Vienna Philharmonic lifts lid on Nazi history

Sat Mar 9, 2013 9:29pm EST
 
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By Georgina Prodhan

VIENNA (Reuters) - The world-famous Vienna Philharmonic orchestra will publish details of its history during the Nazi era on Sunday, responding to years of accusations of a cover-up.

Austria took several decades after World War Two 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 80 countries.

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 that will be published on its website, 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.

Bernadette Mayrhofer, another of the independent historians from the University of Vienna, said the ostracism of Jewish musicians had begun even before 1938 under Austrofascism, a period of Italian-oriented authoritarian rule in Austria.   Continued...