VIENNA (AP) — The famed Vienna Philharmonic orchestra has quietly stripped six former senior Nazi officials of honors awarded them — a late act of contrition for its embrace of the Hitler era that included purging Jewish members from its ranks.
The decision was divulged to The Associated Press by an orchestra member on Friday and confirmed by historian Oliver Rathkolb.
Rathkolb led research earlier this year documenting the orchestra’s close cooperation with Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other top Hitler associates after Germany’s 1938 annexation of Austria.
The formal vote to revoke the awards was held at the orchestra’s annual meeting on Oct. 23 but the move was not announced. Rathkolb said all ensemble members agreed then to strip the officials from golden rings of honor and medals.
Those losing the honors included Arthur Seyss-Inquart, a top Hitler associate sentenced to death for war crimes and crimes against humanity and Vienna governor Baldur von Schirach, who drew a 20-year prison sentence at the Nuremberg trials for his leading role in the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews.
The others stripped of the honors were senior SS official Albert Reitter; Friedrich Rainer, governor of Salzburg and Carinthia provinces; Rudolf Toepfer, a ranking Hitler-era railway official; and Vienna Mayor Hanns Blaschke.
Under the Nazis, 13 musicians with Jewish roots or kin were fired by the orchestra and five died in concentration camps. By the end of World War II, about half of the Philharmonic’s members had joined the Nazi party.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.