web analytics
March 3, 2015 / 12 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post


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

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.

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. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com


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.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

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.

Current Top Story
Americans have a more favorable view of Netanyahu than they do of Obama.
Transcript of PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s Historic Speech to Congress
Latest News Stories
Americans have a more favorable view of Netanyahu than they do of Obama.

Israel’s PM Netanyahu was interrupted 40 times with standing ovations in his 40 minute historic speech to the US Congress on Tuesday. Transcript here.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the US Congress in Washington on May 24 2011.

Analysis and review of Netanyahu’s speech in Congress will be up soon… The speech begins at 6pm Israel Time / 11AM NY Time. Watch live below: Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Netanyahu's map illustrating the extent of the Iran-funded  Hezbollah terrorist network.

The Prime Minister showed AIPAC a map of Iranian-backed Hezbollah attacks in five different continents.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

If Iran is serious, Netanyahu can skip his speech and tell the Air Force to rev up its engines.

Names and contact information of House Democrats who have confirmed attendance at Bibi’s speech.

The anti-Netanyahu crowd, in the spirit of topsy-turvy Purim, drummed up support for his speech.

Iran, like the Palestinian Authority, has one mindset. A deal is not peace. It is an evil piece of paper.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas is making sure PA children will go without milk and the parents forced to ration what little milk they have.

US President Barack Obama contends Israel is “safer today than ever before,” says give Iran talks a chance.

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is threatening to kill the founder of Twitter and his employees because they are blocking tweets from Daesh, known also as ISIS.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power tells AIPAC on Monday that America “will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Period.”

“Today, we are no longer silent; today, we have a voice. Tomorrow, as prime minister of the only Jewish state, I plan to use that voice.”

Former Consul Alon Pinkas charges Prime Minister Netanyahu is “injecting Israel into the American political arena – he loves doing that.”

Former Israel Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold says PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “will have substance no one has heard before.”

Want to know who are the Bibicotters and how you can tell them what you think?

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a packed room at AIPAC on Monday the US-Israel alliance is “sound.” But on Iran: “No one makes alliances with the weak,” he warned.

More Articles from Lori Lowenthal Marcus
U.S. Capitol

Names and contact information of House Democrats who have confirmed attendance at Bibi’s speech.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many of the Bibicotters

Want to know who are the Bibicotters and how you can tell them what you think?

Bibi’s speech will be during the U.S. workday, but prime viewing time in Israel.

Free speech is cherished, but hate displays on Sacramento home quite disturbing.

Three car accident near Beit Shemesh on Saturday evening. At least 10 injured.

Once again al Quds’ Said Arikat used the State Dept. Briefing room to slander Israel with false “facts.”

Netanyahu to meet with bipartisan congressional leadership before he addresses the joint session of Congress on March 3.

Amnesty International: Israel amongst the world’s greatest human rights abusers, seeks to strip the Jewish State of UNSC protection.

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: