Famed Vienna Orchestra Finally Admits Nazi Past

Philharmonic Concedes It Honored Convicted War Criminal

Glitzy Present, Shameful Past: Behind the grandeur of the Vienna Philharmonic lies a shameful past of links to Nazis and honors for war criminals.
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Glitzy Present, Shameful Past: Behind the grandeur of the Vienna Philharmonic lies a shameful past of links to Nazis and honors for war criminals.

By Reuters

Published March 10, 2013.
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According to a reliable witness, the person who delivered the replacement was trumpeter Helmut Wobisch, then the director of the orchestra and a former member of the SS, or paramilitary wing, of the Nazi party, Rathkolb’s article says.

The Vienna Philharmonic’s current chairman, Clemens Hellsberg, told Reuters the orchestra would now have to take a democratic decision as to whether to revoke the awards it made to the Nazis during that period.

A total of 60 of the orchestra’s 123 members were either members of the Nazi party or wanted to become members as of 1942, in the middle of World War Two, the orchestra said on Sunday. Two were members of the SS.

DIFFERENT TIMES

Hellsberg wrote a history of the Vienna Philharmonic in 1992, “Democracy of Kings”, in which many of the uncomfortable facts now being published did not appear. He has said he did not have access to all the relevant documents when he wrote it.

Asked on Sunday why it had taken so long to come to this point, he said the orchestra had been quietly working through its history for decades, and now realised it needed to give a proper account of itself online.

“I grew up in a different time, when the book was the most significant medium, but one has to live with the fact that the Internet is a different medium that we have to live with and where we have to represent ourselves,” he said.

Hellsberg was speaking at a preview of a documentary by Austrian state broadcaster ORF about the orchestra’s Nazi-era history, commissioned to coincide with the website additions.

Details of 13 musicians who were driven out of the orchestra over their Jewish origin or relations after Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938 - five of whom died in concentration camps - were also published on the site for the first time.


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