International Memorial and Liberation Ceremony
Concentration Camp Memorial Mauthausen
Sunday, 6 May 2018, 11:00 – ca. 13:00
topical focus: "Escape and Home"
Each year since 2006, the memorial and liberation ceremonies have been dedicated to a specific theme that relates to the history of concentration camp Mauthausen or to Austria’s Nazi past. Direct relevance to today is an essential component of each of these themes; especially for young people, this is intended to establish links to their world of experience today through engagement with the era and ideology of national socialism. This year’s memorial and liberation ceremonies are dedicated to the theme "Escape and Home".
Because far more than 90% of the victims of Mauthausen were neither German nor Austrian, remembering the victims of Concentration Camp Mauthausen and its satellite camps is of international importance. The International Memorial and Liberation Ceremony in Mauthausen is by far the largest such ceremony in the world. Again this year, the Ceremony will begin with the reading of the Mauthausen Oath in various languages. The climax of the festivities is the joint departure of all participants at the end of the ceremony – similar to the very first liberation ceremony of concentration camp survivors.
In addition to the International Memorial and Liberation Ceremony in Mauthausen, many ceremonies will be held at the sites of former satellite camps of Concentration Camp Mauthausen. Most of these events are organized by local associations and initiatives in close cooperation with Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ).
In total, some 45,000 people will participate in the ceremonies organized by Mauthausen Committee. This constitutes a powerful signal: "Never again!"
Conservative parliamentarian writes for extreme right-wing, anti-Semitic Paper. Mauthausen Committee demands that PM Kurz act
Press release 08 Jan. 2018
Efgani Dönmez was once an MP for the Green party, where his career ended after he made multiple highly questionable statements. Last year Dönmez joined Sebastian Kurz and since October has been MP for Kurz’s ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party, Austrian conservative party). Now he is drifting to the far-right periphery. "Dönmez wrote an article for the current edition of the extreme-right magazine Info-Direkt. The magazine is exploiting this for their public relations. In this way, the ÖVP MP is directly supporting the dissemination of racist conspiracy theories and vilest anti-Semitism," said Willi Mernyi, Chairman of Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ), with disgust.
Info-Direkt incites against Jews in Nazi manner
Mernyi advises us of the content of Info-Direkt: "In a manner reminiscent of the Nazis, the publication denounces Jews as 'masterminds of globalization' and attacks 'the House of Rothschild' and George Soros' personally. Jews are accused of promoting the 'systematic flooding of Europe with foreigners' to achieve a 'heterogeneous, uprooted human race'. For Info-Direkt, no other conspiracy theory is too absurd either: For example, they allege that the US government itself carried out the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 and that American interests are behind the Ebola epidemic. Naturally they offer not the least evidence for all their inciting nonsense."
Kremlin fidelity in Linz
Already in January 2016 the prestigious German weekly newspaper Die Zeit reported about close relations of Info-Direkt to Russian media with affinity to the authoritarian Putin regime. The article headline appropriately reads "Kremlin fidelity in Linz". "No wonder that Info-Direkt disdains democratic media: It insults them as the 'lying press' and their journalists as 'writing whores'," observes Mernyi.
Self-acclaimed "Defender of Europe"
The producers of Info-Direkt also co-organized the extreme right-wing congress "Defenders of Europe" in Linz. In autumn 2016 this congress triggered weeks of widespread protest: concentration camp survivors from many nations took a stand alongside many prominent personalities, including former ÖVP Vice Chancellor Erhard Busek. Because of the massive resistance, for the planned return of the congress on 3 March 2018, despite multiple attempts, the organizers found no public venue. Instead, the organizers (including once again the Info-Direkt editors) had to divert to Aistersheim Palace near Grieskirchen, the property of an FPÖ functionary.
Dönmez is unacceptable as MP
Mernyi summarizes: "When an MP writes for an extreme right-wing and anti-Semitic magazine, then either he has no idea [about democracy] or his action is deliberately antidemocratic. In either case, he is unfit as MP. In the name of Mauthausen survivors, I demand that Chancellor and ÖVP Head Sebastian Kurz immediately take action and implement the necessary consequences!"
Mauthausen Committee assesses FPÖ in government coalition: "They remain extreme right, anti-Semitic and contemptuous of human rights"
Press release 21 Dec. 2017
"It is no surprise that the FPÖ (Austrian ‘Freedom’ Party) is adhering to its far-right course despite entering a government coalition," says Willi Mernyi, chairman of Mauthausen Committee Austria. "What is surprising is the record speed with which they are delivering the initial proof."
Only one day after the inauguration, FPÖ interior minister Herbert Kickl – who himself is notorious as a far-right agitator – brought Alexander Höferl into his cabinet as head of communications. Höferl has served as editor of “unzensuriert.at”, an online medium with affinity to the FPÖ. The Austrian Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT) identifies the content of this medium as "in part very xenophobic" and expressly attests to "anti-Semitic tendencies" as well as "conspiracy theory approaches and pro-Russian ideology". On inquiry by Der Standard, Höferl decidedly precluded a "change of style" relative to his previous activities with “unzensuriert.at”.
Likewise a single day after the inauguration, Johann Gudenus, the future head of the FPÖ in parliament, demanded that refugees in Vienna no longer be housed in apartments, but instead in mass quarters on the periphery of the city. "This is completely unrealistic and would be significantly more expensive. However, Gudenus seems inclined to harass refugees through forced housing in refugee camps," stresses Mernyi. "He wants them placed under general suspicion and handled as second-class people."
"Here Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and others can claim as often as they want that the FPÖ has become more moderate. In truth, the FPÖ extreme right-wing, anti-Semitic and contemptuous of human rights – a massive burden for Austria", the MKÖ chairman concludes.
Over 7000 people, including the last living survivors of concentration camp Mauthausen, high-level political figures and ambassadors along with numerous domestic and foreign visitors, participated in the International Liberation Ceremony on 7 May 2017 at the Mauthausen Memorial. Because far more than 90% of the victims of Mauthausen were neither German nor Austrian, this ceremony is of international importance and is by far the largest memorial and liberation ceremony in the world. Overall in 2017, together with its local groups, Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ) organized more than 90 memorial and liberation events at locations of former satellite camps of concentration camp Mauthausen and other sites of Nazi terror. This constitutes a powerful signal: "Never again!" This year’s memorial and liberation ceremonies were dedicated to the motto "Internationality unites".
The memorial and liberation ceremonies at the concentration camp memorial Mauthausen and its former satellite camps have been organized and conducted since 1946 by the survivors and their organizations. As successor organization to the Österreichische Lagergemeinschaft Mauthausen [Association of Survivors of Mauthausen], Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ) has taken on this task. As organizer within its national and international network, MKÖ protects the interests of the survivors and their relatives, including in the context of the memorial and liberation ceremonies.
In an open letter, the mayors of the Consciousness Region Mauthausen – Gusen – St. Georgen directed an important appeal to Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen. This is the translated body of the letter:
Dear President van der Bellen:
In the shadow of the encumbered history of our region, the participants of the first International Human Rights Symposium of the Consciousness Region Mauthausen – Gusen – St. Georgen address to you our urgent request:
Please refuse to swear in to the Austrian federal government any person who has demonstrated affinity to right-wing extremism and who has failed to distance himself/herself unambiguously and credibly from the ideology of National Socialism [Nazi Germany/Austria]. To do anything less would constitute a threat to human rights.
In the name of all participants of the Human Rights Symposium,
with kind regards,
Mayor Thomas Punkenhofer [Mauthausen]
Mayor Christian Aufreiter [Gusen]
Mayor Erich Wahl [St. Georgen an der Gusen]
Press release 09 Nov. 2017
Right-wing extremist gathering at Linz community center:
Mauthausen Committee demands that Mayor Luger immediately pull the emergency brake
MKÖ’s Mernyi: "Anti-Semitic incitement and call for lynch-mob justice cannot be tolerated!"
On 22 November 2017, a "readers’ meeting" of the far-right magazine Info-Direkt is scheduled at a community center in Linz. In the names of Mauthausen survivors, Chairman of Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ) Willi Mernyi demands that Linz mayor Klaus Luger and the city councilor responsible for community centers, Regina Fechter, (both Austrian Socialist Party SPÖ) immediately revoke approval of the event: "Anyone who permits such a thing in public space shares the guilt for dissemination of racist conspiracy theories and the vilest anti-Semitism! To lay wreaths once a year at concentration camp memorials, and then to close your eyes to the current far-right scene out of consideration for the Austrian ‘Freedom’ Party FPÖ – that is simply impossible," insists Mernyi.
With Nazi rhetoric, Info-Direkt denounces Jews and calls journalists "writing whores"
The MKÖ chairman advises Luger and Fechter not to divert the evaluation of Info-Direkt to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which is all too tolerant of brown-tainted machinations, but themselves to examine the content of the magazine and come to their own conclusion. "Here in Nazi fashion, Jews are denounced as 'masterminds of globalization' – 'The House of Rothschild or George Soros personally’. They are accused of 'systematically flooding Europe with foreigners’ in order to create a 'heterogeneous, uprooted human race'", explains Mernyi. "For Info-Direkt, no conspiracy theory is too absurd. For example, they claim that US leadership staged the terror attack of 11 September 2001 themselves, or that the Ebola epidemics disguise 'American interests'. Naturally they offer not the least proof for all their inciting nonsense."
It hardly surprises the MKÖ chairman that the publisher of Info-Direkt not only has a very good relationship with the FPÖ, but also served as co-organizer of the right-wing extremist conference "Defenders of Europe" in Linz. In autumn last year, this conference triggered weeks of broad protests; concentration camp survivors from many countries took a stand along with numerous prominent persons politics, churches, art and science.
“Intolerable” was Mernyi’s assessment of an open incitement by Info-Direkt to lynch-mob justice: In case of a break-in, in case of doubt, it is better to shoot: "Rather a weapon in your hand than the police on the phone". Info-Direkt writes derogatorily about democratic media, which they call the "lying press" whose journalists are "writing whores". Yet this does not prevent the magazine from plagiarizing articles or excerpts from the "lying press" verbatim, without citing sources.
The chairman of Mauthausen Committee summarizes: "The content of Info-Direkt and its planned 'readers’ meeting' are undeniably anti-Semitic, racist, contemptuous of human rights and antidemocratic. Linz does not deserve this – and least of all within a city facility!"
On anniversary of Reichspogromnacht, record number of FPÖ parliamentarians from extreme right-wing fraternities
Press release 08 Nov. 2017
Mauthausen Committee warns of danger for Austria
The new National Council convenes for the first time on 9 November, the anniversary of the Reichspogromnacht, when in 1938 the Nazis brutally attacked the defenseless Jewish minority. "The date of constitution of the National Council could symbolize that our republic is based on the unconditional rejection of National Socialism and on the remembrance of the suffering of its victims," says Willi Mernyi, chairman of Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ). "However, the FPÖ sees to very different symbolism: their parliamentary list includes more members of German nationalist and extreme right fraternities than ever before."
The far-right activities of the various fraternities and corps have been very well documented, most recently by the comprehensive book Stille Machtergreifung (Silent Seizure of Power) by Hans-Henning Scharsach. "Even the most notorious far-right fraternity Olympia will again be represented in the National Council by two FPÖ parliamentarians," the MKÖ chairman notes. "Martin Graf and Harald Stefan are Olympia members, as the book documents. Their fraternity has repeatedly hosted the vilest brown agitators, e.g., the convicted Holocaust denier David Irving, who served time in prison in Austria and now is banned from travel to this country, or the meanwhile deceased neo-Nazi singer Michael Müller, whose song 'Six million Jews, that’s where the fun begins' ridiculed the victims of the Holocaust in a most repulsive way," says Mernyi.
"A greater contrast than between commemorating the Reichspogromnacht and the entry of numerous representatives of far-right fraternities in the National Council is unthinkable. Worse yet would be if such people achieved government responsibility in a coalition. Unfortunately, this coalition seems to be developing. The democratic public will have their hands full to ensure that this shame does not evolve to a threat for Austria. In the sense of the legacy of Mauthausen survivors, Mauthausen Committee is determined to resolutely fight these tendencies that violate human dignity," explains Mernyi.
System of mutual promotion between FPÖ and milieu close to neo-Nazis
At a joint press conference on DATUM, SOS Mitmensch [SOS Fellow Human], the Mauthausen Committee, the Documentation Archive of Austrian Resistance, and author Hans-Henning Scharsach presented new research into the entanglement of the FPÖ [Austrian ‘Freedom’ Party] with far-right extremism. The presentation included a dossier that exposes a system that has existed for years, a system of mutual promotion and support between FPÖ party leadership and the neo-Nazi-friendly milieu.
Symbiotic relationship between FPÖ and neo-Nazi-friendly Aula
"Our research has exposed that for years the FPÖ party leadership under Karl-Heinz Strache has been co-financing neo-Nazi-friendly spheres and simultaneously receiving support from them," reports Alexander Pollak, speaker for SOS Mitmensch. Pollak points out a research dossier that his human rights organization compiled. "On the basis of numerous examples, we document how the FPÖ party leadership and the neo-Nazi-friendly magazine Aula cooperate and thereby disseminate anti-Semitism, pure racism and deep-rooted xenophobia, as well as revived sympathy for former Nazi leaders and today’s neo-Nazi organizations," explains Pollak.
70 extreme right-wing cases over short time
Mauthausen Committee Austria likewise confirms the deep entanglement of the FPÖ with right-wing extremism. Christa Bauer, CEO of MKÖ, notes some 70 cases of right-wing extremism in the FPÖ within a short time; the nonpartisan MKÖ has compiled these cases in a brochure. "And these are by far not all the cases. There is not enough chalk for FPÖ party head H.C. Strache to whitewash these scandals," emphasizes Bauer.
FPÖ dominated by nationalist fraternities
The Documentation Archive of Austrian Resistance has observed changes in the political-ideological direction of the FPÖ since they last joined a government coalition. "In contrast to 1999, today’s FPÖ is dominated at the highest levels by members of nationalist fraternities. Since he took over leadership of the party in 2005, Strache relies on these, and this is reflected in the party program. Even beyond that, the Strache FPÖ has no reservations about interfacing with the far-right extremist scene outside the parliament and promotes this scene in many ways," explains Bernhard Weidinger, expert for far-right extremism at the Documentation Archive of Austrian Resistance.
Failure to come to terms with neo-Nazi past
For journalist/author Hans-Henning Scharsach, FPÖ head Strache’s past in the neo-Nazi milieu, with which he has scarcely come to terms, plays an important role in the development of the FPÖ under his leadership. "Strache has repeatedly denied his neo-Nazi past. However, police records document that he operated jointly with the most radical and violence-prone elements of the neo-Nazi scene," Scharsach explains.
FPÖ is not trustworthy
"Our research has revealed only the tip of the iceberg, yet alone this tip testifies to the massive breach of trust on the part of the FPÖ party leadership. For years, Strache, Hofer, Haimbuchner and many others in the FPÖ have intensively worked toward systematically financing, promoting and courting extremist views. Party leadership that does this is not trustworthy and should not be promoted to the levers of governmental power," emphasizes SOS Mitmensch spokesperson Pollak.
Press release 06 Oct. 2017
Mauthausen Committee defends itself against libel:
FPÖ parliamentarian now confirms correctness of "Isolated cases" brochure
The FPÖ tactic of denying unpleasant truths as "fake news" now failed when it collided with reality.
Background: In August 2017 Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ) published the brochure "Only isolated cases?" to depict 59 extreme right-wing activities by FPÖ politicians. (Recently this documentation was extended by nine additional "isolated cases" over the past eight weeks.)
Manfred Haimbuchner, FPÖ lieutenant governor of Upper Austria (who himself appears in the brochure because he honored a high SS officer in a ceremonial address) stated: "I think nothing of Mauthausen Committee." His party buddy, Upper Austrian National Council delegate Gerhard Deimek, supported him on his Twitter account: "Since the publication of the cases is fake & lies, Haimbucher (sic!) is right." Deimek also appears in the brochure – for disseminating inciting propaganda.
Mauthausen Committee, which represents the legacy of the survivors of Concentration Camp Mauthausen, refused to accept the allegation of fake and lies. MKÖ attorney Maria Windhager demanded that Deimek sign a cease-and-desist declaration and post his revocation on Twitter. Deimek had no choice but to fully renounce his accusation and thus confirm the correctness of the "Isolate cases" brochure. Naturally he must also pay the attorney fees and court costs.
This humbling revisit is an embarrassment and humiliation not only for Deimek and Haimbuchner, but for the entire FPÖ. "We welcome that an FPÖ parliamentarian understands how justified the criticism of the extreme right-wing activities of his party is," says MKÖ Chairman Willi Mernyi. "If other high-ranking FPÖ members follow suit and appropriate improvement of action follows their insight, then perhaps the FPÖ can after all mutate into a democratic party without ideological roots in a dismal past."
Mauthausen Committee was obliged to complement its recent brochure "Merely Isolated Incidents? The FPÖ and Right-Wing Extremism":
Nine more FPÖ "isolated cases" in only eight weeks!
Once again, these "isolated cases" involve racism, antisemitism and Nazi revival: They advocate the reopening of the concentration camp Mauthausen, employ Nazi language such as "Jew pigs", and harass children with the "wrong" lineage.
In the eight weeks since publication of the brochure "Merely Isolated Incidents? The FPÖ and Right-Wing Extremism", politicians of the FPÖ [Austrian Freedom Party] provided nine new "isolated cases".
In August Mauthausen Committee Austria published a brochure depicting right-wing extremist activities on the part of FPÖ politicians. This brochure describes some 60 "isolate cases" from the recent past. This triggered enormous media attention and a broad debate.