• Michael Laxer

Vienna liberated by the Red Army, April 13, 1945


Heroes' Monument of the Red Army, Vienna


Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Vienna by the Red Army. In 2020, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the event, the Central Committee of the Party of Labour of Austria issued the following statement:


75 years ago, on 13 April 1945, the Red Army of the USSR won the Battle of Vienna. This ended the "Vienna Offensive", which cost the lives of almost 170,000 Soviet soldiers. Up to 20,000 were killed in fighting within the immediate city boundaries of the Austrian capital.


Marshal Fyodor Ivanovich Tolbukhin, Commander-in-Chief of the 3rd Ukrainian Front, led the attack, which had begun on 6 April 1945. After the capture of Budapest, the Red Army, after further heavy fighting in Hungary, had advanced over Burgenland, other units over Bratislava and Brno, in order to largely encircle Vienna. The German-fascist Nazi regime demanded the unconditional defence of the city and again sacrificed some 20,000 lives in a ruthless manner. Attempts by anti-fascist resistance fighters as well as by some war-weary Wehrmacht officers, who wanted to organise a hand-over of Vienna to the Red Army without a fight, failed through treason - only in a local area of western districts of Vienna young communists could succeed in preventing senseless fighting. The Nazi regime's demand that the city should be held by the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS was a criminal illusion. The superior Red Army was embroiled in bitter positional, street and house fighting in Vienna for a week, but on 13 April 1945 the victorious Soviet soldiers were able to hoist the red flag with hammer and sickle at the Austrian Parliament building in the centre of Vienna.


The liberation of Vienna by the Red Army was a decisive contribution to the further liberation of entire Austria from fascist dictatorship and German foreign rule and to the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. On April 27, 1945, the Provisional Government in Vienna, consisting of Social Democrats, Communists and Christian-social conservatives, declared Austria's independence from Germany and the re-establishment of the democratic republic - with the support of the Soviet government whereas the Western Allies were not yet ready to recognize this at that time. Meanwhile, fierce fighting continued in other parts of the country, including the province of Lower Austria, which surrounds Vienna. Combat actions on Austrian soil did not end before the unconditional German surrender on 8/9 May 1945.


It is the heroic achievement of the Red Army, the peoples and the political leadership of the USSR to have liberated Vienna and major parts of Austria. This ended the fascist reign of terror, persecution and mass murder by the Nazis, with many Austrians not only being victims but also perpetrators or collaborators. However, many Austrians were also active in the anti-fascist and anti-German resistance, especially communists. They also deserve our gratitude and honourable memory, like the glorious and devoted Red Army and the socialist Soviet Union.


In order to commemorate victory and liberation, the great Heroes' Monument of the Red Army was erected on Vienna's Stalin Square (today's Schwarzenberg Square), on the border between the 1st and 3rd districts, and unveiled on August 19, 1945. It bears the inscription: "Вечная слава Героям Красной Армии павшим в боях с немецко-фашистскими захватчиками за свободу и независимость народов Европы." - "Eternal glory to the heroes of the Red Army, who died in the fight against the German-fascist invaders, for the freedom and independence of the peoples of Europe."


Photo: By Bwag - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82564766

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