Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Yields to Criticism, Details Nazi-era Past

Orchestra yields to years of criticism, revealing, among other things, that five of its musicians driven out of the orchestra for being Jewish were sent to concentration camps.

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Five of the 13 musicians driven out of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra in the Nazi era for being Jewish or married to Jews were sent to their deaths in concentration camps, historians found.

The information was published Sunday on the orchestra's website, which yielded to years of criticism by revealing details about its history during that era. Further details are expected to be published on Tuesday.

The orchestra in January commissioned three historians to research its past in the period before, during and after World War II.

Along with the five musicians who died in the camps, the others drummed out for their Jewish ties were deported and never returned, researchers Oliver Rathkolb, Bernadette Mayrhofer and Fritz Trumpi found.

Sixty of the 123 active members of the orchestra were members of the Nazi party. Of them, 10 were forced to leave and two returned after leaving. The historians found that by 1942, even before 1938, while the party was still banned, approximately 20 percent of the orchestra members already were members of the Nazi party.

The orchestra, which is a private organization, is one of Austria’s foremost cultural institutions. Its concert of waltzes by the composer Johann Strauss is broadcast around the world each year on New Year’s Day.

A membership registry book of the Vienna Philharmonic in which the names of Jewish musicians of the orchestra were crossed out after the 1938 Anschluss.. Credit: AFP / Wiener Philharmoniker
A page of the Vienna Philharmonic's membership registry book with the crossed out names of the orchestra's Jewish musicians. Credit: AFP / Wiener Philharmoniker

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