Festival of Joy

In memory of the victims of and to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Austria’s liberation from the Nazi terror regime, on 8 May 2018 at 20:00 Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ) will host the sixth Festival of Joy with a concert of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra at Vienna’s Heldenplatz.

In memorial year 2018, the Festival of Joy is dedicated to the day of liberation as well as to the year 1938. With the Nazi seizure of power and the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria, the Nazis aggressively pursued political opponents, unionists, members of Christian churches and other religions, other ethnic groups, homosexuals, intellectuals, artist, and sooner or later anyone who rejected their regime. Already in April 1938 the first regime opponents were transported from Vienna to the concentration camp Dachau. In August 1938 the first prisoners arrived at Mauthausen and began to construct the concentration camp there; December 1938 already saw nearly 1000 prisoners there.

The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, led by Lahav Shani, their first guest director, will again play a free open-air concert to send a musical message. For this occasion, Israeli-born Shani has assembled a special program with decidedly Jewish coloration. Hence the concert will focus on works by Ernest Bloch and Leonard Bernstein. The multiple award-winning violinist Julian Rachlin, who descends from a Vilna family of musicians of Jewish faith, will perform as soloist in sections from Pjotr Iljitsch Tchaikovsky’s violin concert. The concert will open with the Kurt Schwertsik composition "Here and now!", written especially for the Festival of Joy. The concert will conclude as last year with the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Actress Katharina Stemberger will moderate the event.

Statements will be devoted to the fates of people who fled the Nazi death machinery. Statements by ambassadors of the liberating nations, the Jewish Community, the organization Gedenkdienst (memorial service) and the Documentation Archive of Austrian Resistance will be presented on 8 May. The event will open with video messages by eyewitnesses Elsie Slonim and Gertrud Weinber. Then the Festival will continue with the words of National Council President Mag. Wolfgang Sobotka and greetings by MKÖ head Willi Mernyi. The highlight of the festival ceremony will be a speech by Rudi Gelbard, a concentration camp survivor.

The Festival of Joy will take place at Vienna’s Heldenplatz regardless of weather. A limited amount of seating is available for older people and persons with special needs.
Again this year the program Culture & Information on Austrian TV’s ORF III will broadcast the Festival of Joy live from Vienna’s Heldenplatz. The TV broadcast is the climax of an extensive focus on the history of Concentration Camp Mauthausen and its satellite camps.

In the past five years, more than 51,000 visitors at the Festival of Joy have sent a strong message for the establishment of a dignified remembrance on May 8 as the Day of Liberation.

We look forward to your attendance!

Since 2013, the Festival of Joy, organised by the Austrian Mauthausen Committee, has been held on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, featuring a free concert by the Wiener Symphoniker in the last years. The Festival of Joy, held each year on May 8th on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, celebrates the liberation from the National Socialist regime.

On the 8th May 1945 the National Socialist regime was defeated by Allied troops following the unconditional surrender of the German army. Thus ended the criminal occupation and destructive war in Europe. Rather than celebrate this day, Far right fraternities ("Burschenschaften") held a vigil each year on Vienna's Heldenplatz (Heroes' Square) to mourn the soldiers and members of the criminal Nazi organisations who died during the war. Since 2000, regular protests and demonstrations were held in opposition of the Burschenschaften and their vigil.

It was for this reason that the "Festival of Joy" was created. We consider the 8th May to be a day of liberation and joy, a day when not only the liberation from the Nazi regime is celebrated, but also a commemoration of the millions of people persecuted and murdered by the Nazis, including those who lost their lives fighting the regime. Many Austrians also took part in the crimes of National Socialism. Remembered are also all those who refused military service or took part in acts of resistance, and those who fought alongside the Allies to help liberate Austria. This momentous day deserves to be properly celebrated each year, particularly in the context of the historically important Heldenplatz. May 8th is a day of liberation and joy!

The Austrian Mauthausen Committee as the organiser had the invaluable support of a number of organisations, including the Verein GEDENKDIENST, the Austrian Jewish Community, the Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance, as well as the support of the Federal Government and the Viennese City Government. ORF III broadcasts the Festival of Joy live since 2015 and the ÖBB and Rail Tours also cooperates to offer special tickets for people to attend.

In the past four years, more than 51,000 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.

Photo gallery Festival of Joy