The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has a dark side; they have finally admitted their past Nazi associations which did not end with the Third Reich. According to a March 10 report on Bloomberg.com, the world famous orchestra has even admitted honoring a Nazi war criminal with a special ring around 1966 or 1967. The eagerly awaited, annual New Year's Eve concert by this 171-year-old orchestra actually began as a public relations creation of the Nazi regime.
The report containing the damning information published Sunday was commissioned by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, a very powerful and elite organization, after many years of social pressure to come clean about their Nazi past. The document was the work of a panel of historians led by Oliver Rathkolb, a professor at the University of Vienna.
In 1942, a total of 60 of 123 members of the Vienna Philharmonic were members of the Nazi party. They had dismissed all of their Jewish musicians in 1938. The self-governing orchestra had presented a prestigious award to the Nazi who was then the governor of Vienna. The philharmonic’s ring of honor was presented to Baldur Von Schirach.
The very offensive part of this story, published on Bloomberg.com, is that long after the war, this indicted war criminal was presented a replacement ring by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as recently as 1966 or 1967. At that time, Baldur Von Schirach had just been released from prison for crimes against humanity. Von Schirach was responsible for the deportation of tens of thousands of Austrian Jews
After the war only 10 members of the Vienna Philharmonic were forced to leave due to their Nazi past, and two of those returned. One of them was actually a member of Hitler's dreaded SS, Helmut Wobisch. Having taken part in spying on musicians, he still returned as director of the democratically-run orchestra. It was under his leadership in the late 1960s when the prestigious ring awarded to Von Schirach was replaced.
It is appropriate that these revelations come at this time because on Tuesday, March 12, Austria will mark the 75th anniversary of the country’s annexation by Hitler, called “Anschluss.” Austria did not publicly admit a national remorse about their role in the Nazi atrocities until the 1990s.