THE NAME OF Vienna’s former mayor Karl Lueger was finally expunged from a section of the city’s main boulevard, the Ringstrasse, in July 2012. Lueger was a modernizer who, at the end of the 19th century, established Vienna’s streetcar system and brought the city’s gas and electricity networks into public ownership.
He was also a notorious anti-Semite whose xenophobic, illiberal politics were the catalyst for Theodor Herzl to write The Jewish State. Dr-Karl-Lueger-Ring had, by 2012, become a source of international embarrassment.
The street sign bearing Lueger’s name now hangs in Vienna’s Jewish Museum. Far better it be there than on the street outside the city hall and the university, as it was for nearly 80 years. This cleansing of the Ring was both necessary and important, but Vienna is far more than just one street.
Though the Ringstrasse shapes the urban space, Vienna is defined by small streets and narrow alleyways — almost 7,000 in total, all of which have to be named after something or, as is the case for 4,250 of those streets, someone.
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