Superheroes at the SmithsonianVIENNA - The world-famous Vienna Philharmonic orchestra published details of its history during the Nazi era yesterday, responding to years of accusations of a cover-up.
Austria took several decades after World War II to acknowledge and voice regret for its central role in Hitler’s Third Reich and the Holocaust. The country will solemnly mark the 75th anniversary tomorrow of its annexation by Nazi Germany.
One of the world’s premier orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic is most popularly known for its annual New Year’s Concert, a Strauss waltz extravaganza that is broadcast to an audience of more than 50 million in 80 countries.
Less well known is the fact that the concert originated as a propaganda instrument under Nazi rule in 1939. The orchestra rarely played the music of the Strauss family, known for the “Blue Danube” and numerous other waltzes, before this period.
The New Year’s Concert helped promote Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’ desired image of Vienna. He wrote in his diaries that the Austrian capital should be seen as a city of “culture, music, optimism and conviviality.”
Fritz Truempi, one of three historians commissioned by the orchestra to produce articles on the orchestra’s Nazi era that was published on its Web site, told Reuters: “The New Year’s Concert was invented under the Nazis.”
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 - will also be published on the site for the first time.
Bernadette Mayrhofer, another of the 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.
The Vienna Philharmonic has further promised to give more details about a ring of honor it presented in 1942 to Baldur von Schirach, a Nazi governor of Vienna who oversaw the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews.
A replacement for the ring, which Schirach lost, may have been delivered to him in the 1960s, after his release from prison for crimes against humanity, according to Harald Walser, a Greens member of Austria’s Parliament and others. Reuters