Looking Back upon the Memorial and Liberation Ceremonies 2016
This year marked the 71st anniversary of the end of the National Socialist regime and the liberation of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp and its subcamps.
The team of the Mauthausen Memorial used the opportunity provided by the international liberation ceremony to present the “Commemorative Book for the Dead of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp and its Subcamps”. This is the most comprehensive research project the Mauthausen Memorial has undertaken so far, with 250 authors having cooperated during a period of ten years.
Gratefully, we look back to the weekend, when we had an opportunity to cultivate existing friendships with survivors and make new friends.
On Sunday, 15 May 2016, the liberation of the concentration camp and its 49 subcamps at the end of the war was remembered in a ceremony at the Mauthausen Memorial. This year, the keynote of the largest international memorial and liberation ceremony was “International Solidarity”, and for the first time the ceremony was held in a new design. The ceremony was attended by more than 6,000, among them also concentration camp survivors and their relatives, having arrived from all over the world to remember the victims of National Socialism, their attendance providing a clear signal lest we forget. At the end of the ceremony, a joint exodus of all participants from the former “detention camp” was led by concentration camp survivors – a symbolic show re-enacting the liberation.
Official Austria was represented by Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer and Minister of the Interior Mag. Wolfgang Sobotka and further high-ranking members of the Federal Government.
The memorial and liberation ceremonies every year are being organised by the Austrian Mauthausen Committee (MKÖ) in close cooperation with the Austrian Mauthausen Camp Community (ÖLM) and the Comité International de Mauthausen (CIM) and financially subsidised by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
A Minute of Silence at the Figl Cenotaph
On the occasion of the international memorial and liberation ceremony, a minute of silence was held at the grave of honour of Dipl-Ing. Dr. Leopold Figl. Interior Minister Mag. Wolfgang Sobotka spoke commemorative words. Thereafter, wreaths were laid down.
The memorial sculpture had been unveiled on 2 October 2012 at the Mauthausen Memorial, on the occasion of the 110th birthday of the former first Federal Chancellor, Foreign Minister and Provincial Governor Leopold Figl. During the times of National Socialism, Leopold Figl had been detained in concentration camps for almost six years, and he was also detained at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp.
Further Memorial Events in 2016
Memorial Ceremony at the Gusen Memorial
The memorial ceremony at the Gusen Memorial took place on Saturday, 14 May 2016. The motto of this year’s ceremony was “International Solidarity”. Approximately 800 people from all over the world had gathered for this occasion. Among the visitors were also survivors, who had taken on the hardship of travel to be able to attend the event, despite their advanced years.
The musical framework of the ceremony was provided by the school band of the Institute for Special Education Langenstein. Keynote speaker at the event was Mag. Heinz Patzelt, Secretary General of Amnesty International Austria, who spoke very clear words about the current situation in Europe. This was a special concern also to all other speakers.
Jacek Tarasiewicz, President of Klub Mauthausen-Gusen from Poland mentioned the current refugee situation in Europe: “Against the background of the tragic events in the world, and particularly in Europe, our meeting at the sites of former concentration camps is most important and is sending a special message. For we who are gathered here know best how all wars end, regardless of how they begin“.
In the framework of the memorial ceremony a commemorative plaque in honour of victims from Hungary was unveiled. It is the mandate of the Mauthausen Memorial to keep a dignified memory of the persons persecuted by National Socialism not only at Mauthausen, but also at all the subcamps. With this in mind, it is important also to commemorate now the Hungarian victims at Gusen.