70th Anniversary of the Handover of the Former Mauthausen Concentration Camp to the Republic of Austria
On 5 May 1945, the Mauthausen concentration camp was liberated by US troops. Until the end of the July 1945, the US Army was responsible for organising the burial of the dead, the care of the sick and the repatriation of former prisoners who were well enough to travel. The US troops began their withdrawal on 24 July 1945 and, at the beginning of August, the Soviet military authorities took control of the liberated camp. By early 1947, negotiations between the Soviet and Austrian federal governments had come far enough that, on 18 March 1947, the council of ministers decided to make a formal application to the Soviet occupying authorities for the handover of the former camp – with the aim of establishing a memorial at the site.
At a ceremony held on 20 June 1947, the Soviet High Command in Austria handed over the former Mauthausen concentration camp to the Republic of Austria. In his speech, the federal chancellor Leopold Figl expressed his gratitude at the handover and promised to fulfil the task bestowed on the Austrian government ‘to act as befits the symbolism of this word Mauthausen and turn the Mauthausen Camp into a site both of commemoration for the victims and of warning to us and our descendants never again to stray from the path of democratic freedoms and to defend, with body and soul, against any system of government to whom the terms humanity and human kindness are foreign.’
In the official handover document, the Austrian government pledged to ‘commit the buildings of the former Mauthausen concentration camp to its care and preserve them as a memorial to the victims of the murderous Nazi hangmen’. This set the trajectory for maintaining large parts of the former Mauthausen concentration camp as a memorial site. The camp was declared a public memorial in 1949.
Today the Mauthausen Memorial is an international place of memory and of historical and political education. It preserves the memory of the victims, researches and documents the history of the Mauthausen concentration camp and its subcamps, and enables visitors to engage critically with the history of the concentration camp through exhibitions and educational programmes.
It is of great importance to the Mauthausen Memorial that young people in particular are involved in its work and it takes a proactive approach in this area. For the present determines all our futures and the future of the generations yet to come.