Fallen Idols

Fallen Idols


Tessa Szyszkowitz in conversation with Alex von Tunzelmann
Is history erased when statues are pulled down? Or is history then made? In her book “Fallen Idols” – in German: “Heldendämmerung” – British historian Alex von Tunzelmann explores how societies deal with their monuments. In the past few years, there has been a rush to topple statues. Black Lives Matter protesters also defaced of politicians and philanthropists, who were slaveholders and/or imperialists. Edward Colston, Christopher Columbus, Belgian King Leopold II or Winston Churchill: Do they deserve their monuments?

Vienna has its own controversy around the monument for Karl Lueger, mayor of Vienna from 1895 to 1910. While praised for city reforms, Lueger was also an avid antisemite who used racism as political instrument – right in time for Adolf Hitler to learn the trade. Statues are a visible form of historical storytelling. The stories we tell are vital to how societies understand our past and make our future. Shall we contextualize controversial monuments or take them down? Who controls history? 

HELDENDÄMMERUNG tells the story of twelve toppled statues around the world. Übersetzt von Kristin Lohmann, Goldmann,2022, 384 S, 17 Euro. 

Alex von Tunzelmann is a British historian and publicist. She is the author of several historical books – Indian Summer 2007 about the end of colonialsm, Red heat 2011 about Cold War in the Caribbean – and her articles appear in The Guardian, The New York Times and others. 

Tessa Szyszkowitz is a foreign affairs commentator for Falter and a London correspondent for profil & Cicero. Her last book was Echte Engländer, Britain & Brexit (2018). She is also Distinguished Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. Recorded at Kreisky Forum, January 10, 2023