web analytics
April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Sour Sound of Music: Vienna Philharmonic’s Nazi Past

The Vienna Philharmonic also had members of the SS, one of whom turned over more than a dozen orchestra members, at least five of whom perished in Nazi concentration camps. After the war, that Nazi official become the orchestra's executive director.

Vienna Philharmonic

Vienna Philharmonic

Share Button

Tuesday, March 12, marks the 75th anniversary of the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.  For many today, that historical episode is most firmly rooted in their memories of watching the 1965 musical “The Sound of Music,” in which the Austrian Von Trapp family climbed the Alps to escape the Nazi takeover of their country.

Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and the rest of the cast made lovely music as freedom-loving Austrians who risked their lives to flee from the Nazi regime, but we now learn that the Vienna Philharmonic, the real musicians representing Austria, did not flee but instead nearly half had joined, and more tried to, the Nazi Party.

At a press conference at the Vienna State Opera on Sunday night, a team of historians who had been given less than three months to investigate the Philharmonic’s tainted past, revealed a harvest of horrors.

In addition to orchestra members who had been low level members of the Nazi party, there were also SS – paramilitary – officials, including one trumpeter, Helmut Wobisch, who worked as a spy and who turned over more than a dozen orchestra members who were Jewish or married to Jews.  At least five of those who had been turned over by Wobisch died in Nazi concentration camps.

Although Wobisch was removed from the orchestra in a “de-Nazification” effort after the war, he was welcomed back just two years later as lead trumpeter, and later served as the Philharmonic’s executive director between 1954 and 1968.

In his role as director of the Vienna Philharmonic, Wobisch was responsible for presenting the orchestra’s prestigious Ring of Honour to a notorious Nazi war criminal, Baldur Van Schirach in 1966.  Schirach had served as head of the Hilter Youth, and was the Nazi governor of Vienna. He directed the deportation to concentration camps of tens of thousands of Jews during the war. Before and after the war the Philharmonic presented the rings to outstanding musicians, but during the Nazi era they were awarded to war “heroes.”

Schirach had originally been awarded the ring in 1942, but US troops seized it when he was arrested in 1945.  He was sentenced to 20 years in Spandau Prison for crimes against humanity by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal in 1946. Wobisch returned the ring to Schirach after his prison term ended.

The current chairman of the orchestra, Clemens Hellsberg, told Reuters the orchestra would now have to take a democratic decision as to whether to revoke the awards it made to the Nazis during that period. No guessing how that will go.

The Vienna Philharmonic is best known for its New Years concerts which are broadcast on New Years day every year and heard by many millions of people in 80 countries throughout the world.  What most listeners don’t know, however, is that the concert was begun in 1939 as a way to help spread Nazi propaganda.

The orchestra has been criticized for failing to disclose its shameful past. This past December, Harald Walser, an Austrian politician demanded that the Vienna Philharmonic examine its Nazi past and accused the orchestra of a lack of transparency and of destroying important documents from the World War II era.

Bernadette Mayrhofer of the University of Vienna, one of the independent historians tasked with revealing the details, said the ostracism of Jewish musicians had begun even before 1938 under Austrofascism.

Much of the information that has come out about the Nazi connection of the Vienna Philharmonic is now posted on the orchestra’s website.

This year’s PBS broadcast of the Philharmonic’s New Years Concert was hosted by Julie Andrews.  There has been no comment thus far from Ms. Andrews about Austria’s real-life wartime musicians.

Share Button

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

2 Responses to “Sour Sound of Music: Vienna Philharmonic’s Nazi Past”

  1. The Austrians despise the Von Trapp family for being deserters. Jews are flocking to Austria from Hungary. Out of the frying pan…

  2. Lest we forget………..
    I am remembering the Mamilla Pool!
    I am remembering Deir Yassin!
    I am remembering Sabra and Shatilla!
    I am remembering Shlomo Morel!
    And many, many more!

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
Flyers ordered Jews to appear at a designated location in Ukraine, in Sept., 1941. The next day, the Jews lined up at the Babi Yar Ravine.
‘Jews Must Register’ Flyer in Ukraine an Echo of Babi Yar
Latest News Stories
Rabbi Stav spoke after the visiting head of the Reform movement, Reform Rabbi (nebech) Rick Jacobs, had told the Knesset forum that Reform and Conservative Jews outnumber and outweigh the Orthodox.

As Rabbi Stav said, “You’re free to think what you want. But do you want me to recognize Chelsea Clinton’s child as a Jew?”

Flyers ordered Jews to appear at a designated location in Ukraine, in Sept., 1941. The next day, the Jews lined up at the Babi Yar Ravine.

In 1941, the Jews of Kiev received a similar leaflet. When they showed up the next day, more than 34,000 were murdered.

South Florida teen stabbed in high school gym.

Teen stabbed in South Florida high school.

Birkat Cohanim 2014

The Kotel Plaza, the stairs, the Kotel entrance, the roads, everything was packed for Birkat Cohanim – the Priestly Blessing of the People – now imagine if this had been held on top of Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount!

Four Israeli citizens were hurt Thursday in a road terror attack near Tekoa in Gush Etzion.

Israel Police closed access to the Temple Mount to Jews and other non-Muslims on Thursday due to Arab violence.

Jews in Donetsk, Ukraine this week were ordered to “register” themselves and their assets.

U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East Martin Indyk is on his way back to the region to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Hebron is proving to be a popular family tourist site during the Passover Holiday.

Hundreds attended the funeral of Police Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi, who was slain by terrorists on Passover eve.

A local Jewish merchant was stabbed Monday on the island of Djerba.

The Israeli hi-tech company Matrix has announced it is opening a “massive training center” in Nanjing, China.

Rabbis have been busy with preparations for the traditional Birkat Kohanim, Priestly Blessing, set for Thursday.

The suspect charged in the pre-Passover shooting deaths of three people outside two Kansas Jewish centers is a known white supremacist.

More than 400 people sat down at the first seder this year at the Chabad House of Bangkok, Thailand.

The following is President Obama’s statement on Passover (April 14, 2014). As he has in the past, the President held an official Passover Seder at the White House. Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world. On Tuesday, just as we […]

More Articles from Lori Lowenthal Marcus
Flyers ordered Jews to appear at a designated location in Ukraine, in Sept., 1941. The next day, the Jews lined up at the Babi Yar Ravine.

In 1941, the Jews of Kiev received a similar leaflet. When they showed up the next day, more than 34,000 were murdered.

South Florida teen stabbed in high school gym.

Teen stabbed in South Florida high school.

Ron Pundak was involved in many leftist “peace” initiatives. Pundak died on Friday.

Another failed anti-Israel Divestment measure. This one at Cornell University.

The US may pretend it was forced to give up Pollard, but it is US that most wants to continue talks.

Hirsi Ali’s critics wanted her silenced; Brandeis granted their wish.

Brandeis buckled to those who embrace diversity and tolerance only of their own views.

Celebrate Israel Parade should be successful, without anti-Israel BDSers parading down 5th Avenue!

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/sour-sound-of-music-vienna-philharmonics-nazi-past/2013/03/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: