“The Vienna Philharmonic has revoked honors it bestowed on six notable Nazi officials during Hitler’s reign in Austria and Germany,” writes James Oestreich in Sunday’s (12/22) New York Times. “The honorees had received rings of honor and Nicolai Medals, made of gold and named for the orchestra’s founder.… Those stripped of their honors included Baldur von Schirach, the governor of Vienna from 1940 to 1945, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart, a minister in Hitler’s cabinet…. Schirach, who spent 20 years in prison, lost his ring of honor, and the orchestra sent an emissary in 1966 or 1967 to replace it. When this belated flirtation with Schirach came to light a year ago, … the orchestra hired three historians … to do a thorough accounting of the matter. Their findings … revealed that the Schirach emissary was the trumpeter Helmut Wobisch, who as a member of the Nazi Party and the SS spied on fellow musicians. He was fired by the orchestra after the war, rejoined it in 1947, became its executive director in 1953 and played in it until 1968.” The players’ decision to revoke the honors … was “such an obvious thing,” says Vienna Philharmonic violinist and orchestra president Clemens Hellsberg in the article.

Posted December 23, 2013