Join us for a visit to the Viennese Crime Museum and see the 300 years of the side of Vienna that they don’t talk about in the tourism brochures: murders, public executions, Nazi crimes and much more!
The Crime Museum in the Seifensiederhaus (Soap Boiler House) is in the register of important historical buildings in Vienna and the street, Große Sperlgasse used to be The Place for all sorts of celebrations and demonstrations, political, social and artistic. It was also the main road to the Jewish ghetto, although, interestingly, then known as Herrengasse.
In 1670, the ghetto was dissolved and the Jews had to leave. The then Parish Hall went over to some tradesmen and served as soap works, oil press, carpenter’s shop and a buchery. Located outside the city walls, the house suffered severe damage during the second Turkish siege in 1683 but the date on the gusset of the archway shows that it was restored very soon afterwards.
The butcher’s left in 1960 and the building became a warehouse. An antique dealer even wanted to replace it with a better residential and commercial building. Dr Regina Seyrl-Norman bought the house in 1988 in a very poor state with collapsing roof, crumbling walls and mountains of rubble. She made the upper floor a home for her family and gave the ground floor and the basement for the privately funded Crime Museum.
The earliest exhibits come from the 1898 Government Jubilee of Emperor Joseph. A huge exhibition was organized at the Vienna Rotundengelände to present Austrian and Hungarian achievements for public review. One pavilion told the history of the Viennese Police which particularly empressed the Emperor. The police took the mood of the Emperor as an order and established a “Statue for the Erection of the Vienna Imperial and Royal Police Museum” that the Emperor himself approved in 1899.
The first museum was opened in the new Police Building at Rossauer Lände in 1904, although by invitation for special audiences only. Left in decay during the wars, conservation efforts started in 1960’s and in 1980 the police started looking for a permanent home for the historical collection even if it remained for private police eyes only.
Today, the museum tells us the history of crime in Vienna: reports of murders from the Middle Ages to the present day are well on the show: from the illustrated slates of street ballad singers to the leaflets containing biographies of famous criminals and to the newspaper reports of today. The spectrum ranges from murders by poisoning and jealousy to Austria's best-known serial killer Jack Unterweger. Political crime in Austria, beginning with the attempted civil coups of the 19th century, leading via the assassinations of emperors, the murder of War Minister Latour, and anarchist attacks to the abduction of the industrialist Palmer and the OPEC siege in 1975. All this is also exhibited in the light of the development of the police and its investigative methods.
The exhibits include crime scene photos, court texts, and relics of executed criminals making the museum an unusual memorial site of death, mostly in German but audio guide are available in other languages, too.
There is a small museum shop at the reception where you can find - mostly in German - some good reading, in particular if you are a friend of whodunits!
The café in the inner court looks lovely but it wasn't open during our visit so go and taste the coffee yourself. The Viennese tourism promotion says that "the old Viennese Café in the courtyard of the building offers a friendly contrast to all of this" what ever that may mean.
This museum is really not for the handicapped or persons with prams. There are no thresholds worth mentioning at the entrance and in the ground floor but you cannot access the basement and the mezzanine in the basement at all as the stairs are far too narrow steep.
Große Sperlgasse 24, 1020 Vienna