Festival of Joy
Day of liberation
8 May 1945 is the day of the unconditional surrender of the German Wehrmacht, and the day of the official end of World War II in Europe. On the occasion of the anniversary of the liberation from the Nazi terror regime, Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ) annually organises the Festival of Joy on 8 May. But on 8 May, we do not only celebrate the liberation from Nazi rule. We also commemorate the millions who were prosecuted and murdered by the Nazis. Tribute is paid to the victims and the resistance fighters on this day, and the liberators are celebrated. Each year, the Festival of Joy will focus on a new annual theme. In 2023, the focus will be on "Civil Courage".
8 May 2022 is the 78th anniversary of the unconditional surrender of the German Wehrmacht. On this day, already for the eleventh time, Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ) is organising the Festival of Joy to commemorate the victims and to celebrate the liberation from the NS reign of terror. For the past years, the Festival of Joy has taken place virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 30,000 people have answered our call and celebrate the Festival of Joy 2021 with us virtually, on ORF III and on all online channels of MKÖ. The viewers were from over 20 different countries such as Austria, Germany, but also Australia, China, Iran, Brazil, Israel, and the US.
We very much look forward to celebrating the Festival of Joy 2023 with you, once again in person, at Vienna’s Heldenplatz. Renowned contemporary witness Anna Hackl has confirmed her attendance. Anna Hackl, maiden name Anna Langthaler, was born in Schwertberg in Upper Austria in 1931. She and her family took in two Soviet soldiers that had escaped their imprisonment at the concentration camp and sheltered them at their home from the SS until the war ended. Federal president Dr. Alexander Van der Bellen was asked to speak as the highest representative of the Republic of Austria. On behalf of the organiser, MKÖ Chairman Willi Mernyi will give the opening speech at the Festival of Joy. A short film on this year’s theme, "Civil Courage", will be shown during the Festival of Joy. Moreover, 2023 will see an international music programme for the first time. The Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Konstantin Wecker have already agreed to play at this year’s Festival of Joy. Once again this year, actress Katharina Stemberger will moderate the Festival of Joy, which will conclude with a festive performance of "Ode to Joy" by Ludwig van Beethoven. The Festival of Joy will be broadcast live on ORF III and internationally on the online channels of the Mauthausen Committee Austria.
Before 8 May, there will be educational activities on offer on the topic of liberation day and the history of Vienna Heldenplatz as well as of the Festival of Joy. The educational activities will be carried out in the form of a guided tour taking place during the two weeks before the Festival of Joy. The tour can be booked by everyone but is specially dedicated to a young audience. The tour will be about the history of 8 May, the story of and liberation from National Socialism, the history of Heldenplatz, the monuments at and around Heldenplatz, and the history of the Festival of Joy.
Once again this year, there will be many virtual activities around the theme of "Civil Courage" and about 8 May.
Since 2013, Mauthausen Committee Austria has been organising the Festival of Joy at Vienna Heldenplatz on 8 May, with support from the Jewish Community, the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance, and the Gedenkdienst association. Each year, the Festival of Joy will focus on a new annual theme. Austria takes a clear official stance: 8 May is a day of joy about the end of the NS rule in Europe and is dedicated to the commemoration of the victims of the Nazis’ persecution and extermination politics.
At the Festival of Joy, over the past ten years, more than 128.000 visitors and online participants from all over the world have taken a strong stand for the establishment of a dignified commemoration on 8 May as the day of liberation.