Vienna Philharmonic strips ex-Nazis of honors
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Vienna Philharmonic strips ex-Nazis of honors

Austrian orchestra voted in October to revoke honorary membership given to six Nazi officials during World War II

The Golden Hall, home of the Vienna Philharmonic (photo credit: Clemens PFEIFFER, A-1190 Wien, Wikimedia Commons)
The Golden Hall, home of the Vienna Philharmonic (photo credit: Clemens PFEIFFER, A-1190 Wien, Wikimedia Commons)

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.

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