4. National Socialism

The Vienna Philharmonic under National Socialism (1938 - 1945)

Zoom Vienna Philharmonic and Wilhelm Furtwängler

In 1938, politics encroached upon the Vienna Philharmonic in the most brutal manner. The National Socialists dismissed all Jewish artists from the Vienna State Opera and disbanded the Association of the Vienna Philharmonic. It was only the intervention of Wilhelm Furtwängler and other individuals which achieved the nullification of the disbandment order and, with two exceptions, saved the "half-Jews" and "closely-related" from dismissal from the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. However, five members of the orchestra perished in concentration camps, despite the intervention of the new Nazi chairman of the orchestra, who attempted to rescue them from deportation. Another two members died in Vienna as a direct result of attempted deportation and persecution.

Zoom Julius Stwertka, 1935
Zoom Rosé Quartet, 1915
Zoom Armin Tyroler and Hugo Burghauser, 1923
Zoom Bruno Walter, Rudolf Hanzl and Anton Weiss, 1925

A total of nine orchestra members were driven into exile. The eleven remaining orchestra members who were married to Jewish women or stigmatized as "half-Jewish" lived under the constant threat of revocation of their "special permission".

Yet also within the orchestra, as part of the NS Personnel Organization State Opera (NSBO), there was an active illegal cell, so that even before 1938, when the ban of the NSDAP was in effect, 20% of the members of the orchestra belonged to the Nazi party. In 1942, 60 of the 123 active orchestral musicians had become members of the NSDAP.

The Project "Vienna Philharmonic - A Historical Overview of the NS Era"

Since April 2011, Prof. DDr. Oliver Rathkolb has collected new material on members of the Vienna Philharmonic who fell victim to the Nazis and/or were forced into exile. This material now appears here on the orchestra's website. Much of it is derived from primary sources regarding the lives of the two murdered members of the orchestra, of the five who died following persecution and/or imprisonment in concentration camps and of the nine who were driven into exile. The stories of the eleven members of the orchestra who had Jewish wives or were branded “half-Jews” also receive close study and analysis.

In January 2013, the former chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, Professor Dr. Clemens Hellsberg, commissioned an independent group of historians (Prof. DDr. Oliver Rathkolb (Director), Mag.a Bernadette Mayrhofer, Dr. Fritz Trümpi) to integrate the results of their research and publications, including newly found documents in the Vienna Philharmonic archives, into the orchestra's website.

Zoom Hans Knappertsbusch
Zoom Baldur von Schirach, 1942
Zoom Werkskonzert, 1942
Zoom Vienna Philharmonic, 1942

Mag.a Bernadette Mayrhofer has written biographical sketches of those members of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic who were either forced into exile by the Nazis or lost their lives as a result of Nazi persecution. As far as the sources so far available have allowed this, these sketches highlight a great number of biographical facets in their quest to do justice to the diversity and complexity of the biographies of the exiled or murdered members of the Philharmonic. Her sketches address both the traumas and the achievements of the nine exiles.

Dr. Fritz Trümpi provides an overview of the orchestra’s politicization during and after WWI and of how this process developed in the First Republic and in the era of Austrofascism. Dr. Trümpi deals in detail with the relationship between the Nazi regime and the Vienna Philharmonic’s newly appointed governing body. Newly discovered sources form the basis for a study of the history of the orchestra as an association. He interprets the Philharmonic repertoire in political terms and studies the orchestra’s media presence in the Nazi era.

New sources play a similar part in Prof. DDr. Oliver Rathkolb’s analysis of the marginalization and exclusion of Jewish sponsors and sections of the audience. The second focus in his contribution is on the great number of honorary awards made to Nazi potentates, including Arthur Seyss-Inquart and Baldur von Schirach. Another focus of Rathkolb’s work is the genesis of the New Year's Concerts. A chapter on the goals and the implementation of denazification focuses on continuities both in regard to personnel and content. In both cases, these continuities stretch back to before the Nazi era. Out of the 123 members of the association of the Vienna Philharmonic, 60 were either members of the NSDAP or candidates for membership, two were members of the SS. After 1945 four musicians were dismissed immediately and six were pensioned off. Of this group, two were later readmitted to the State Opera Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic.

The Politicization Process of the Vienna Philharmonic from World War I until 1945

Expulsion and Murder of Vienna Philharmonic Musicians after 1938

Deportation and Murder

'Died in Vienna'

Vienna Philharmonic Musicians in Exile

Observations on Nazification and Denazification

Post-war period



5. The Modern Era