The Vienna Philharmonic has asked three historians to research the orchestra’s alleged Nazi past.
The announcement on Jan. 22 comes after Harald Walser, a historian and Parliament member for the Austrian Greens, said in an interview that the orchestra demonstrated sympathy for the country’s Nazi leadership during World War II.
Historians Fritz Truempi, Oliver Rathkolb and Bernadette Mayrhofer will look into the “politicization” of the Vienna Philharmonic from 1938 to 1945, the fate of its Jewish musicians during that time and its relations with Nazis afterward, according to an orchestra statement, the French news agency AFP reported. Their report is due in March.
Walser has called for forming a committee of inquiry into the role of the philharmonic during those years and said the orchestra has not released all its documents from the Nazi era or has destroyed some of them.
He cited a listing on the philharmonic’s official website that describes a concert delivered on New Year’s Day of 1939 as a “sublime homage to Austria,” when it actually was a celebration of the country’s 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 to an estimated audience of 50 million in 73 countries.
Walser claims that after the war, an emissary of the Vienna Philharmonic gave a new copy of its honor ring in 1966 to Nazi war criminal Baldur von Schirach, who was responsible for the deportation of tens of thousands of Austrian Jews to death camps, following his release from Berlin’s Spandau Prison for war criminals. Von Schirach had received the original ring in 1942.
Six Jewish musicians from the philharmonic were murdered by the Nazis in Austria, and 11 were deported to death camps, according to reports.