Vienna orchestra details Nazi-era past

(JTA) — The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has yielded to years of criticism by revealing details about its history during the Nazi era.

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Following a renewed bout of criticism over the refusal of the orchestra — which is a private organization — to give the public access to its archives, the orchestra in January commissioned three historians to research its history in the period before, during and after World War II.

The researchers, Oliver Rathkolb, a professor at the University of Vienna, Bernadette Mayrhofer and Fritz Trümpi, found that 13 musicians were driven out of the orchestra for being Jewish or married to Jews. Of them, five died in concentration camps, others were deported; none returned.

Sixty of the 123 active members of the orchestra were members of the Nazi party. Of them, 10 were forced to leave and two returned after leaving. The historians found that by 1942, even before 1938, while the party was still banned, around 20 percent of the orchestra members already were members of the Nazi party.

The information was published on March 10 on the website of the orchestra, which is one of Austria’s foremost cultural institutions and whose concert of waltzes by the Romantic composer, Johann Strauss, is broadcast around the world each year on New Year’s day.

The orchestra will publish further details on Tuesday. 

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