On the day of the liberation of the former concentrations camp Gunskirchen we commit toghether with survivors of the camp the "Walk of Solidarity".
Daniel CHANOCH, Concentration camp survivor
Willi MERNYI, Chair of the Austrian Mauthausen Committee
Guy DOCKENDORF, President of the Comité International de Mauthausen
Survivors of the Gunskirchen Concentration Camp will read the Mauthausen Oath together with young people on the anniversary of the liberation of the sub-camp, followed by guided tours about the history of the former concentration camp.
Meetingpoint: Memorial at B1, Former concentration camp cemetery Gunskirchen
The History of Gunskirchen Concentration Camp
Building of the camp in the so-called “Hochholz Forest” began in December 1944, carried out by prisoners of the satellite concentration camp, Wels I. Hans Maršálek recorded the opening date of that camp to be December 12th, 1945 – the day that the first death march arrived. The Gunskirchen Concentration Camp was designed to be a receiving camp for Jewish prisoners and was a sub-camp of Mauthauen Concentration Camp.
Between Gunskirchen and Edt bei Lambach
The Gunskirchen Concentration Camp was in a wooded area at the border between the two communities of Gunskirchen and Edt bei Lambach – about 550m from both community borders. Gunskirchen Concentration Camp was – along with the ‘ship camp’ and the ‘tent camp’ in Mauthausen itself – a camp where prisoners would no longer have to perform forced labour until their death, instead the prisoners were more or less left to themselves with an absolute minimum of food and catastrophic sanitary conditions. The prisoners who were deployed at the end of 1944 to build the camp (around 400 in total) were Polish, French, Belgian and Russian and accommodated in the local primary school. The commander of Mauthausen Concentration Camp decided April 14th, 1945 that the prisoners interned in the tent camp in Mauthausen should be transferred to Gunskirchen. These transports can be proven by notes taken by the Gendarmerie as well as the reports of witnesses from the local area. Many of the prisoners were no longer registered by name, so exact numbers are unknown. According to estimates, they were as many as 20,000 prisoners interned at Gunskirchen. As well as the many unregistered prisoners from the tent camp, registered Jewish prisoners from the women’s concentration camp at Mauthausen were also transferred there. It was, however, predominantly Hungarian Jews from the “South-east Wall” that were interned at Gunskirchen. Many prisoners died already during the death marches and as many as 200 per day died after their arrival in Gunskirchen. The causes for this included the catastrophic lack of food, an outbreak of typhoid and abuse at the hands of the SS.
SS Hauptsturmführer Karl Schulz was the last SS commandant and Heinrich Häger was the deputy leader of the commando from December 1944. The guards were largely made up of men from Upper Austria.
In the days before the liberation, prisoners were still being transferred to Gunskirchen with the task of burying the corpses there are quickly as possible. Nevertheless, when the camp was liberated, it was still full of the remains of dead prisoners. The 71st Infantry Division occupied Gunskirchen village on 4th May 1945 and 1300 US soldiers were accommodated in the local school, and the commando of prisoners there was liberated. The concentration camp in the forest was discovered in the days that followed. At the time of liberation by the US soldiers there was 5419 survivors and 3000 had left the camp before the American troops arrived. Between 2700 and 5000 prisoners were murdered in Gunskirchen concentration Camp. Many of the prisoners who survived to see liberation died soon afterwards due to the catastrophic conditions in the camp.
Today a memorial stands on the street that leads to the Saag area of the village and a memorial plaque and a memorial stone where the camp once stood commemorate the brutal camp. Every year, the Austrian Mauthausen Committee cooperates with local initiatives to hold an liberation commemoration in memory of the victims.
On 8th May 2017 at 7.30pm at Vienna’s Heldenplatz, the Austrian Mauthausen Committee (MKÖ), in cooperation with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, will hold the 5th Festival of Joy to commemorate and celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the liberation from National Socialism.
The festival will begin with a video message from the ambassadors of the liberating nations, the Austrian Jewish Community, the Verein GEDENKDIENST and the Documentation Centre of the Austrian Resistance.
The Wiener Symphoniker will once again perform a free concert, this year conducted by Ádám Fischer. The programme features Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s Violin Concert, interpreted by the young, award-winning violinist Emmanuel Tjeknavorian, and works by Ludwig van Beethoven, including the Egmont and Leonore Overtures and the concert aria "Ah Perfido" for soprano and orchestra with the Finnish singer, Camilla Nylund. At the end of concerts, "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony will be played. The concert will begin with the world premiere of a new work by the Austrian composer, Kurt Schwertisk, specially composed for the Festival of Joy, called "Here and Now".
This year’s Festival will also feature prominent speakers, including Chancellor Christian Kern, Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, Deputy Mayor Maria Vassilakou, Councilor Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, MKÖ Chair Willi Mernyi and survivor Lucia Heilman.
Lucia Heilman survived the Nazi regime together with her mother thanks to the help of a friend of her father who hid her from the Nazis. In 1938 she was on Heldenplatz when Adolf Hitler invaded Austria. She found the atmosphere there threatening, and knew that she no longer belonged. Lucia and her mother were put into a "Sammellager" (collection camp) in Vienna by the National Socialists, from where they were due to be deported. Their rescuer, Reinhold Duschka, hid them until the end of the war. In 1991, he was declared a "Righteous Amongst Nations" by the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem. In 2017, Lucia Heilman will once more stand on Heldenplatz, but this time as part of the the Festival of Joy, celebrating the day of liberation from the National Socialist terror regime. Katharina Stemberger will act as presenter for the event.
In the past four years, around 50,000 visitors have participated in the Festival of Joy, and sent a strong signal, that the 8th May deserves to be marked appropriately as a day of liberation.
ORF III will broadcast the Festival of Joy live and the ÖBB and Rail Tours will also cooperate to offer special tickets for people to attend. This year that will be an internet campaign "Foto mit Freude". Join us in sending a strong message of celebration on the day of liberation at foto.festderfreude.at.
We are looking forward to seeing you there!
"In memory of the blood shed by all peoples, in memory of the millions of brothers assassinated by
Nazi-Fascism, we solemnly swear to never abandon this path. We want to erect the most beautiful
monument that one could dedicate to the soldiers who have fallen for the cause of freedom of the
international community on a secure basis: A world of free men!
We direct ourselves to the entire world, shouting: help us in this work!
Long live international solidarity!
Long live freedom!"
(extract from the Mauthausen Oath)
To commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen Concentration Camp, the Mauthausen Committee Austria – in cooperation with both national (Austrian Camp Community Mauthausen) and international (Comité International de Mauthausen) partners – will be organising the international memorial and liberation events. As over 90% of the victims of Mauthausen Concentration Camp were neither German nor Austrian, the commemorative events have a particular international significance and represent the largest memorial and liberations events of their kind. This year they will be taking place on:
Sunday, May 7th 2017, 11am – 1pm
in the Mauthausen Memorial
This theme for the commemoration and liberation events this year will be "Internationality unites".
Starting last year, instead of beginning with a march of national and international delegates, the march of all participants at the end of the ceremonial portion of the commemorations is now the highlight – similar to the initial liberation commemorations by concentration camp survivors. In close cooperation with the Comité International de Mauthausen and the many diplomatic representatives, the previous "one after another" of the different delegations has instead become a firm message of "everyone, together". As well as the international liberation commemorations at Mauthausen, numerous other memorial events will be held at the sites of former sub-camps of Mauthausen.
This year will mark the fourth year that the "Festival of Joy" has been celebrated with the Wiener Symphoniker:
On May 8th at 7.30 PM Vienna's Heldenplatz (Heroes' Square) will be transformed again into a space of memory and joy to celebrate the 71st anniversary of liberation from the Nazi regime.
The Wiener Symphoniker – under the leadership of Christoph von Dohnányi and with the starbaritone Thomas Hampson and the men of the Wiener Singverein – will play "A Survivor from Warsaw" by Arnold Schönberg and Ludwig van Beethoven's Third Symphony "Eroica".
The concert will also features speeches by several prominent speakers, with Katharina Stemberger presenting the programme. Daniel Chanoch, a concentration camp survivor, will speak about his experience of solidarity. For many prisoners in the prisons, concentrations and annihilation camps, solidarity was of particular importance and ensured the survival of some.
The Austrian Mauthausen Committee (MKÖ) will organise and coordinate in 2016 the largest memorial and liberation events in Europe for the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen Concentration Camp, working in close cooperation with survivor organisations at a national (Austrian Camp Community) and international level (Comité International de Mauthausen).
This year's event will take place on
Sunday, 15th May 2016, 10am-12pm
at the site of Mauthausen Concentration Camp
with "international solidarity" as its thematic focus.
Program "International Memorial & Liberation Commemoration"
from 8:30 Rallies at the national memorials
09:00 Ecumenical Service (Chapel) with Bishop Dr. Michael BÜNKER, Father Mag. Christian ÖHLER and Metropolitan Dr. Arsenios KARDAMAKIS
Music: Mauthausen Gospel Team led by Christine ARNDT
from 09:30 Gathering of the former prisoners, the delegations and the diplomatic representatives at the former roll call area (please be aware of the sectors – our staff will gladly help)
10:00 Joint liberation celebration at the former roll call area. In 2016 the liberation celebration will take a stronger "Collaboration" character with all participants.
Opening address: Willi MERNYI, Chair of the Austrian Mauthausen Committee
Presenters: Konstanze BREITEBNER, Mercedes ECHERER
Musical accompaniment from the ensemble "Widerstand" and the "Ensemble 4 der Militärmusik OÖ" with pieces such as the European Hymn and "Moorsoldaten".
Memorial speeches: During the memorial procession, representatives from different national survivor and victim groups from Belgium, Italy, Serbia and the Ukraine will give speeches in their national languages.
from 11:30 All participants will leave the former camp section. Official end of the liberation ceremony.
11:45 Rallies at the national memorial
(Further information in the Programme)
12:30 International Youth Memorial Rally
(at the Young Person's memorial)
13:30 End of the national rallies
The importance of solidarity and the cooperation will also be shown with the completely new reconceptualisation of the commemorative events and the international liberation ceremony this year (please see the details in attachment). This year will see major changes to the events that have been unchanged for over forty years. In close collaboration with the Comité International Mauthausen and the various diplomatic representatives the events will emphasise and strengthen cooperation between the delegations.
- International Mauthausen Liberation Ceremony – New Sequence of events
- Parking information (D/E/F/I/R)
Altogether, more than 40,000 people took part in the memorial and liberation commemorations organised by the Mauthausen Committee! With more than 22,000 people, including survivors and numerous politicians from Austria and abroad, commemorations in 2015 at the Mauthausen memorial site, while a further 90 memorial events took place at former sub-camps and places of Nazi terror, sending a strong message of "Never Again". The majority of these events, visited by people from within the regions but also many countries throughout Europe, were organised by local organisations and initiatives in close cooperation with the Austrian Mauthausen Committee.
- Return, 2nd class rail travel to Vienna on all ÖBB routes
- 1 nights accommodation incl. breakfast at Hotel Delta****
- A 24 hour Ticket for local transport in Vienna (Vienna Linien)
8th – 9th May 2015
Package price is per person and according to the programme
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