Vienna Philharmonic reveals secrets of Nazi past

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Vienna Philharmonic reveals secrets of Nazi past

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The Vienna Philharmonic has released new details of its Nazi past.

By 1942, half of the orchestra’s members were either in the Nazi Party, or had applied to be, and the orchestra gave rings of honour and medals to high-ranking Nazi officials and military leaders.

One of the rings was awarded to Baldur von Schirach, a Nazi governor of Vienna who oversaw the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps and was sentenced to 20 years in jail by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal after the war.

In one of the new articles published on its website, Vienna University Historian Oliver Rathkolb reported that a replacement ring was delivered to Schirach after his release two decades after the end of World War II.

“The orchestra was definitely too close to the political leaders of the time,” said Rathkolb. “That was clear in 1942 during the 100-year celebration which was closely linked with the regime. The orgies of honorary member awards were completely unnecessary. Nothing would have happened if they hadn’t done it.”

The orchestra also released, on its website information of 13 members with Jewish origin or relations who were driven out in 1938, five of whom died in concentration camps.

The Vienna Philharmonic’s current chairman, Clemens Hellberg, would now have to take a democratic decision whether to revoke awards handed to Nazis during that time.

He said the orchestra has been working through its history for decades and now realised the need to give a proper account of itself online.