Austrian MP Criticizes Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for Allegedly Covering Up Past

An Austrian Member of Parliament is criticizing the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for ignoring its past connections to Nazi Germany. According to The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that MP, Harald Walser, is a member of the Austrian Greens. He is also a historian.

The JTA reports that Walser took issue with a statement on the Philharmonic’s web site that claimed that a concert it had performed in 1939 was a “sublime homage to Austria”. According to Walser, the concert was not a celebration of Austria, but, instead, “a celebration of its unification with Nazi Germany in 1938.” According to CRIF, Walser said that the concert had little to do with Austrian culture, but was instead, “One aspect of Nazi cultural policy.” CRIF also reports that the first New Year’s concert performed by the Vienna Philharmonic (it now holds one annually) “followed Anschluss, which marked the union of Germany and Austria in 1938, very closely indeed.”

The Anschluss dramatically changed the Philharmonic itself. In March of 1939, just a few months after  the first New Year’s concert was held, a reporter for Ohio’s Youngstown Vindicator wrote, “The Vienna Philharmonic orchestra was probably the best orchestra in the world: 40 percent of its members were dismissed.” The reporter also noted that Nazi supporters had begun referring to Vienna’s past culture as “fake culture” and said that it was the “work of the Jews.”

According to CRIF, Walser has asked for an independent commission of historians to be created to examine the Orchestra’s activities between 1938 and 1945. The reason Walser objects to The Philharmonic’s statements and omissions, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP), is that he believes that it does not “honor the memory” of those who were “deported and  murdered by Nazis.” Some of these, says AFP, were Jewish musicians.

Yet while Walser says the orchestra has ignored the suffering of the Holocaust’s victims, says AFP, it has given the Ring of Honor to former Nazi-leader Baldur von Schirach, who was in charge of the Hitler Youth and also acted as governor of Vienna during Nazi rule. According to AFP, Schirach was sentenced at Nuremberg to 20 years in prison, but was later pardoned.

Filed Under: Politics


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Miranda Flint About the Author: Miranda has a B.A. in political science and has worked over a decade as a news reporter, financial news writer and political blogger. More about Miranda

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