Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz: It is a day of joy, but also a day on which we must face our responsibilities

Commemorating the liberation from National Socialism and the end of the Second World War in Europe – a speech by Arik Brauer

"The 8th of May marks a turning point in the history of our country. On this day, the Second World War in Europe ended and with it, the Nazi reign of terror in Austria. It is a day of joy but also a day on which we must face our responsibilities," said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the ceremony commemorating the liberation from National Socialism and the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Sebastian Kurz © BKA/Andreas Wenzel

Austria took a long time to critically examine its past, he said; Austrians were not just victims, but also perpetrators. Moreover, "100,000 Austrians were expelled, after having first been robbed, humiliated and mistreated in our country – only a very small number were brought back after the Second World War," continued the Federal Chancellor.

Behind this shockingly high figure, however, lay the fates of 100,000 individuals, for instance that of Eric Kandel, who had to leave Vienna at the age of nine after the Nazis had seized power. Sebastian Kurz reminded the audience that Nobel Prize winner Kandel was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from the Medical University of Vienna and that Kandel "has found his peace with our country." Today, the young generation must above all be grateful to those who rebuilt Austria after the war, said the Federal Chancellor, "because the prosperity that we are able to experience today is built on the hard work of the post-World War II generation."

Since 1945, Austria has developed into a strong democracy that contributes a great deal to stability and balance in Europe, he continued. " Therefore, our task today, 73 years after the liberation of Austria, is to continuously develop our country and also Europe in this spirit so that peace, democracy and the rule of law are safeguarded on our continent for all time," said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Heinz-Christian Strache © BKA/Andreas

The strong belief in Austria, in the emotional ties to one's home country and in autonomy has "nothing to do with nationalism but with identity, self-confidence and individual responsibility," said Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache in his speech. "We have a responsibility to the victims of the Third Reich but also towards subsequent generations that nothing like this can ever take place in our history again. Antisemitism is a malevolent spirit that is not just present here and there in the population but that has also been imported. We all need to take action here," continued the Vice-Chancellor.

In his speech, Arik Brauer reminded the audience of how the tragedy of the Second World War unfolded and how to deal with guilt. "The loser was an ideology that had been inhumane and aggressive from the start. The winner was the universal need to live in peace. Democracy won out over dictatorship," concluded Brauer.

Speech by artist Arik Brauer (PDF, 67 KB)

Link: Original in German: "Bundeskanzler Sebastian Kurz: Es ist ein Tag der Freude, es ist aber auch ein Tag, an dem wir uns unserer Verantwortung stellen müssen"