THE director of the Vienna Philharmonic may have given a prestigious award to a convicted Nazi war criminal two decades after the end of the Second World War, the orchestra has admitted.
The Philharmonic also accepted that many of its musicians were involved in the Nazi party during Hitler’s reign, and that Jewish members of the orchestra were driven out to eventually end up in death camps.
Baldur von Schirach, the Nazi governor of Vienna who sent tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps, was reportedly delivered a replacement of his ring of honour at the end of a 20-year-sentence imposed at Nuremberg. The ring was delivered by a trumpeter in the orchestra, who was also a former member of the SS.
The revelations came on Sunday night, and mark the first time that the world-famous group has published details of its behaviour during WWII.
It has also been revealed that the orchestra’s world-famous New Year’s Day concert was devised as a Nazi propaganda tool in 1939.
New reports on the orchestra’s website detail that, at one stage, half of the orchestra were members of the Nazi Party or looking to join. Two members of the orchestra were also active members of the SS.
13 members of the Philharmonic were thrown out because of their Jewish origins, and five of those died in concentration camps.
The Vienna Philharmonic says it is not obliged to give public access to its archives, although it does grant access to selected historians and scholars.
Austria will mark the 75th anniversary of its annexation by the Nazis on Tuesday.