Rein (Clean)

-Vienna is very clean. It is so clean, unbelievable. Much cleaner than Moscow.

-Really? There are many people who will disagree with you. They think Vienna is messy. And you should visit Switzerland. There it’s really clean!

-Sometimes I think the obsession about order has nothing to do with cleanness. People don’t maintain order but obey the rules.

-Well, there is no contradiction…

In front of the art-galleries on Eschenbachgasse you can see a store with big windows. There are nice colorful buckets in these windows, swabs, chemicals for insecticides and disinfection. Each window could be a pretty good installation in the spirit of Haim Steinbach or early Jeff Koons, which sometimes could compete with the shows at the galleries.

This store is actually a cleaning company. It is called “GERMANIA”. Their official address is on Nibelungengasse. The signboard above the windows reads “GERMANIA - Gebaude-reinigung”.


For the 2008 election campaign Austrian BZO party issued posters with photos of two party leaders holding brooms. The slogan on the poster said “Wir saubern Graz. Andere reden – wir handlen”. In 2010 the FPO party came to the election with the slogan “Mehr Mut für unser ‘Wiener Blut’—Zu viel Fremdes tut niemandem gut”.
It seems that the issue of purity and cleanness became political.
Actually it never stopped.
It is interesting that until the 19th century the idea of cleanness had nothing to do with hygiene and health. Ignaz Semmelweis, the Hungarian physician who discovered around 1847 a direct connection between dirty hands of doctors and high level of mortality in hospitals was rejected by the medical establishment of that time and died in a mental house. Ironically he died from septicemia. Nothing surprising. “Clean hands save lives” still sounds more like a political mantra. Phelix Dzerjinsky, the founder and the first chief of the soviet secret service ( CHeKa “urgent commission” later NKVD and KGB) said that the real CHeKa man must have a warm heart, a cold head and clean hands.


The idea of purity or sacral cleanness comes from religion. Inquisition fires regularly purified medieval Europe sinking in dirt.
“In the Jordan-River where the body gets purified from all evil / also hidden sins are moving away / in the year 1421 vindictiveness raged through the city / to atone for the terrifying crimes of the Hebrew rats / once the world was purified by the flood / but now they paid their guilt through flames"-, says the bronze plaque on the Jordan House in Vienna. It never saved anyone from the Black Death though.
With the geographical inventions the idea of “clean” spread throughout the world. The first Spanish conquistadores started enthusiastically to purge the new territories from the local peoples. Again it didn’t prevent the Spaniards from bringing syphilis to Europe. The British, Portuguese, French, Dutch and other Europeans joined them soon thereafter and were also very successful. A little later they realized that it was easier and more practical to purify only the souls of poor aborigines by converting them to Christianity while enslaving their bodies. You can still find a lot of cleaning stuff in the humanitarian help. The white man will never understand that the real problem of Africa for instance is not the absence of soap, condoms or bibles.
Today European politicians one after another declare that the politics of multiculturalism has failed. They demand integration from all the new comers. “Learn our language and get a decent job” is the new integration motto. Well, maybe the words are different but the message is still the same: “We purify your soul and wash your brain - you clean our toilets”.

There is a nice store for professional cleaners on Brunnengasse in Vienna. It is a real paradise for cleaners. You can find everything there – detergents, swabs, floor cloths, work wear, anti-rat glue, vacuum cleaners; everything including condoms. On the website you can read a description of the company’s business philosophy:

„Hygiene ist für uns die Moral des Lebens, weswegen wir es zu unserem Beruf gewählt haben“. 

And further:

„Die Welt ist heute zu einem Dorf geschrumpft und wir sind eine große Familie in diesem Dorf. Es ist längst nicht mehr ausreichend, nicht fremdenfeindlich zu sein, sondern man muss den “anderen” auch entgegenkommen. Nur durch ein solches gegenseitiges Verständnis ist eine tatsächliche gesellschaftliche Integration möglich“.

Well, on most of the disinfection detergents in this store you will not find a single German word, everything is written only in Turkish.


The unwritten law in our world is that new comers begin their new lives from cleaning jobs: Soviet Jews scrubbed toilets in Israel in 90s; the illegal migrants from Mid Asia, so called “gastarbeiter” do all the dirty jobs in Russia today, Turks and Serbs clean in Austria and Germany. It seems they clean the past in order to have a better future.
In 1938 Nazis forced Jews to scrub the streets in Vienna. It was not just psychological humiliation. Nazis dropped the Jews back to the bottom of the social hierarchy. The next move was logical - to reach the pre-Jewish condition, when there were no Jews at all.
Today nobody is sent to the final “disinfection”. However, there is still closing of boarders, deportations and simple stopping of public transportation at night within the cities. So the distance between existence and non–existence of those who clean the toilets is still very short. And the alternatives are either to clean or to be cleaned out.

-Look! Did you see that guy? “Wir reinigen fur Sie“ is written on his back! Did you see it?

So, almost nothing has changed in our lives today. The Western world is still obsessed by the idea of cleanness. Mostly of the body, then of the soul, though. News about ethnical purges is interrupted by commercials of hygiene products and cleaning agents. Good smell, fresh breath, clean hear are the new parameters of success. Maybe we don’t experience catharsis anymore, but at least we brush teeth every day.


On the Wiedner Hauptstrasse I found another beautiful store. In the windows you can see many different ceramic pets – dogs, cats, rabbits, ducks, teddy bears, etc. All these sweet animals are buckets for toilet scrubbers, which are stuck in their asses.