The Hills are Alive with Football Fans
You can fly here for a penny before tax, baggage costs, booking fee etc. It’s in the European Union and its capital was one of the cultural powerhouses of the 18th Century Enlightenment. And yet the papers here are advising half its population to either leave or stay indoors for fear of violence from invading hordes. The police predict high casualties in this section of its society, and the hospitals are on full alert and reassure in the press that they are prepared for the onslaught. The country is Austria, the invading army are football fans from across Europe and the group being warned that they will be targeted are women.
Already the global focus of psychoanalysis as a nation, after a discovery made in a cellar, Freuds and Hitlers fatherland is in the throes of a healing crisis as it prepares to co-host Euro 2008 with its wealthier neighbour, Switzerland. All manner of strange and revealing home truths are emerging in media pronouncements and in decisions made by the state: in particular in the deep south province of Carinthia (Kaernten) governed by Joerg Haider.
Klagenfurt, the provinces capital, is to host three games in its purpose built 70 million euro stadium: (the first is Germany vs Poland on June 8th) before reducing the stadium capacity at a cost of another 20 million euro . The city has remained largely unchanged from becoming a Ryanair destination. Most tourists hotfoot to Trieste on the Mediterranean coast, an hours journey to the south west, or to lakeside resorts dotted along the banks of the Woerthersee: the nearby 19km long lake surrounded by pine forested peaks.
It is in forested peaks to the south of here, that mark the border with Slovenia, that partisans supported by allied forces controlled an autonomous region until the winter of 1942: a small island of resistance right in the middle of the Third Reich. A minority of Slovene speaking Austrians remain here, quietly simmering from 53 years of what a shrink might call classic displacement behaviour by those who embraced fascism: some being members of their own families. The past is best not talked about here, and a generation plead the proverbial Fifth Amendment under the guise of moving forward. Whether forward is the direction Austria is heading is severely in question this week as preparations for hosting the Euro 2008 reveal deep seated attitudes towards women that would shock the most misogynist midfielder.
If at all possible women should go on vacation is the advice of the security experts, reported in Kleine Zeitung on 29th May. In a related article the paper reports that police expect about 20 women to be raped and more than a 100 assaulted every day of the tournament. Further recommendations include carrying rape alarms at all times for women living near the stadiums. On the same page an article explains how the mayor has banned a local womens group from distributing leaflets during the tournament about the trafficking of women and children into prostitution. The region is one of the most lucrative destinations for traffickers in Europe, and prostitution is openly advertised. While the mayor has banned an advert against domestic abuse he has sanctioned a huge hoarding that welcomes arrivals at the airport advertising a thinly disguised brothel.
The Fritzel case is becoming emblematic for many Austrians of this disconnect between how people present themselves here and how they actually are. The Catholic Bishop of Klagenfurt lives with four women. Joerg Haider is photographed clubbing with underage boys or with someone wearing a neo-Nazi t-shirt. No one resigns and nothing changes. Impunity is assured as it was for the war generation: when Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill meeting in Moscow in 1943 declared Austria to be a victim of the war, not a perpetrator.
For Gudrun Blohberger from the group the Catholic Womens Movement this is predictable. This is why, sitting on thousands of printed flyers she has not been allowed to distribute, she is encouraging women to mount their own resistance to this campaign by police and state to frighten them into staying indoors. Do not be surprised, should you bother to follow the tournament sans UK team, to see groups of women mingling in the crowd wearing t-shirts with I am not for sale written on them and holding placards with &but a hug is for free, or I’ll take a vacation when I fucking want to and placards with and welcome to MY city or even I will not stay in the cellar and placards with &the sunshine is for all of us.
Perhaps Austria, in the end, is a victim of Germany in the same way younger or weaker siblings often carry the suppressed emotions of the family unit. Here the wounds from fascist crimes, without airing, still seep a deep undercurrent of fetid ideology that is hinted at by the flags that flutter together from car windows, German and Austrian together. Oh what could have been!