Vienna Philharmonic Strips Ex-Nazis of Honors

Friday, December 20, 2013 - 04:00 PM

VIENNA (AP) - The famed Vienna Philharmonic orchestra has quietly stripped six former senior Nazi officials of honors awarded them - a late act of contrition for its embrace of the Hitler era that included purging Jewish members from its ranks.

The decision was divulged to The Associated Press by an orchestra member on Friday and confirmed by historian Oliver Rathkolb.

Rathkolb led research earlier this year documenting the orchestra's close cooperation with Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other top Hitler associates after Germany's 1938 annexation of Austria.

The formal vote to revoke the awards was held at the orchestra's annual meeting on Oct. 23 but the move was not announced. Rathkolb said all ensemble members agreed then to strip the officials from golden rings of honor and medals.

Those losing the honors included Arthur Seyss-Inquart, a top Hitler associate sentenced to death for war crimes and crimes against humanity and Vienna governor Baldur von Schirach, who drew a 20-year prison sentence at the Nuremberg trials for his leading role in the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews.

The others stripped of the honors were senior SS official Albert Reitter; Friedrich Rainer, governor of Salzburg and Carinthia provinces; Rudolf Toepfer, a ranking Hitler-era railway official; and Vienna Mayor Hanns Blaschke. 

Under the Nazis, 13 musicians with Jewish roots or kin were fired by the orchestra and five died in concentration camps. By the end of World War II, about half of the Philharmonic's members had joined the Nazi party.

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Comments [4]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from R

I have lived in Wien, Vienna, across from the Theater an der Wien [the original venue of the world premieres of Mozart's DIE ZAUBERFLOETE and Beethoven's FIDELIO] and at the Hotel Reither a few blocks from the West Bahnhof, Vienna's major railroad station. I did my food shopping at the Farmers Market which like in Barcelona and Sofia [Bulgaria] is both good and inexpensive. Some of my voice teachers were major opera stars who happened to be Jewish: Friedrich Schorr, Alexander Kipnis and Margarete Matzenauer and the symphony conductor, born in Vienna, Siegfried Landau [who founded the Brooklyn Philharmonic]. They in all the years that I studied with them never mentioned that there was any anti-semitic action against them. That might logically have been because they were so famous and accomplished in their art I LOVE WIEN, but I love New York more. I am a Wagnerian romantischer heldentenor. I will sing the four song cycles that are most often performed in their orchestral garb:the complete Wagner's "Wesendonck Lieder," the complete Mahler's "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen," the tenor's music in Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" and Waldemar's music in Schoenberg's "Gurre-Lieder" at the New Life Expo at the Hotel Pennsylvania in NYC on Saturday March 22nd at 6 PM in the Gold Room on the second floor. I have sung four three-hour-long solo concerts, the last two ALL-WAGNER concerts, in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall including programming the Wagner and the first named Mahler song cycle. One may hear my singing LIVE from the main hall, the Isaac Stern Auditorium of CARNEGIE HALL, from my four three-hour-long solo concerts by downloading, FREE, 37 out of the nearly 100 selections that I have sung there by going to RECORDED SELECTIONS on my websites www.WagnerOpera.com, www.ShakespeareOpera.com and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com Roles represented from live performances are Otello, Siegfried, Goetterdaemmerung Siegfried, Florestan, Tristan, Parsifal, Siegmund, Walther von Stolzing, Rienzi, Lohengrin, iOrfeo, Federico and, in oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus.

Feb. 23 2014 10:36 PM

My partner and I visited Vienna about 20 years ago. However, our visit there has left both a sweet and sour (bitter) memory for us. We certainly enjoyed and relished all that Vienna is known for: the wonderful food, pastries and coffee, the history of Mozart, Beethoven, Freud, the architecture, the Cathedral, the walking-ness of the city, able to see its architecture close up.
Throughout our visit there, we intended to make a pilgrimage to the Mauthausen concentration camp. It was important to both of us to visit there, but particularly to my partner who is Jewish. When we arrived in the city, we inquired as to what we had to do to get there. Our initial inquiries were met with vagueness. Several times we were asked, "Why would you want to go there?!"
As we neared the end of our time there and we had been given these kinds of answers and questions, we upped our energy to go there. We found out there was not a direct way to get there. There were no buses that would could take from Vienna to the camp. The only way (that we could ascertain) was to take a train, then a bus, which dropped us off at the bottom of a very steep hill on which the camp was located. We then had to hike about 2 miles up that hill. When we arrived there and entered the compound, we, like everyone there were muted by the horror that went on there even so long ago. We were there for the rest of the day.
That evening, we had tickets to attend a concert at the Vienna Musikverein. It turned out to be an opulent hall ornately decorated in gold leaf. To put it mildly, it was an out-of-body experience! That was the same hall that Nazi officers sat in those very seats many years earlier. Because of our experience earlier in the day, my partner and I both reported to each other that we 'saw' the ghosts of these evil men all around us.
So, this is our very mixed experience of Vienna. But what made the greatest impression on us that day (and it certainly was a powerful day), was the attitude of the Viennese all those so many years later who were personally and institutionally in a profound state of denial about the horror and atrocities that had occurred there.
So it comes as no surprise to us that, even today, 65 years later, that the acknowledgement of what happened there in the 1940's is still begrudgingly acknowledged.
Jack Walters

Feb. 23 2014 05:46 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Simply mentioning this travesty is a vain attempt to try and rehabilitate a horror that cannot be condoned. Why bother to post this? What good do words, any words or empty actions taken in light of the horrors perpetrated against millions in Europe and condoned by past orchestra members do?
Then again as mentioned it only took 65 years to get around to it.
God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Dec. 23 2013 02:16 PM
edm from Brooklyn

Very "impressive" gesture. Only took them 65 years AFTER the end of the war to do it.

Dec. 23 2013 07:03 AM

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