Vienna Philharmonic lifts lid on Nazi history
Reuters | 2013-3-10 18:13:01
By Agencies
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Vienna Philharmonic holds its annual New Year's Concert at the Golden Hall on January 1, 2013. Photo:IC
Vienna Philharmonic holds its annual New Year's Concert at the Golden Hall on January 1, 2013. Photo:IC



The world-famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra published details of its history during the Nazi era on Sunday, responding to years of accusations of a coverup.

Austria took several decades after World War II to acknowledge and voice regret for its central role in Hitler's Third Reich and Holocaust.

The country will solemnly mark the 75th anniversary on Tuesday 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 over 80 countries and regions.

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, 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.

One historian from the University of Vienna said the ostracism of Jewish musicians had begun even before 1938 under Austrofascism.

The Vienna Philharmonic has further promised to give more details on Sunday 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.


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