Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra admits links with Nazis

05ddnazi austria orchestra jews Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra admits links with Nazis

The Vienna Philharmonic is best known for its New Year’sConcert, a Strauss Waltz extravaganza, which is broadcast to 50million people in 80 countries. Its image is closely associatedwith the 18th century Vienna of Hayden, Beethoven and Mozart and isone of the Austrian capitals biggest tourist attractions.What has only just been revealed is its shadier  Nazi-associatedpast.Thus, the famous New Year concert originated in 1939 to be usedby the Nazis as a propaganda instrument, while of the orchestra’s123 members in 1942, 60 belonged to the Nazi party and two weremembers of the SS. The orchestra has also published online a report on who receivedits rings of honor and medals, which traditionally had been givento artists but during Nazi rule were given to high rankingofficials and military leaders.The list included Baldur von Schirach, the Nazi governor ofVienna, who was awarded the ring in 1942. Schirach ordered thedeportation of tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps andwas sentenced to 20 years in jail during the Nuremburg trials afterthe war.In one of the articles posted on the orchestra’s website onSunday it was revealed by the historian Oliver Rathkolb that areplacement ring was given to Schirach after he was released fromprison in 1967.Clemens Hellsberg, the Philharmonic’s current chairman, toldReuters that the orchestra has not yet made a decision on whetherto revoke awards handed out during the Nazi period.Details of 13 musicians who were driven out of the orchestra fortheir Jewish origin or relations, five of whom died inconcentration camps, were also published on the website for thefirst time.The conductor, Joseph Kripps, whose father was Jewish, wasforced to leave the orchestra and work in a food factory but waswelcomed back in 1945 at the end of the war.Bernadette Mayrhofer, an independent historian from theUniversity of Vienna, believes that the ostracism of Jewishmusicians had begun even before the 1938 Anschluss with Germany,under a harsh period of authoritarian rule in Austria known asAustrofascism.“It was known whether someone had Jewish roots or a Jewishwife,” she told Reuters.The unfortunate history of the orchestra, has only surfacedgradually, as until the recent findings were published online, thesecrets of the Philharmonic’s archives have only been seenselectively by a handful of commissioned historians.The Vienna Philharmonic has said it is not obliged to givepublic access to its archives, since it is a privateorganization. A history of the Vienna Philharmonic, ‘Democracy of Kings’,published in 1992 by the now chairman Hellsberg, did not mentionmany of the uncomfortable facts now coming to light on thewebsite.Hellsberg, talking at the preview of a documentary by Austrianstate broadcaster ORF, about the orchestra’s Nazi era history, saidthat the orchestra had been quietly working through its history fordecades and now needed to give a proper account ofitself. Harald Walser, an Austrian Greens member of parliament, one ofthe Philharmonic’s most vocal critics, said he welcomed theorchestra’s move but wanted it to go further.“It’s a step in the right direction. But we’re still a longway from having adequate access to the archives,” he said.Fitz Truempi, one of the historians commissioned by theorchestra to write the articles on its website, said it took himthree years to get access to the archives to research an earlierbook, Politicized Orchestra, a study of the Vienna and BerlinPhilharmonics under National Socialism, published in 2011.Truempi thinks the orchestra has come to a decision that it’slong held policy of withholding information about its past is nolonger protecting but harming its image.“For a long time, they tried to maintain strict control overtheir brand but, in the end, the political pressure became suchthat it was the best solution to open up,” he concludes.However, in December last year Walser accused the orchestra, ofdestroying important documents from the World War Two period.The Philharmonic has also been criticized for being toohomogenous. An influential classical music writer, Norman Lebrecht,penned an opinion piece for Bloomberg in January that the orchestrahad only six female members and no Asians even through a third ofthe students from Vienna’s University of Music are Asian.

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Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra admits links with Nazis


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