• Austria's news in English

Austria marks liberation from Nazis

The Local · 8 May 2015, 08:51

Published: 08 May 2015 08:51 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In Vienna the Austrian government will hold a remembrance ceremony in the chancellery, with a speech by Marko Feingold, a 103-year-old concentration camp survivor. He settled in Salzburg after the war and is now president of the Salzburg Jewish Community.

He told the Kurier newspaper that he is worried about the declining numbers of Jewish people in Austria and said that “politicians must do more for Jews and not be afraid of losing votes”. He said the promotion of Jewish communities in Germany was "exemplary".

In Lower Austria, all church bells will be rung to mark the anniversary. The Austrian army will hold a vigil in Vienna's Heldenplatz. 

On Friday evening at 7.40pm the Fest der Freude (Festival of Joy) will begin in Heldenplatz - where Adolf Hitler announced the Anschluss on March 15th 1938 from the balcony of the Hofburg palace to a crowd of thousands of jubilant Austrians.

The balcony, which is above the entrance to the National Library, will be used to interview historians and eyewitnesses during the live ORF broadcast of the event. A free concert by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra will begin at 8.15pm.

Ten-year occupation

VE Day marked the final defeat of Hitler and the Nazis and the end of the war in Europe, but it was not the end of World War Two. It would take another three months to achieve Japanese surrender.

For Austria, newly independent from Germany, a ten-year occupation by the Allied forces began. The country had been heavily damaged by the war and hunger and fear dominated in a climate where the future seemed uncertain.

Vienna had suffered the most, with 175,000 apartments either damaged or completely destroyed. In the period after the war, the "rubble women" (Trümmerfrauen) helped clear and reconstruct the bombed cities. "Economic reconstruction would not have worked without women," historian Oliver Rathkolb said in an interview with the ORF website.

"By September 1945, the average consumer had to make do with 800 calories a day. Food rationing, the black market and foraging trips into the countryside became an everyday reality of post-war life,” he added.

At this time Austria was home to six million Austrians as well as three million refugees and "displaced persons" (concentration camp survivors, former forced labourers, prisoners of war, foreign troops, and German nationals).

"Coexistence between the natives and “displaced persons” was fraught and it became clear that racism and anti-Semitism had not disappeared with the end of the Nazi regime. Again and again there were clashes that escalated into open anti-Semitism," Rathkolb said.

In addition, from May 1945 there were 350,000 allied soldiers occupying the country. It was only because of food donations and economic assistance from the Soviet Union, the USA, the UN, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Canada that Austrians were able to survive the harsh winter of 1945-46.

In July 1945, the occupation zones were agreed among the four Allies. Vorarlberg and Tyrol went to the French, Carinthia and Styria to the British, Lower Austria, Burgenland and the Mühlviertel to the Soviets and Upper Austria and Salzburg to the Americans. In Vienna, all four Allies had their own zones.

The Allies soon came to be seen by many Austrians not as liberators but as occupiers. This was especially true with respect to the Soviets, who were criticized for numerous attacks on civilians, and lootings and rapes that went unpunished.

Story continues below…

"An estimated 270,000 women were raped," according to Rathkolb. In Vienna it is estimated that up to 80,000 women sought medical treatment after being raped, and a quarter of them became pregnant.

Austria held its first free elections on November 25th 1945 but it was not until May 15th 1955 that a treaty was signed giving it full sovereignty.

Russia (then part of the Soviet Union) lost more citizens to the war than any other nation, and will mark VE day with a military parade in Moscow's Red Square.

Germany's Angela Merkel will attend the Moscow parade but Austrian President Heinz Fischer will be represented by the Austrian ambassador in Moscow, with his non-attendance seen as a protest at Russia's actions in Ukraine.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'UFO' sightings in skies above Vienna and Graz
File image of an alleged UFO. Photo: Flickr/Dimapolo

Worried Austrians called police and posted videos online after sighting a UFO-like device above the capital Vienna.

Austrian police rescue 47 puppies from animal smuggler
Photo: Landespolizeidirektion Burgenland

Austrian police have seized 47 puppies found in a car at the Hungarian border.

Call for FPÖ chief's Facebook page to be shut
Heinz-Christian Strache. Photo: Facebook/Personal

The Austrian lawyer who filed a criminal case against the leader of the Freedom Party for inciting hatred has called for his Facebook page to be shut down.

Female terror suspect 'planned suicide attack'
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Police have arrested the wife of a Chechen terror suspect after they found evidence that the pair were planning a suicide attack in Austria.

'Death must be Viennese', and not just at Halloween
Prater amusement features memento mori. Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Dominik Creazzi, "Paranormal Investigator" embossed on his jacket, strains his ears among the decaying tombstones of Vienna's central cemetery, the last resting place of three million mortals from Beethoven to "Rock Me Amadeus" singer Falco.

ECJ puts brakes on deportation of Iraqi family
Photo: ORF

An Iraqi family threatened with deportation has been granted a brief reprieve after the European Court of Justice recommended they be allowed to stay in Austria for the time being.

Flats evacuated after man swallows explosive substance
A decontamination squad was ordered in. Photo: MA 68 Lichtbildstelle

A block of flats in Vienna had to be evacuated after a suicidal resident swallowed a highly toxic and explosive substance.

'Horror clown' threatens bus driver in Vienna's Donaustadt
Pennywise, the original scary clown from the movie It. Photo: Warner Bros

A man disguised as a ‘horror clown’ threatened a bus driver in Vienna’s Donaustadt district and vandalised the bus.

Man lived with body of murdered lover for weeks

A man has been arrested in Graz after police discovered the body of his girlfriend hidden in the shower cubicle of their rented apartment.

Austrian far-right leader brands Merkel 'dangerous'
Heinz-Christian Strache. Photo: Facebook/Personal

The head of Austria's far-right Freedom Party has branded Angela Merkel Europe's most dangerous politician.

12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available