2018 will be a year of commemoration and remembrance (“Gedenkjahr”) for Austria related to historical events of 1848, 1918, 1938, 1948 and 1968. Many of these anniversaries will be reflected in our cultural program throughout the year.
There have been several revolutions in Austria in 1848 and their goals were all entirely different: there was the constitutional movement of the bourgeois, the revolts of the farmers, the protests of the workers, the national independence movements of the countries of the Habsburg Monarchy and the women emancipation process. In the end, only the farmers got what they fought for, the termination of the feudal system. The civil rights like equality, right to vote, freedom of expression and free education have been accepted formally but were never implemented in the following years of Neo-Absolutism. The rights of workers and women have been further ignored. However, 1848 is being celebrated as the formal end of the feudal system and the start of parliamentarism and democracy.
The proclamation of the Republic auf Austria (at that time still “German-Austria”) on November 12, 1918 at 3pm from the ramp of the Austrian Parliament is being celebrated as the birthday of Austria. The end of the World War I and the fall of the Austrian-Hungarian Habsburg Monarchy led to the development of new national states, forming the basis for today’s Europe. On November 12, 1918 the right to vote for women was proclaimed as well, even though it was only exercised the next year, at the election for the first free and equal parliamentary election on February 19, 1919.
On March 12, 1938, German troops march into Austria to annex the German-speaking nation for the Third Reich. Adolf Hitler accompanied German troops into Austria, greeted by enthusiastic crowds. Hitler appointed a new Nazi government, and on March 13 the “Anschluss” was proclaimed. Austria existed as a federal state of Germany until the end of World War II, when the Allied powers declared the “Anschluss” void and reestablished an independent Austria.
The persecutions of Jewish citizens in Austria and Germany in November 1938, following the “Anschluss”, are being remembered as “Kristallnacht” (“Night of Broken Glass”) or pogrom of November 1938. Members of the Nazi party and its various paramilitary organizations joined by civilians and encouraged by the lack of police interventions, torched synagogues and small prayer houses, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses. In Vienna 27 Jews have been killed in that night and in the aftermath of the “Kristallnacht”, some 6.000 Austrian Jews were arrested and deported to concentration camps.
On December 10, 1948, we will celebrate the 70-year-anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), the so-called “mother” of all human rights treaties and laws. Thanks to this decision the topic of human rights has been in the center of public discussion and interest in a much stronger and more sustainable way than ever before.
The idea of universal human rights dates back already to the time of Enlightenment and found its first recognition in the French and American constitutions at the end of the 18th century. In the aftermath of the crimes committed by the Nazis after the World War II the conviction prevailed that next to national human rights regulations an international human rights order is necessary as well. This task were taken over by the newly founded United Nations, with Eleanor Roosevelt as President of the Human Rights Commission that negotiated the UDHR, playing a decisive role in laying the groundworks for the further development of various international human rights treaties and laws, many of them forming part of national constitutions (like in Austria).
We will put a special focus on this anniversary by relating various cultural events to a particular right from the UDHR. These rights will be further outlined and explained in more detail in the respective promotion of the events. We have received the permission from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations in Geneva to use the official logo the UN has created for the 70th anniversary of the UDHR in all our projects related to human rights:
The „60s“ have been remembered predominantly in the United States and Western Europe by conflicts between the post-war generation and their governments, expressed by demonstrations and street-protests against the “establishment” and their role in war such as the one in Vietnam, civil rights movements or the fight for women empowerment. Brutal police raids aimed at the demonstrating, predominantly young crowds further deteriorated the tense situation at that time and put into question the proclaimed western values such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. During the peak of the Cold War the rising confrontation between the East and the West led to various violent outbreaks such as the “Prague-Spring” in 1968, whose repression by the Soviet Union – 12 years after the invasion of Soviet tanks into Hungary in 1956 – cast a shining light on the fragility of the communist regime and its inability to address and solve social problems in society in a peaceful way.
If you are interested in our cultural events planned for commemorational years, please see the announcements on this website under the menu events as well as the social media channels of the ACF Washington. Our monthly newsletter will also address them in more detail.