Remembering the Past, Preserving the Future: Liberation Ceremonies in Mauthausen and Melk

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: May 8, 2024; 18:45 ♦ (Vindobona)

In an impressive gathering, thousands of people commemorated the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp and its satellite camps to keep the lessons of history alive and fight against forgetting. International delegations, including high-ranking representatives from politics and society, gathered to underline the importance of law and justice and to honor the victims of National Socialism.

The liberation ceremonies at Mauthausen Concentration Camp and its subcamps provide a platform not only for commemoration for Austria and international delegations, but also for international commitment in the fight against forgetting. / Picture: © Österreichische Präsidentschaftskanzlei / Peter Lechner/HBF

To commemorate the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp 79 years ago, over 9,000 people, including 3,000 young people. This largest European liberation ceremony, organized by the Mauthausen Committee Austria, the Comité International de Mauthausen, and the Austrian Camp Community, was held under the motto "Law and Justice under National Socialism". During the ceremony, Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen emphasized the need not to forget the darkest side of Austrian history and to actively oppose anti-democratic tendencies.

The event focused on reflecting on the legal system that was abused under National Socialism. It was pointed out that the National Socialists created laws that reflected their racist and inhuman ideology, which resulted in the persecution and murder of numerous innocent people. Willi Mernyi, Chairman of the Mauthausen Committee Austria, explained how important it was to actively fight injustice as a society and to adapt the law to a higher moral standard.

International participation and commitment

The international delegations played a significant role in this year's liberation celebrations at Mauthausen Concentration Camp and its subcamps. This broad international participation underscores the global importance of Holocaust remembrance and the need for continued confrontation with the crimes of National Socialism.

The U.S. delegation was led by Ambassador Kennedy and Deborah Lipstadt, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Their presence emphasized the United States' ongoing commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism and its commitment to combat hatred in all its forms. This participation also reflects the deep connection and historic commitment of the United States to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

Represented by the Chargé d'Affaires a.i., Mr. Frédéric Joureau, and the Defense Attaché, Colonel Stéphane Loechleiter, the French delegation laid wreaths at the French memorial in Mauthausen. The participation of the French delegation underlined France's ongoing commitment to honor the memory of the victims and to keep the lessons of history alive.

The Spanish delegation, represented by the President of the Spanish Mauthausen Remembrance Association, demonstrated the transnational scope of remembrance and the connection of Spanish citizens to the ordeal at Mauthausen. The presence of other international delegations from Poland, Eastern Europe, and Italy at the liberation ceremonies not only has a unifying effect but also promotes international dialog on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

Commemoration of the Melk subcamp

At the same time, a memorial service was held at Melk Subcamp, where Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner and other high-ranking guests commemorated the almost 5,000 victims. The event emphasized the importance of law and justice and the responsibility to ensure that the atrocities of the Holocaust are not forgotten.

The role of young people and the future of remembrance work

A central element of the commemorations was the active involvement of young people. More than 180,000 young people have taken part in civil courage training and anti-racism workshops organized by the Mauthausen Committee in recent years. These initiatives are crucial to keeping the memory of the crimes of National Socialism alive and passing on the lessons of history to future generations.

Outlook and commitment

The speeches and ceremonies ended with a clear message: democracy and freedom must be actively protected and defended. Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer emphasized the need to learn from the past to shape the future. "Turning remembrance into reflection and reflection into action", said the Chancellor, is a daily obligation for all those who live in a free society.

The commemorations in Mauthausen and Melk not only offer an opportunity to remember the victims of National Socialism but also a platform to reflect on the importance of law and justice in our world today. It is a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy today cannot be taken for granted and that democracy requires constant vigilance and commitment.

Presidential Chancellory of Austria

Federal Chancellory of Austria

U.S. Embassy Vienna

French Embassy Vienna

Austrian MoD

Mauthausen Committee