Did Vienna Orchestra Try To Hide Nazi Past?

Lawmaker Accuses Philharmonic of Concealing Stance

By JTA

Published January 02, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

An Austrian lawmaker accused the Vienna Philharmonic of attempting to conceal the institution’s sympathy for the country’s Nazi leadership during World War II.

Harald Walser, a historian and Parliament member for the Austrian Greens, made the accusations in a recent interview for the ORF national public service broadcaster.

Walser cited a listing on the Philharmonic’s official website, which describes a concert delivered on New Year’s Day of 1939 as a “sublime homage to Austria” when in fact it was a celebration of its unification with Nazi Germany in 1938.

The New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic takes place each year on the morning of Jan. 1 in Vienna and is broadcast around the world to an estimated audience of 50 million in 73 countries.

According to Walser, the orchestra has not released all its documents from the Nazi era or has destroyed some of them. He has called for forming a committee of inquiry into the role of the Vienna Philharmonic during the years 1938-1945.

One of the alleged omissions concerns the “Honor Ring of the Vienna Philharmonic,” which the orchestra’s directors gave in 1942, according to Walser, to the war criminal Baldur von Schirach, who was responsible for the deportation of tens of thousands of Austrian Jews to death camps.

Orchestra Chairman Clemens Hellsberg has written an in-depth book about the history of the orchestra titled “Democracy of Kings.” It includes a section about the orchestra’s history under the Nazis, but makes no mention of the award given to Schirach.

Walser further claims that after the war, an emissary of the Vienna Philharmonic had a new copy of the ring made and gave it to Schirach in 1966 following his release from Berlin’s Spandau Prison for war criminals.

Hellsberg has denied that there was any record of these events in the orchestra’s extensive archive.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.