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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Conductor Josef Krips was ousted and worked in a food factory for years, but was allowed back after the defeat of Nazi Germany - and Austria - in 1945, ending the war.

Bernadette Mayrhofer, another of the independent historians from the University of Vienna, said the ostracism of Jewish musicians had begun even before 1938 under Austrofascism, a period of Italian-oriented authoritarian rule in Austria.

“It was known whether somebody had Jewish roots or a Jewish wife,” she told Reuters.

Many orchestra members joined the German Nazi party, illegal at that time in Austria, before the Anschluss (annexation) of 1938. After the war, just four party members were fired during the “de-Nazification” period and another six were pensioned off.

Wobisch, the SS member, was among those sacked in 1945 but managed to rejoin the Philharmonic as lead trumpeter in 1947.

LITTLE STEP

Harald Walser, an Austrian Greens member of parliament who is one of the Philharmonic’s most vocal and persistent critics, welcomed the orchestra’s decision to become more transparent, although he said it did not go far enough.

“It’s a little step in the right direction,” he told Reuters. “But we’re still a long way from having adequate access to the archives.”

The three historians commissioned by the orchestra were given less than two months to write their articles following a decision by the orchestra’s management after this January’s New Year’s concert, an annual focal point for criticism.

All three had previously done work in the field.


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