Vienna: Oath reclaims anti-fascism for the anti-imperialist resistance

By John Catalinotto
July 2, 2024

A remarkable event took place in Vienna, Austria, June 18 that marked a new step for anti-fascist organizations. The Mauthausen Oath was read out publicly at the memorial on Morzinplatz. For the first time the Oath’s message was that the slogan “Never again” must apply to everyone, including the Palestinian people.

Mauthausen is the name of a Nazi Concentration Camp that was located near the city of Linz, Austria, about 100 miles west of Vienna. Mauthausen’s inhabitants were mainly political opponents of Nazism, meaning anti-fascists from many European countries including many veterans of the Spanish Civil War. The concentration of experienced fighters made possible an uprising that liberated Mauthausen in 1945 just before the arrival of the Allied troops.

Austria’s Concentration Camp Association had held regular ceremonies for decades, but the association’s leadership aligned with the pro-capitalist Austrian regime and distorted the original anti-fascism. This distortion escalated after the 1990 collapse of the Soviet Union.

This year, however, during Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinians in Gaza, members of the Concentration Camp Association became more and more opposed to the pro-Zionist positions it had taken in the past and became involved in the movement in solidarity with Palestine. One of the historic leaders of the Association, Ernst Wolrab, who had promoted this anti-imperialist direction, was pushed out of leadership by others tied to the regime.

Wolrab called for a public demonstration of anti-fascists taking the “Mauthausen Oath” at Morzinplatz, at the site of the former Gestapo (the Nazi Secret State Police) headquarters in Vienna. Other organizations joined, as did individuals. Many of the speakers were descendants of historic resistance fighters, communists and/or Jewish people persecuted by the Nazis.

Ernst Wolrab, former leader of the Concentration Camp Association in Austria, who was removed from leadership when he encouraged solidarity with Palestinians against Israel’s genocidal war. (Photo: T. Nizar)

Veteran Austrian anti-imperialist Willi Langthaler, with Palestine Solidarity Austria, told Workers World that the event “is memorable, because it is the first time in many decades that anti-fascism has been publicly returned to where it came from, namely as a component of the struggle against capitalism and imperialism. The concentration camp prisoners of Mauthausen expressed this in a magnificent and unmistakable way in their oath.”

Langthaler added that the regime had cynically used false anti-fascism to vilify any political leaders — mostly those from the Global South — who opposed U.S. imperialism, calling them “new Hitlers,” and Palestinians who resisted colonization were called “antisemites.”

“The event in Morzinplatz,” said Langthaler, “although still at a symbolic level, shows that witnessing nine months of genocide has made a change in the consciousness of the people and that anti-fascism can regain its place in the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggle. This is vital not only in Austria, but also in France and Germany and throughout Europe.”

For more information on the Spring 1945 uprising in Mauthausen, see