dogs standing guard over corruption, his frugal methods, and his efficient dictatorial style of government, the cost of the enormous benefits was extremely reasonable. For all he provided, city expenditures only doubled that of the previous corrupt liberal regime.
Naturally, Municipal Socialism on such a scale came under constant fire, but Lueger's resistance to opposition was undying. When Hitler was ten years old, Lueger deemed that devout Viennese needed their churches renovated and electric lighting installed. The courts decreed that no municipal funds could be used for projects that all persons of all faiths could not use. Undeterred, Lueger called his staff together and organized the faithful to unleash a storm of protest against the court's decision. On one day alone, seventeen mass demonstrations were carried out in different districts of the city. With Lueger himself leading the protest, he and the best speakers of his party hammered home what the court's decision would mean in the future if Lueger did not get his way. Although the court, to save face, did not officially bow to the popular tempest, its subsequent "review of individual appropriations" showed everyone who was running Vienna.
Lueger was not only able to arouse the Christian faithful against the liberals with their "progressive" views, but he also aroused the workers. Although the Communists and more radical Socialists were able to fill the streets with what appeared to be crowds of sympathetic supporters, during elections they normally voted for Lueger. His attacks against the excesses of financiers, industrialists, lawyers, and other higher-ups did much to keep the lower ranked government workers, cobblers, priests, tailors, coachmen, grocers, cooks, clerks and the rest of the crowd firmly on his side. The well-born and other persons of quality never ceased to accuse Lueger of being a "tyrant." That the introduction of universal suffrage in 1905 was largely due to Lueger's efforts only confirmed their beliefs.
Lueger's fairness, however, is hard to dispute. Even the eminent Austrian Jewish writer, Stefan Zweig, who was growing up in Vienna at the time, declared that Lueger's administration "was perfectly just .... The Jews who trembled at [his] triumph ... continued to live with the same rights and esteem as always."6 In time the whole of Lower Austria came under the control of Lueger's Christian socialism and it was believed that when a new monarch came to the throne, Lueger would become the next Prime Minister of Austria.
1 Finding information (in English) on Lueger is difficult. Many of the
quotes and conclusions above, were
gleamed from over twenty publications which makes footnoting a nightmare. For one of the best sources see
2 Mein Kampf Reynal & Hitchcock fn 71
4 Ibid fn 72
5 Dawidowicz 13
6 Shirer 45
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