On Saturday, May 13, 1933, some Nazi politicians from Germany landed on near Vienna shortly after 2 p.m., led by Bavarian Minister of Justice Hans Frank and his Prussian counterpart Hanns Kerrl. The official reason for their journey was to participate in a lawyers' conference; in fact, however, a National Socialist counter-event to the "Turks Deliverance Celebration" (Türkenbefreiungsfeier) by the Austrian Homeland Protection (Heimatschutz) was being held. The former took place on the Saturday evening at the , the latter on the Sunday morning in the .
The visitors were welcomed by hundreds of National Socialists at the airfield before driving into the inner city to the , the Vienna headquarters of the NSDAP. On the sides of the roads, their supporters cheered and their opponents whistled. The protest was loudest in the Leopoldstadt, Vienna's second district. After the convoy had crossed the Danube River via the Reichsbrücke bridge, the following scene occurred on the left-hand side (in the direction of travel) of Lassallestrasse as stated by the Rote Fahne:
According to this report in the Communist party newspaper, the public housing (Gemeindebau) at Lassallestrasse 40–44 in Vienna, the , was not only decorated with red flags, but some inhabitants showed their buttocks from their windows as the Nazi politicians from Germany were driving past. , these demonstrators turned their backs and exposed a part of the body that usually remains concealed in the public space. It is worth following the trail laid by the Rote Fahne, because in this case the expression "Götz quote" is not just a euphemism, a polite term, but helps us understand this specific gesture of protest.
The Götz quote comes from the play Götz von Berlichingen mit der eisernen Hand, which Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote in 1771 and had published anonymously two years later. Only these earliest versions, the original and the first printing, contain the expression in full that is also known as the Swabian greeting. Goethe, who was only in his early twenties at the time and had just started working as a lawyer in Frankfurt am Main, based his literary portrayal on the Lebens-Beschreibung Herrn Gözens von Berlichingen, the autobiography published in 1731 by a Franconian imperial knight of the Holy Roman Empire who lived at the end of the late Middle Ages and the beginning of the early modern period. Despite having lost his right hand as a young man and needing to wear a prosthesis, this Gottfried von Berlichingen grew into a notorious mercenary who earned his money primarily with chivalric feuds. In other words, he was paid by private citizens or families to wage war against their enemies. However, Goethe portrayed the historical military entrepreneur as a German freedom fighter, "whom the princes hate, and to whom the oppressed turn."
In one of the twenty-one scenes of the third act, Götz entrenches himself with his family in Jagsthausen Castle. As Emperor Maximilian I has imposed the imperial ban (Reichsacht) on him, i.e., declared Berlichingen an outlaw for breaching the peace, the imperial army lays siege to his castle. When a messenger calls on him to surrender, Götz shouts out of the window: "Tell your captain: For His Imperial Majesty I have as ever due respect. But he, tell him, he can lick me in the ass." The scene ends with the stage direction: "(slams the window shut.)" As an imperial knight of the Holy Roman Empire, Berlichingen is under the direct control of the emperor and, in contrast to his childhood friend and now rival Adelbert von Weislingen, does not serve a territorial prince. He feels personally beholden to Maximilian I but insists on the traditional right of knights to fight feuds. As Götz does not recognize the Roman law according to which the emperor has sentenced him, he considers himself innocent. That means that the Götz quote corresponds in the original text to the meaning of the expression "protection and defiance" (Schutz und Trutz), because Berlichingen is not only attempting to protect his territory from invaders, to make his enemy retreat, but also expressing—in a provocative and humiliating way—his defiance, his resistance to authority, through his jeer that his foe should lick him in the ass.
In this passage, Goethe further specified the description in the memoirs of the historical Götz von Berlichingen, who had apparently told a senior civil servant, "he should lick my behind." However, the explicit version in the play is already the verbalization of an action that dates back much further than the Middle Ages. In the mid-nineteenth century, the archaeologist Otto Jahn investigated the superstition that can be found primarily in Greece and Italy since antiquity, according to which envy can have a deleterious effect, which is wielded via the "evil eye." According to Jahn, the obscene and offensive exposure of the genitalia was one of the ways to hinder or fend off envious gazes. Showing one's buttocks as a defensive gesture can also be found in German folk legends, where it is used on the one hand against ghosts or thunderstorms and on the other against besiegers. In these functions, so-called "mooners" (Blecker) also appear on castles, churches, city gates, and patrician houses in wooden or stone form, always facing outward. While in the profane realm the apotropaic effect of the naked posterior, i.e., its ability to avert evil or bad luck, was at the fore, such grotesque figures inside churches were also depicted as counterpoints to Christian authorities, as representatives of the apostate people of god.
Whether the mooners were intended to have more of a protective or lampooning effect is not always clear in every case. The second effect presupposes a hierarchical relationship because an exposed behind is generally aimed at religious or political elders and betters. This kind of insult as a specific act is recorded in Vienna in the late Middle Ages, where according to the chronicler Michael Beheim some Viennese residents showed their naked buttocks to Empress Eleonore and her female entourage in 1462 and shouted to them: "Thou empress and ye virgins! / This mirror ye should merge in!" That not only the act but also the linguistic taunt to lick someone on or in the ass is to be understood as an "expression of defiance" was emphasized by Sigmund Freud in reference to Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen. The founder of psychoanalysis regarded obstinacy—together with orderliness and parsimony—as the result of the sublimation of anal erotism.
Howsoever these psychological connections may develop, it is a fact that the Götz quote expresses in both the gestural and linguistic version a historically established pattern of behavior. Just as Goethe incorporated a figure of speech that was common in southern Germany in his literature, the inhabitants of the Lassalle Hof did not invent the corresponding defiant gesture but simply used it at an appropriate moment. What is additionally remarkable is that in both cases the medieval context of the mooners is brought to mind. In the play, the similarity is obvious: the knight Götz von Berlichingen shouts the expletive from a window of his Jagsthausen Castle during its siege. In contrast, at the protest in Vienna on May 13, 1933, this analogy requires further explanation.
The municipality of Vienna invited submissions for the construction of the apartment building named after Ferdinand Lassalle, a pioneer of the German labor movement, in fall 1923. As it was in a prominent position in terms of urban planning, the future building should "be particularly exemplary." What was realized from May 1924, however, was not the winning project by the architect Karl Krist, but the second-place design for a "Lassalle tower" by Hubert Gessner's office. Like many of the 199 architects who were commissioned with building the 382 public housing projects (Gemeindebauten) in Vienna from 1919 to 1934, Gessner had studied under Otto Wagner at the Academy of Fine Arts. He was supported by Victor Adler, the founder of the Social Democratic Workers' Party in Austria, and planned among many other buildings the Arbeiterheim Favoriten workers' house (1902) and the (1910), which also incorporated the editorial department of the Social Democratic Arbeiter-Zeitung.
Gessner's construction style, which became characteristic of public housing in Vienna, was strongly influenced by Wagner's urban planning, which favored multistory apartment buildings with green courtyards over settlements with row houses. Wagner's students had learned how to deal with large building volumes and insert the new apartment buildings into the former imperial seat in a conservative rather than radical way. Therefore, public housing not only differs from concepts of the settlement movement (Siedlerbewegung), which were advocated in Vienna by the likes of the architect Adolf Loos, but also from the functional approach of the International Style, which in Germany found expression at the Bauhaus. These differences go beyond the buildings' external appearance, because to create work for as many people as possible, the communal housing complexes in Vienna were intentionally built using conventional construction techniques. The apartments, all of which were equipped with toilets and gas ovens and were almost free for Viennese working-class families, were a considerable improvement compared to the overpriced nineteenth-century tenements, where water access and toilets were located in the hallways. When compared with the Modernist furnished model settlements in Frankfurt am Main and Berlin, Vienna's public housing seemed modest. Yet the aim of the Social Democratic city government or rather "" as a whole to improve living conditions for as many workers as possible with the funding available was certainly achieved with the new apartment blocks they built.
In his speech at the opening of the Lassalle Hof on October 3, 1926, Vienna's mayor Karl Seitz emphasized that it was impossible to provide every working-class family with their own house in a city. Even the 290 apartments in this new municipal housing project were neither "showy" nor "excessively large," but they went some way toward reducing the "housing shortage," and therefore the city government would abide by this tried-and-tested concept and continue to build multistory apartment complexes with communal facilities like kindergartens and libraries. In the brochure to accompany the opening, the municipal planning and building office highlighted the position of the building site, which "from an urban planning perspective" had required "a particular emphasis of the architectural structure," which the now realized project had achieved with a "tower-like development of the corner of the building." The eight-story tower facing Lassallestrasse with bay windows and a top-mounted glass pavilion marks "a threshold for those who approach the city from the Reichsbrücke or those who leave it after having come from Praterstern." In the specialist literature, the Lassalle Hof is also described as a "bridgehead" to the Danube and as the "entrance gate to the city."
For the Viennese architect Josef Frank, a vehement supporter of the settlement movement, this mixture of lower-middle-class apartments and monumental façades was fittingly expressed in the term "people's apartment palace." Instead of aiming to provide every working-class family with a house with garden, Vienna's public housing was competing with the pathos of princely residences. As one could not directly draw on monarchical architecture as a republican, however, the "primitive-thinking planners" reverted "to medieval forms": "castle doors, towers, bay windows, and battlements that in former times were the accessories of the ideal dwelling of the petit bourgeois, who looked to German history for inspiration." Indeed, the Lassalle Hof with its mighty tower and massive portal, its bay windows and battlements, is reminiscent of a medieval castle in whose windows at around 3:30 p.m. on May 13, 1933, a row of mooners appeared.
With their naked buttocks, these (presumably Social Democratic- or Communist-minded) inhabitants of the Viennese public housing project wanted to offend their political opponents from Germany and deny the arriving National Socialists the authority that their supporters at the edge of the road were jubilantly asserting. However, due to the location and architecture of the Lassalle Hof, it was also a gesture of defiance aimed at invaders or besiegers: the Nazi politicians who were coming to Vienna to advocate Austria's annexation by the German Reich were supposed to be scared off and prevented from passing into the city. Yet Hans Frank drove on to the Adolf Hitler House, albeit diverted into side streets by the police at Praterstern, then went on stage that evening at the Engelmann Arena, gave a press conference the following day in the , and was only expelled from Austria on Monday, May 15, 1933, by order of the federal government.
In order to interpret this gesture of protest appropriately, its body language must be understood. After all, in a normal stance, people's gaze would have been directed at the passing convoy. The spectators would have demonstrated their attentiveness with their eyes, ideally speaking, marveled at the arriving princes like divine beings, or bestowed military honor on their betters. What is the meaning of Hans Frank and his entourage instead being shown naked buttocks? Aside from the deterrent and offensive impact of the gesture, the anus also expresses a dissolution of bodily boundaries, which encapsulates Goethe's topical formulation. In the literary Götz's taunt that the captain could lick him "in" the ass, the insulter and the insulted or the besieged and the besieger merge into one, as it were. In his studies on the French author François Rabelais, the Russian literary scholar Mikhail Bakhtin pointed out that while the eyes are of crucial significance to the body's individuality in the modern period, the grotesque body of the Renaissance emphasized its "convexities and orifices," above all the mouth and the nose, the phallus and the buttocks. In this sense, the Viennese mooners of May 13, 1933, not only called into question the authority of the German Nazi politicians, but also "the individual, strictly limited mass, the impenetrable façade" of the modern body.
Exposure of buttocks
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