Arts feature

The Nazi origins of the Vienna Phil’s New Year’s Day concert

It’s a ritual that passes for culture and tradition but is neither, says Norman Lebrecht

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

It may be the last water-cooler moment in world television. On the first morning of the year, at 11.15 Central European Time, in a place that considers itself the epicentre of Europe, a group of men in formal dress mount the Musikvereinssaal stage in Vienna to perform a ritual that passes for culture and tradition. It is, of course, neither.

The music is strictly bar-room, written by members of the Strauss family as social foreplay for the soldiery and serving classes in low taverns. Like most forms of dirty dancing, the music rose vertically from barroom to ballroom and was soon performed as encores by symphonic orchestras to dowager purrs of wie schön.

The New Year’s Day concert is an annual jellybox of waltzes, polkas, galops, marches and any old tritsch-trash. It is watched by 60 million people in 90 countries, a triumph of brand marketing over musical substance, with a smiley tag of ‘hope, friendship and peace’. Its cultural value is equal to a double-dollop of tourist kitsch. Harmless, unless you are weight-watching.

The tradition, however, is decidedly pernicious. This concert came into being as a gift to Nazi criminals, a cover for genocide. The Vienna Philharmonic was quick to sack Jewish and leftist musicians when Hitler came to town. More than a dozen were sent to concentration camps; seven of them perished. The orchestra unanimously endorsed the Anschluss with Germany, exhorted by the conductor Karl Böhm to declare ‘a 100 per cent “yes”’, and proved a willing executioner of cultural cleansing, removing Mahler and other giants from its walls and histories.

But racist revisionism yielded no instant reward. Vienna was downgraded by the Nazis to a provincial capital and the Philharmonic feared losing status. So the players went wooing Baldur von Schirach, the Vienna Gauleiter, a lover of music who would send 65,000 Viennese Jews to their deaths.

Schirach had signed off the first Strauss concert on 31 December 1939, funnelling its proceeds to the Nazi Kriegwinterhilfswerk charity. From 1941, he made the Strauss concert an annual event. It was conducted by the Nazified Clemens Krauss, later by the immaculate concertmaster Willi Boskovsky. Wie schön, sighed the dowagers.

The Nazi origins were suppressed until last year when a historian discovered that the Philharmonic had given its ring of honour to six mass-murderers, including Schirach; the butcher of Holland, Arthur Seyss-Inquart; and the head of Reich railways who ran the trains to Auschwitz. Those honours weren’t revoked until 2013 and some of the criminals could be seen attending Philharmonic concerts into the 1960s.

Look around the glittering audience of business chiefs, celebrities, politicians and diplomats on New Year’s morning and it is not hard to picture their predecessors in black in the same plush seats. Wien bleibt Wien — Vienna never changes — is the city’s motto. Its defining characteristic, noted by Sigmund Freud, is Schein über Sein — looking good is better than being good. Appearance, in Vienna, counts most.

After decades of whitewashing its history, the orchestra has come half-clean under pressure in the past few years, but you don’t have to scratch very deep to find enduring Nazi legacies. Karl Böhm, a brilliant conductor but not a very bright man, used to say that ‘the Nazis aren’t that bad — they want to eliminate women from politics.’ Many in the Vienna Philharmonic would agree with that.

The orchestra has, until recently, excluded women. One of the perverse pleasures of watching the New Year’s Day broadcast is to count how few females are permitted to take part. The orchestra has just seven women members out of a roll call of 130, the lowest in any 21st-century symphony orchestra.

Sex discrimination is illegal under Austrian and European law. Three years ago Parliament penalised the Philharmonic with a €2.29 million funding cut (only for the money to be repaid by sympathetic officials through a back door).

In defence of their closed shop, musicians maintain that their playing style is passed from father to son, cousin to cousin, preserving the last recognisable sound in an over-homogenised concert world. The nepotists have a point. No other orchestra achieves Vienna’s saccharine sleekness in Strauss, its ironic detachment in Mahler.

But the sound is obtained at the expense of unacceptable prejudice. Asian and women players who win competitive auditions to the orchestra of the Vienna Opera, where they play alongside VPO members, are humiliatingly excluded from the men’s club — the male conspiracy — that is the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Most, in this day and age, find such attitudes unacceptable. The Philharmonic has faced demonstrations and legal threats on tour in the United States. But not at home, never on New Year’s Day.

So long as appearance defeats substance — so long as the world oohs and ahhs at the musical sweetmeats and ignores the dirt in the kitchen, New Year’s Day from Vienna will remain a family favourite, a testament to our human ability to look the other way.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

© Norman Lebrecht

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Show comments
  • Andrew Barnard

    This is a shameful post, one that once again seeks to score political points for no good reason at all. Anytime a musical institution is successful, sooner or later Norman will go off on another tirade.

    • Mc

      Does the article’s author state anything untrue? His motive is irrelevant.

      • The Elderking

        Motive is everything….

        • Mc

          So factual accuracy is turned into untruths by dint of the motive? Truthfulness and motive are 2 separate issues that should be dealt with separately. For example, is the factual accuracy of me exceeding the speed limit turned to an inaccuracy if my motive for speeding is deemed to be virtuous?

          • The Elderking

            The guy has a malign motive and it’s plain that he is assembling “facts” to create his article in such a way as to slight the orchestra.

            His article is simply spiteful and racist.

            You may not have noticed but the war ended a long time ago.

          • Mc

            1. Could you please specify what his motive is?
            2. What has he said that has enabled you to confirm what his motive is?
            3. You’ve also placed facts in inverted commas. Could you confirm whether you’ve done so because you believe he hasn’t marshalled any facts?
            3.1 Could you specify what these facts or non-facts are?
            4. My understanding of racism is that it is prejudice and discrimination based on someone’s race. Could you identify the words and sentences where the journalist is being racist?
            5. Are you saying that it is spiteful and racist to mention the orchestra’s historic Nazi connections and racist behaviours?
            6. Do you believe that it is spiteful and racist and unacceptable to mention the orchestra’s historic Nazi connections and racist behaviours?

            My apologies for my detailed questions, but I was hoping you’d be able to answer them because when I posed these questions to others, they’ve avoided them and kept moving onto their next set of grievances.

          • Dougie

            However, motive informs the presentation of the facts. Every piece of non-fiction writing, however full of facts, tells us (intentionally or otherwise) how we are supposed to interpret those facts.
            “Mc was stopped by the police for exceeding the speed limit”
            or, “Mc was stopped by the police for travelling at 32mph in a 30mph limit”
            Both entirely factual but readers may think differently about your driving depending on which version they read.
            BTW, I express no opinion on Lebrecht’s article: I merely seek to point out that context is everything.

          • Mc

            My initial point was probably badly phrased iro what I was trying to say. Some posters are rubbishing Lebrecht’s article on the basis of his alleged dark motives. I’m trying to separate out fact from motive, because many of these posters are conflating the two. This is a standard whataboutism mechanism. Context or motive has no bearing on whether a statement is factual. As you point out, context and motive certainly explains why someone may something, but it doesn’t alter the factual accuracy of their statements.
            This conflation of fact and motive is born out by the fact that when I press these posters on what Lebrecht’s motives are, they don’t want to answer. Neither do they want to clarify how Lebrecht is misusing facts. They also place the word facts in inverted commas. According to the conventional use of inverted commas, this would clearly signal that they don’t actually believe that Lebrecht’s statements are factual. When I press them on which facts they dispute, I don’t get an answer either.
            Until I obtain clarity from these posters, I’d suggest that it is reasonable to conclude that the reason for their grievance is that they believe it is unacceptable for Lebrecht to mention the orchestra’s Nazi past. Which is rather ironic, because Lebrecht points out that the orchestra appears to have a similar mindset, in that it has only very recently publicly acknowledged its Nazi connections. Those familiar with Austria’s history will know that this aversion to acknowledging Austria’s enthusiastic Nazi support and it’s post-war behaviour toward Jews is deeply embedded in Austrian institutions and Austrian society.

          • Dougie

            You might be interested in a book by Misha Aster called “The Reich’s Orchestra”, which tells a similar story about the Berlin Philharmonic.

        • Thomtids

          No, with respect, motive isn’t everything. The facts depose to guilt, motive goes as to mitigation, if any!.

      • Andrew Barnard

        Motives aren’t irrelevant. It’s obvious Norman has a strong bent outside of simply conveying truth. It’s the way Norman handles the information that is completely unnecessary and vitriolic.

        • Guest

          For your sake, I’ll repeat myself. The facts of an argument and the argument’s motive are two separate things. Just because the motive is objectionable does not mean by extension that the facts are faulty or that they should be ignored.
          Regarding Norman’s motives, in the big scheme of things, who really cares if he has it in for a particular orchestra, country, etc? Are his efforts going to destroy the orchestra, kill off the career of a conductor, chase away concert attendance, destroy Austria’s tourism economy? I seriously doubt it, considering Austria’s track record for dealing with criticism.

          • Andrew Barnard

            No, Norman can’t destroy Vienna’s reputation, but he does hurt the reputation of music criticism. If he wants to pose as a judge of high art, he’s asking to have the value of his own work evaluated. Such evaluation in this case is devastating.

          • Mc

            Pull the other one. Hurting the reputation of music criticism?Posing as a judge of high art? A devastating evaluation? We’re talking about an article, not the outcome of a world-changing battle or the results of a crucial medical trial.

          • Andrew Barnard

            Oh, so quality doesn’t matter in music criticism? The world’s not at stake so mediocrity is acceptable?

          • Mc

            You’re reacting to the article as if the journalist has commited an atrocity, all because you take exception to his motives. Some of us are more interested in the factual accuracy of an article and manage to continue a normal life in spite of journalists’ dastardly motives. I mean, how do you manage to maintain an emotional equilibrium when just about everything people do is driven by non-altruistic motives?

          • Andrew Barnard

            It’s not just about his motives. It’s about what he actually wrote, which takes irrelevant facts and presents a case that has no grounds whatsoever. No matter the orchestra’s background, there is no reason to punish today’s musicians for yesterday’s atrocity.

          • Mc

            You seem to have read a different article to me. I didn’t spot any irrelevant facts or a groundless case. Never mind the fact that the article doesn’t directly or indirectly demand punishment of today’s musicians for yesterday’s atrocities. Again, it sounds like you don’t like the facts, so have to declare that the article is flawed and the motives suspect.

          • Andrew Barnard

            What is the point of the article, then? The “facts” listed in the article are well known, actually. Everybody knows Vienna was under Nazi control. Don’t you understand that a journalist can take facts and toy with them to build a case to suit their own fancy?

            If you continue to think I’m silly for disliking this article, even though the majority of commentators here and elsewhere agree with me, please at least tell me what good this article does.

          • Mc

            I’m having a very hard time trying to figure out if there is anything to your comments except a sense of grievance over the uncomfortable facts raised by the article.
            It is strange that you place the word facts in inverted commas and then state that these facts are well known, I.e. are undoubtedly facts that you acknowledge as facts. So, are they facts or not?
            Could you clarify which facts are being toyed with and what fanciful case is being built?
            It is also rather peculiar that you are claiming legitimacy for your position from the number of fellow comments that are in agreement with you.
            The article’s purpose and positive contribution is to raise a topical point (the concerts are currently under way) regarding the orchestra’s history that may not be known to everyone.

          • Andrew Barnard

            All the information in the article that is verifiable is well known. But some things that are stated as truth have no sources whatsoever.

            What facts are being toyed with? Take a look.

            “Karl Böhm, a brilliant conductor but not a very bright man, used to say that ‘the Nazis aren’t that bad — they want to eliminate women from politics.’ Many in the Vienna Philharmonic would agree with that.”

            I trust the quote is true. Norman has been known to make things up on the spot. I couldn’t find it anywhere else online. Let’s assume it’s accurate anyway. But how does he know that many in the Vienna Philharmonic would agree with the quote? Does he have anything close to factual evidence? It’s an extremely vitriolic claim to make, and he doesn’t even try to back it up.

            “Asian and women players who win competitive auditions to the orchestra of the Vienna Opera, where they play alongside VPO members, are humiliatingly excluded from the men’s club — the male conspiracy — that is the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.”

            The orchestra has blind auditions! They have made steps in recent years to include women, and if the vast majority is still male, does Norman expect the orchestra to fire experienced male members to make way for new women? What proof does Norman have that a deliberate exclusion is still taking place? None whatsoever.

            Again, how is this information going to help anyone? It’s just digging up a dark past for no good reason at all.

        • Mc

          For your sake, I’ll repeat myself. The facts of an argument and the argument’s motive are two separate things – the motive has no bearing on the accuracy of the facts raised in an argument. Just because the motive is objectionable does not mean by extension that the facts are faulty or that they should be ignored.

          Attacking the motives of an argument are the standard approach for trying to deflect away from the uncomfortable facts. Look for example at the current Spectator articles about NHS whistleblowers. There are endless comments essentially calling the whistleblowers bastards, in order to avoid admitting that the whistleblowers may have a valid point and that the establishment’s destruction of whistleblower’s careers is despicable.

          Regarding Norman’s motives, in the big scheme of things, who really cares if he has it in for a particular orchestra, country, etc? Are his efforts going to destroy the orchestra, kill off the career of a conductor, chase away concert attendance, destroy Austria’s tourism economy? I seriously doubt it, considering Austria’s track record for dealing with criticism.

    • SegafredoRosso

      No: what is shameful is the facility with which we pass over uncomfortable and shameful histories. That in itself gives Mr. Lebrecht one very “good reason” for writing the article.
      “Political points?” Who is running for office?

      • Andrew Barnard

        Pass over what? Nobody responsible for Nazi Germany has anything to do with the Vienna New Year’s Concert. And let’s be reasonable. It might be ideal to see political leaders in Vienna claim a bit more responsibility, but I’m sick of everyone expecting musicians to be perfectly PC. Let them be musicians, for goodness’ sake. They’re not governing anyone. Are we expecting them to stick notes in their program notes apologizing for a dark past?

        Oh, about political points. You don’t have to be running for office to play politics, and if talking about the Nazis generations after WWII isn’t political, what is it? Completely musical, huh?

      • EHGombrich

        This article reeks of Jewish resentment. It´s only purpose is to tear down another goy institution. It reminds me of Rolling Stone´s Rubin- Erderly and her “blond students” at the University of Virginia.

        • Tanya Tintner

          Your post reeks of antisemitism. At least please have the decency not to hide behind the name of an Austrian Jewish refugee (who contributed much to civilisation).

  • Just a few remarks upon this article:

    The current players of the VPO have nothing to do with what other players many
    years ago did wrong. The son of a murderer may feel awful about his father but
    he is himself not guilty and he does not himself have to apologize for him, and
    neither should he be blamed for something he did not do himself and had no
    coltrol over and was not responsible for. He will want to forget the past to be
    able to make a life for himself. If this were not so, the British would still
    have many things to make apologies for, like things Henry VIII did with
    immigrant women, the catholic church and its possessions, and the legal system.
    Protestants would still blame president Hollande for the withdrawel of the
    Nantes Edict of 1685 by Louis XIV…. and so forth. In the same way, current Germany is a country, with people, fundamentally different from the country that gave birth to nazism. Life restores itself.

    The war past of the VPO was not suppressed, but neglected at most, from the same motives as the above-mentioned son. They made clean, under the pressure of PC culture, and have the right to leave it behind.

    The VPO has the freedom and the right, as a self-governing body, to prefer to
    remain a local, all-male club, like London gentemen’s clubs want to be all
    male, and like Italian female mandoline orchestras who want to remain all-female.
    These people cannot – for the reason of their preference – be accused of hating
    the opposite sex. (And, by the way, one is FREE to hate the opposite sex,
    though it is not something one would wholeheartedly recommend.)

    If female, Asian, African, Orinoco, Peruvian or whatever musicians want to play in
    a really good Viennese orchestra, they can audition at the Wiener Symphoniker
    or the radio orchestra, or decide to audition at one of the numerous other
    orchestras in the German-speaking world with mixed sexes and players from all
    over the world.

    Then this bit:

    “Wien bleibt Wien — Vienna never changes — is the city’s motto. Its defining characteristic, noted by Sigmund Freud, is Schein über Sein — looking good is better than being good. Appearance, in Vienna, counts most.”

    In fact, Vienna is constantly changing, like any metropolis, because (see above) there are new generations again and again. But the Viennese want to preserve the best of their city. Freud was wrong about Vienna, as he was on other points as well – in his profession for instance; Viennese culture (in the widest sense) is
    mythological. Its tradition is a constructive, inspirational myth, a cultivation of the capacity to create enduring monuments and works of art, motivated by the longing to preserve something of a dream of beauty, best expressed and realized through music (on any level, from high to low), and dreams and myths are the inspiring stuff people need to bring out the best in themselves, a process of which Viennese music life is a clear example. This is the real reason that audiences protested so strongly, at the beginning of the last century, to Schönberg’s avantgarde music: they rightly felt their culture, their identity was under attack. And that in certain historic circumstances myth can be misused by a certain type of people, is an open door: it obviously does not mean that the myth is thus wrong in itself. Like with Christianity, or any religion, people with destructive motives can always find ways to pick-out things from the human repertoire to justify their deeds.

    VPO-bashing is thus missing the point entirely.

  • Jason Newstedt

    Norman Lebrecht is an utterly shameless individual who would use sensationalism in a grocery list.
    Of course, if one is absent of talent but still wants to be talked about, he’s certainly mastered one way of doing it.

    • Mc

      Could you clarify if anything he says is untrue?

  • grammarschoolman

    Lebrecht is a well-known hater of music, who disguises himself as a music journalist.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    In a place — a very small place — that considers itself the epicenter of intellect, another ritual is performed, one that passes for journalism as well as considered editorial opinion. It is, of course, neither.

    • SegafredoRosso

      Oh, you are too clever. Perhaps you would care to engage in any of the claims the journalist makes and present an argument for why they don’t hold?

  • macrov

    It’s true that the current VPO members bear no responsibility for its past Nazi associations, but the VPO is an institution, and as such does have a responsibility to come clean about its past and atone for its misdeeds. That’s the price of being in the club. And Lebrecht argues that they have not done so sufficiently. Commenters should argue whether they agree with that point, rather than engage in ad hominem attacks.

    It’s a little too cute to say that the VPO is a private club that can make its own membership rules. Private club or not, it operates in very close coordination with the Vienna State Opera – if nothing else, how does it get 100 of its players out of the pit (from their regular job) for a foreign tour? And the Opera, as a public institution, must abide by EU employment law and such. It’s hard to see how the Opera can, in fact, be on solid legal ground working in association with a private club that has discriminatory membership policies.

    • Sag Ichnicht

      Oh really? And what exactly has the VPO failed to do? It has published a meticulous academic investigation by historical experts on its own past and its actions during the time of the Anschluss (including all the dark chapters). It has revoked acts of honoring people that should have never been honored by the VPO. The VPO opened up to femal members alredy 17 years ago and new members are casted in blind auditions based on merit, not on gender.

      • macrov

        I didn’t express any opinion as to whether the VPO has done enough to account for its past; I merely said people should debate that, rather than engage in ad hominem attacks on Mr. Lebrecht.

        As for admitting women, the VPO does not do blind auditions – or auditions of any kind. Members are “invited” to join once they have been in the State Opera Orchestra for several years. If the State Opera audition process is now blind, good for them.

        • Sag Ichnicht

          Mr. Lebrecht has every right to think Waltz and Co. are of no artistic value, and that the VPO is an orchestra that can be reduced to have been close to Nazis and being an anti-women club. But please, don’t call that a debate. This is a classic piece of a “Musikkritiker” as described by the wonderful satirical songwriter Georg Kreisler:

          What exactly of what the VPO is today or what it does today is so scandalous? It has done a meticilous study of its problematic past, it is admitting women and not deciding based on sex but on blind auditions. Maybe I am ignorant but what exactly are these discriminatory membership policies?

  • Tanya Tintner

    I hazard to say that it is John Borstlap who has missed a very important
    point. Audiences may have disliked the avant garde music of Schoenberg
    but the loud protests were not directed only at the music. I quote here
    my late husband, the Viennese Jewish conductor Georg Tintner, who
    it all before he barely escaped with his life in 1938: “[For] the
    circle around Schoenberg and Alban Berg and Webern – though Alban Berg
    and Webern were not Jews, but Schoenberg was – the movement against them
    was already before the Nazis came into Austria so strong that these
    composers had to be performed in private houses because they were
    frightened of terrible – lack of peace in the concert hall.” Norman
    Lebrecht’s valuable and accurate piece brings out several very important
    points, one of which is that Austria has yet to confront its Nazi past,
    and that there is a substantial quotient of antisemitism that continues
    to hide behind a façade of Edelweiss and Strauss waltzes and Heuriger
    and Kaffeehäuser and general schmalz. (And look how well Böhm and Krauss
    and Karajan did after the war…)
    I might add that if the Viennese
    want to preserve the best of their city – assuming this is also a
    tradition – they might have done better than to murder or throw out
    their Jews.

    • Owen_Morgan

      “[The Viennese] might have done better than to murder or throw out their Jews.”

      Definitely. I’ve avoided Vienna for nearly twenty years, now, having spent some time there in May, 1995. The world was commemorating the end of the Second World War in Europe. Viennese bookshops all prominently displayed books concerning the Holocaust, but I did notice, whenever I took one to the counter, that I received a distinctly frosty reception.

      Metaphorically speaking, Vienna is, generally, a rather frozen place. It is steeped in history, but doesn’t feel like it, because everything has a Made-in-1900 feel about it (apart from the flak towers, anyway). I’d love to know what the Hungarian is for “fin-de-siecle”, because it must sum up Vienna, a place that was on the cusp of being deservedly relegated to irrelevance in its own empire, if only Gavrilo Princip hadn’t intervened.

      There is a yawning gap in Viennese culture, where the Jews used to be. There are still Jews there, but they are probably and justifiably alarmed by a society which admits Bosnian refugees, educates their daughters and then allows those teenage, clueless girls to evade any kind of security at Vienna’s airport, so that they can fly to join the nazis de nos jours: the so-called islamic state.

      • Jambo25

        Strange that. I travel to Austria fairly frequently. Mainly to the Tirol. Some years ago I was in a café in a small Tirol town when a large party of elderly Israelis came into eat. I spoke to a couple and discovered that they were Austrian Jews who’d got out before the war

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          What did they do for an encore? Horst Wessel Lied?

          • Jambo25

            Cried a lot, no doubt thinking of happier, Pre Anshluss times and those friends and relatives who didn’t make it out of ‘Gross Deutschland’.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Lovely little anecdote Jambo. Thankyou

          • Jambo25

            The more I look back on the history of Europe in the 20th century the more I see it as an avoidable tragedy which we can date back to WW1. What would our continent have developed like if it had had another period of time for Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire to develop more democratic institutions. Could Britain have finished off an Irish settlement along self government for Scotland and Wales. etc.

          • Damaris Tighe

            And without the horrors of two world wars would Europe’s main powers have felt the need for the mutual dependency of a coal & steel union, evolving into the EU.

          • Jambo25

            I suspect that some kind of European association would have occurred as a reply to rising non-European super powers like the USA and a surviving Tsarist Empire.

          • Thomtids

            Europe hasn’t had two World Wars.
            What is wrongly called today as the First World War was The Great European War 1914-1919.
            What is wrongly called today as the Second World War was merely a series of Theatre Wars sharing a common thread – the Americans as either instigators, sponsors or participants.

          • Arturo Franks

            Would you care to elucidate for we neurotypicals how, exactly, the Americans instigated, sponsored, or participated in the partition of Poland, the invasion of Russia, and the Holocaust?

            No… I didn’t think so 🙂

          • Thomtids

            Well, Arturo, it may be picking nits, but the partition of Poland was two International Great Powers merely sharing out the spoils of aggression apportioning captured land according to pre-arranged terms. The invasion of Russia was the base intent of the hostilities that began with the recovery of Sudetenland, the re-inclusion of Austria, after plebiscite, into Greater Germany, the entry into Czecho-Slovakia under “invitation”. Had it not been accompanied by contemporaneous fronts opened by Germany with France Britain etc, then it would have been the Germano-Russian war 1941-4?, not a “World War” as The USA couldn’t have joined in. The “Holocaust” is an interesting topic. Being not a war, by definition, not a meeting of combatants. I subscribe to the school of thought that places the “The Final Solution” as not a “war” by but the attempted eradication of groups of disparate peoples having antipathy to the National Socialist Party, of whom the Jewish religion was a major component. Who in the upper echelon of the Third Reich was instrumental in the process tends to suggest that it was more a function usurped by Himmler, Heydritch and a clutch of Administrators like Eichmann whilst Hitler, Goering and the OKW and OKH concentrated on the actual war. It is a matter of historical irrelevance to what extent Hitler knew and actively colluded in the “Jewish Problem” beyond the original Mozambique resolution. If such was or could have been a viable solution to the perceived “problem”. As the Allies disclaimed all knowledge of the implementation of the Wannsee Convention and the Einsatz Gruppe on the Eastern Front 1941-1943 did not constitute a “war front”.
            As the USA declined actual knowledge until late 1944, it could hardly have participated or wanted to do. It did facilitate the eradication of the White Russian faction after the War’s end through forced repatriation under Op. Keelhaul.

          • jjjj

            It wasn’t Mozambique but Madagascar.

          • Thomtids

            Quite right. Thanks for the correction.

          • MikeF

            ‘It is a matter of historical irrelevance to what extent Hitler knew and actively colluded in the “Jewish Problem”.’
            No it is a core question about the motivation for the Holocaust though one that is incapable of a definitive answer because there was, it seems, a deliberate policy of keeping Hitler’s name off all documentation concerned with its planning and implementation. The notion that the Holocaust was a private enterprise instigated by the likes of Himmler and Eichmann, whilst Hitler ‘concentrated on the actual war’ is untenable. For Hitler the ‘actual war’ was a war against Jews.
            It is much more the case that Hitler charged Himmler with organising and implementing the murder of Europe’s Jewish population, but that he did so verbally and that Himmler’s reporting to him was done in a similar fashion. The ultimate aim was that thefre would be no paper trail and that the Holocaust would be forgotten – the Nazis themselves were the first ‘Holocaust deniers’. Also ‘Jewishness’ in the Nazi worldview was defined in racial/biological terms not as a religion. Finally the correct spelling is ‘Einsatzgruppen’.

          • Thomtids

            There is no value added to Hitler’s name being shielded from attachment to the policy of the Final Solution. As a simple act of logic, the Third Reich had no intention of losing the War nor did it fear the responsibility for the policy of the Final Solution. The fact was that genetic purity and the Aryanisation if the German people was Himmler’s fixation, together with Heydrich. Hitler really was just a politically aware Corporal. Other than the economic boycott caused by the Jews in the early ’30s coupled with the acquisition of large chunks of German commercial infrastructure post 1919 through aggressive “fire-sale” buying, Hitler really had no inner demons about the Jews. He did have real hatred about their influence on Russian policies but I’m not sure until fanned by Himmler that it amounted to the extirpation of the entire religion-based population.
            Indeed, you confuse “The War” as being against the Jews when it was clearly existential and in its main thrust, as clearly stated entirely transparently, against Russia and Communism. The Jews may have been a collateral part but they were only a side-show and only after Wannsee.
            This construct over verbal orders and leaving no “paper-trail”; why bother? Being hanged for sheep and lambs comes to mind! Full records of the killings on the Eastern Front by the Sonder Kommando were kept and sent, Eichmann’s records over the minutiae of transporting millions of bodies across Europe were kept and available, why should the alleged Fuhrer-Order be obscured? His Order requiring the execution of Special Forces personnel was not obscured but equally reprehensible.
            There is of course, a sizeable and in ways compelling approach that until the implementation of Wannsee, and which was undoubtedly a Himmler /Heydrich policy, the deaths of Jews was collateral, and not the “Holocaust” charged. After Wannsee, the dynamic changed but the emphasis of killing changed. The actual existence, pattern, and emphasis of the “The Final Solution” remains one for intense argument and disagreement, let alone the variable number of claimed victims.
            In the face of the such obviously basic disagreement over matters which were enthusiastically recorded and available to indict their originators for War Crimes, it remains a reasonable consideration to conclude it remains highly unlikely and still confirmed albeit by silent absence of incriminating documentation, that other than en passant Hitler was not the originator of the change in policy.

          • Thomtids

            If it is a fact that “The Final Solution”, as that term is now construed, did not commence until after The Wannsee Convention then before that point in the process of “the Holocaust” had been the concentration and utilisation of European Jewry’s wealth and assets, including as slave labour. Not the concerted, mechanised process that men like Eichmann undoubtedly excelled in administering.
            I have found it an interesting conundrum that although the various Intelligence Services of the American, British and Germans were completely penetrated by each other, not to mention by the Russians as well as the routine interception and reading of coded traffic at the highest strategic level, and that the very highest echelon of the German Armed Forces including those committed to the defeat of Hitler like Beck and Canaris, the Allies absolutely and totally refute any knowledge of the Death Camps (rather than the Prison Labour camps) until the first was liberated (and subsequently handed over to the Russians for them to utilise), it is a fact imputed to the general German population at large.
            Thank you for the detail on “Einsatzgruppen”.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Keep in mind that if it wasn’t for the Muslim immigrants, Britain would probably have Holocaust denial legislation.

          • Thomtids

            Put it on the Internet and have a short trip to Vienna, and you too can have an all-expenses holiday in a Foreign Prison not of your choice.

          • thomasaikenhead

            Arturo Franks,

            Do look how the American financier Jacob Schiff financed the Russian revolutionary elements that led to the establishment of the communist regime. this led directly to the Soviet-Poish war of 1920 and led directly to the secret von Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact that enabled Poland to be dismembered by Germany and Russia.

          • global city

            one of the main reasons that the whole WWII thang is ramped up continually. This feeds into some truly disturbing assumptions about Europeans themselves. We are all latent nazis so must be corralled and the culture crushed and changed.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Yes. Instead of learning the lessons of 1933-39 concerning the appeasement of totalitarians, the European elites from 1945 learned the ‘lesson’ that all nationalism & the desire of national identity & sovereignity (including after a few decades that of the Jews!) is toxic. You couldn’t get more perverse. So we now have a situation where anti-semitic Islam is protected & the nation state of the Jews is excoriated. All in the name of anti-n*zism!

          • Thomtids

            Wrong. Your point is an ex post facto justification for the process being pursued in the EU.
            The so-called “appeasement” of Hitler, a convenient hate-name for the Third Reich, was based on so many very realistic reasons, it was the right thing to do. Whether you like it or not, and Churchill was a political chancer re-writing his own version of History.
            For the Record, what is referred to as “appeasement” ie not taking aggressive steps to prevent the various actions of the Reich, was the only choice as there were no Armed Forces available to The League of Nations or Britain’s Empire that could do a blind bit about it. The Versailles Treaty was wrong in principle and everyone except the French tacitly agreed; furthermore it was unenforceable in hard reality.
            If, and you must remember that there was direct collusion between us and Germany in the 1930s to allow Hitler a “free hand” so that when he went East and left Britain alone, it was a small clique of extremely influential men like Sir Robert Vansittart, coupled with a very small group of politicos like Eden, Macmillan and Churchill….and the help of the popular press with Beaverbrook and Bracken that mobilised opinion.
            Do not forget that the British people did not want War. Had you asked them to ally themselves with Stalin, who was racking up the millions of dead long before any Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, (and who would go on to be the greatest exterminator of human beings bar none by the end of the Cold War) no-one would have agreed.
            Given that Churchill, Vansittart and Maisky were colluding whilst Stalin was exterminating the Kulaks, it does tend to throw a light on just what the long game really was!
            Chamberlain was not the fool History makes him out to be.

      • global city

        Just how long is all this going to carry on. I thought collective and generational punishment was, of itself, an evil?

      • ♚Edward the Seventh♚

        Owen_Morgan you deserve a Pulitzer for this. Spot on!

  • Hamburger

    That the musical grandparents of the present generation of players were less than pleasant is, on New Year´s Day, less relevant than the knowledge that Johann Strauss´s music is more attuned to my state of mind than that of Arnold Schönberg or even the great Gustav Mahler.

  • Trofim

    I like the music, but it is a pity there are so few Afro-Americans in the orchestra – or the audience, for that matter.

    • mathias broucek

      Er, I think some Afro-Austrians would be a better starting point….

      • peter the painter

        Deracination into the united colours of Benetton is not a Viennese thing. Even if it holds the headquarters of the UN.

  • MikeF

    Even if Mr Lebrecht’s description of the origins of the New Year’s Day Concert are largely true – and to describe it as in any way a ‘cover for genocide’ is ridiculous – then its post-war reinvention as a piece of harmless kitsch that is enjoyed by a genuinely international audience seems rather a good thing to be applauded rather than condemned.

  • Tanya Tintner

    Further to this discussion, I recommend the following blog, written a few days ago by Michael Haas, an outstanding researcher on Viennese music and its place in Viennese/Austrian culture. It shows, inter alia, something of the Austrian post-war response to its pre-war Jews:

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Welcome to Austria, birthplace of Adolph Hitler. Austria would like you to believe it was a victim of the Nazis. The reality is rather different.

    • jjjj

      Do you have personality disorder? You seem to be condemning the Nazis here while on other threads indulging in antisemitism.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Known as taking an independent view. You might want to try it some day.
        I realise some Austrians might be offended by my comments; I do hope so.

        • Ivan Ewan

          This must be some obscure definition of the word ‘independent’ that I wasn’t previously aware of.

          Or is ‘parroted groupthink’ the term you were actually looking for?

  • zak44

    Does the name Kurt Waldheim ring a bell? Austria elected him president in 1986, even as the fact that he had lied about his Nazi service was coming out.

    And as we commemorate WW1, let’s not remember Count Conrad von Hotzendorf, commander of the Austrian Imperial Army, and one of the individuals in all of Europe most responsible for its outbreak. (Also one of its most catastrophically inept military leaders.)

    I’m reminded of a line from Bill Bryson’s book, Neither Here Nor There: “That’s the trouble with Austria. It’s such a lovely country, but it’s full of fucking Austrians.”

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Good comment, zak.
      Keep in mind this was the country that imprisoned David Irving, not for what he said, but for what he might be planning to say.
      Austria,a nation of hypocrites.

    • Thomtids

      Ach so Ja. Kurt was in the Waffen SS. What’s the odd French town between friends? Any vey, Zer French ver collaborators, unless zey ver blowing up zer trains. Und Zer Austrians wear Liddle ledehosen und Schumacher each ozzer! Often!

    • Bonkim

      Judging the past by today’s standards is silly. One can list worse atrocities carried out in the colonial histories of Spain, Britain, France, Holland, Belgium and others across the Globe. Colonization of the Americas was accompanied by wholesale genocide of the native people – similarly in Australia.

      Masses of slave or near slave indentured labour labour was shipped across the seas to work in colonial plantations never to see their home again.

      The difference – the world was not organized, it was the era of Empires and there was no UN or European Court of Human Rights.

      • zak44

        True enough. But neither Waldheim’s election to the leadership of the very same UN you cite nor to the presidency of Austria took place in the 18th or 19th centuries. Both occurred well after people were supposed to have learned lessons from the Nazi era. What I can’t understand is how it took so long for Waldheim’s military record to come to light. How does this happen without a cover-up at the highest level?

        • Bonkim

          The UN is wasted space.

          • zak44

            Odd that you would say that, since your earlier comment seemed to give the UN at least partial credit for the absence of atrocities, colonies, and genocide in the modern world.

          • Bonkim

            You must be reading what you want to believe. There is plenty of slavery and genocide going around in many parts of the world and the UN is powerless to do anything about it. The UN ultimately represents the will if the Security Council – and what they say goes – even there there are deep divisions and not much is or will be done.

            Going back to basics the earth is overpopulated and resources running out. Soon we will have to find ways to reduce population by fair means or foul to stop the hungry hordes invading the more prosperous and stable parts of the world – what the Nazis did will pale into insignificance when the real crunch comes and drastic solutions will have to be applied.

            Not everything in the days of Empire and colonialism was bad – Empires allowed huge advances to be made in the spread of science, and technology, administration, transport and communications infrastructure, etc, etc. Often the combination of the diverse population in the Empires allowed greater outcomes than that possible with individual nations. In any case the notion of the nation-state only gained momentum in the latter half of the 19th century and one might say the Empires triggered questioning by the tribal groups within leading to stronger social organisation and breakup of the Empires. Independence in countries like India for example was fostered by people from the Colonial Empire. Most nation states even in Europe came into being following WW1, most in the UN after WW2. The latter part of the 19th and early 20th century saw much social tribulations across the globe much worse than the regional conflicts and terrorist movements you see today, only news travelled slowly and most of the world did not know what went on in far off places that they knew little about.

          • zak44

            We all tend to read what we want to believe. I was simply reading what you wrote, in seeming approval of the UN and the European Court of Human Rights being part of the “difference” between the “Era of Empires” and the present day. That is what you said,

          • Bonkim

            ‘The difference – the world was not organized, it was the era of Empires and there was no UN or European Court of Human Rights.’

            Statement of fact – not qualitative comment or whether I think Empires was a bad thing – it was a historic period and the world is different, one might say enlightened because of the episode of exploration and adventure.

            The world today is different and as stated the 16-1900s was a period of colonisation, Empires and tribal societies transforming themselves into nation states in the 20th century. judging history by today’s standards is not on – does not mean the UN or International Court of Justice or Human Rights legislation accepted after WW2 do not have their failings.

            Germany under the Nazis rose to great heights in organisation, infrastructure development, science and technology – they were the greatest of their time – modern rocket science, even nuclear physics, manufacturing, chemical engineering, heat engines, all owe a great deal to Germany and particularly during the inter-war era. US, Russia, even Britain benefited greatly by the scientists and engineers that went out of Germany following WW2.

            The earth is overpopulated and resources running out. I don’t have much time for the UN which is in any case led by the security council members that provide the money and the muscle and are not that united. I believe in survival of the fittest and getting rid of failed and failing societies instead of keeping them alive by overseas aid.

            You can also say that the era of the Empires helped some parts of the world to develop the unity and political will to rise up and take advantage of the break up of the Empires.

  • marc biff

    Reeks of elitism,not the orchestra the audience.

  • We now live in 2014.

    • jjjj

      And fast going back to the 30s.

      • Tox66

        I quite fancy a Jowett van.

        • perdix

          I had to mention this….. I once shared a house with several blokes, one of whom had a Jowett van. He put a large mattress in the back and drove around town visiting his various girlfriends, inviting them into the van for sessions.

          • Tox66

            Happy days!

        • Thomtids

          Those flat four engines were so ahead of their time! But that was Bradford for you.

          • Tox66

            There are a few up at the Industrial a Museum and a few motorcycles too. Great stuff.

          • Thomtids

            Are they up at Bolling Hall?

          • Tox66

            There might be some up there but I saw them here

            This place used to be a grand old museum but it’s a little run down now. Eg the old mill owner’s house was closed when I went and this is a big loss but the hall of engines, cars & bikes is great.

            Also not to be missed is the exhibition covering the making of cloth from the sheep to the end.

            Great stuff!

      • EHGombrich

        I smell gefillte fish again.

  • rachmananon

    “Bohm, said ‘the Nazis aren’t that bad — they want to eliminate women from politics.’ Many in the Vienna Philharmonic would agree with that.” – Oh, PLEASE. As usual, the word “many” is a tell that the author is making stuff up. Among the current membership of the VPO in 2014, how many “would agree with that” heinous statement? Three players? Or 30? Or none? And are there more such sexists in the VPO than in other European orchestras in 2014? (Note that the VPO is one of the few major European orchestras to institute blind auditions – a practice that should be mandatory, since research has shown that it demonstrably increases female orchestral membership.) It’s important to emphasize that the VPO has a mandatory retirement age of 65. Anne Lemkes said in 1997 (when she became the first female members) that the younger VPO players voted in her favor, and the retired ones were mostly opposed. That was 17 years ago – so anyone who was 48 years old then or older is now retired and replaced by someone younger. Really, do you have have any factual basis for your inflammatory claim about the opinions of the current VPO? Facts and precision are what this topic needs, not venting.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      But they sure had the right idea about the pikeys.

      • Bonkim

        That was extremely racist! Worse than the Nazis that are long gone – and anti-Gypsy racism is alive and flourishing.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Hardly surprising when they invade your property, and it takes an age to legally evict the scum. By which time the place is a garbage tip.

          • Bonkim

            There are many settled folk that turn their estates into pig-sties.

            Have been to a well managed Gypsy camp site? I know many Gypsy folk that are exemplary, ay theirr taxes, have contributed to the War-effort, are professionals, etc. The main problem faced by them is that government/local authorities do not provide legitimate pitches required under the law which forces many into illegal occupation and applying for planning – which then drags on through the courts due to misguided local councils pressurised by popular prejudice such as that in your idiotic comment.

            Most litigation drag through the courts or fail as councils fail to provide legitimate sites as called for under the law of the land – this is no different to houses for settled folk – in fact many similar planning breaches relating to bricks and mortar housing also occur and go through the courts because of idiot planning officers and planning committee prejudices.

  • Disqust

    That was then, this is now. Lebrecht is probably correct in what he writes about history, but that doesn’t mean it has to be regurgitated endlessly. As the modern saying goes, ‘get over it’! Are we still to be banned from listening to Wagner and Mahler because of their ‘Nazi’ links?

    • post_x_it

      Mahler? Nazi links?

      • Disqust

        I did put ‘Nazi’ in inverted commas; also, it was used as a sobriquet describing Mahler in the ridiculous article. I wasn’t the one to use it and I wouldn’t do so. Read my lips.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Beethoven was born in Germany.
    Hitler was born in Austria.
    Suck it up Austria.

    • EHGombrich

      Mozart´s parents were also German.

  • Gerschwin

    Fish around any part of Teutonic/Austro-Hungarian Europe and you’ll quickly find a Nazi link. Fish around any part of the Russian Empire and you’ll quickly find a commie one… do we read long articles about the Bolshoi and its shameful relationship with Stalinists?

    Big deal.

    • Laguna Beach Fogey

      “Big deal”



  • MaSek12

    Why has this a-hole been given space in a magazine? Oh, Right! He is jewish and busy milking the old holohoax machine.

    • Ivan Ewan

      Back to Stormfront with you.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      What’s the difference between a cow and the Holocaust? You can only milk a cow for about 12 years.

      • Jacqueline Spencer

        Yikes! I’ve just joined “Slipped Disc” and am writing from here in the States. You folks are scaring me to death. I’ve always heard, “scratch a European and you’ll find an anti-Semite” and then I read this – this smut! Nonetheless, I refuse to say, “they were right!!!”. It can’t be true – not in the body of a journal devoted to music and the arts – WHASSUP?!?!?! Get your act together. You’re pretty much a disgrace to the journal, to the arts, and to your respective countries – KNOCK IT OFF!!

  • Alexandros HoMegas

    The only bad thing about NS Germany is that they didn’t killed all jews.

    The kike rats are now pushing for WWIII with Russia, look at Nuland, the Kagans and “journalists” like Applebaum.

    I insulted rats by comparing them with jews.

    • Ivan Ewan

      I didn’t know it was possible to for you to upvote your own posts.

      • Michael H Kenyon

        Blimey, and they sometimes bury my posts! Glad Mr HoMegas didn’t upset anyone with his understated trolling.

  • Trofim

    I like the music, and I don’t give a f@*k whether it’s connected with the Nazis, the Peaky Blinders or ISIS, and I don’t give a toss whether the musicians pick their nose and eat it in the interval.

  • Skyeward

    Why yes, this orchestra’s policies wouldn’t fly in the U.S., but it’s still a fun concert to watch on PBS each year. And btw, very interesting music is to be found here in “bar-rooms”.

  • Dodgy Geezer

    …But the sound is obtained at the expense of unacceptable prejudice…

    There is so much wrong with the arguments in this piece that it is difficult to know where to start. The closest thing it reminds me of, oddly, are the ravings of Joseph Goebbels, as he tried to argue that the Jews should be eradicated because of various historical incidents.

    I find the term ‘unacceptable prejudice’ particularly revolting. Mr Lebrecht is not bothering to make a case – he simply says that certain actions are ‘unacceptable’. He is effectively saying that anyone who does not hold his opinion should be barred from society. Perhaps they should be locked up without a trial, or have a tattoo placed on them so that we can all shun them?

    If he feels like this about a symphony orchestra, I wonder how he feels about liquid-fuelled rockets? These were far more closely associated with the Nazi regime – indeed, developed by them. Perhaps he would like to write a piece about the shame of humanity in flying to the Moon using such a filthy piece of technology?

    • Alberto Dietz

      Exactly. Lebrecht will no doubt be pissed off with ‘Hype’s Premier Task’, by Taki at .

  • Interesting

  • Bonkim

    The Austrians were willing partners with the Nazis but don’t want to be told that.

    • Lorenzo

      The Austrians who were willing partners with the Godwin guy are pretty much all dead, and their descendants aren’t in any way complicit with their crimes.

      By the way, when do we start shunning England for the misery caused by it’s landed gentry during the Enclosure times?

      And how about recognizing the practice of purposely roasting alive civilian men, women and children by firebombing entire cities, eh, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Arthur Harris … anyone? Don’t want to be told that, do you?

      • Bonkim

        Winners write history. Regards enclosures or colonial exploitation or genocide of the American Indian by the settlers, or the Incas by the Conquistadores any other past deeds, or slavery – human societies were historically unequal, exploitative and unfair. our present notions of equality and human rights are features on post WW2 world when those in power decided that some sense of equality and social justice was good for world trade and economic development.

        Post WW2 many atrocities were carried out in many parts of the world – but usually forgotten or overlooked – the latest episode in Ceylon for example where tens of thousands of Tamils were killed by the SL armed forces as retaliation was no different from say collective punishment during WW2 in Nazi occupied lands.

        Yes the world is unfair and many Nazi war- criminals were not prosecuted and disappeared in the background. Any different from say those that conducted genocide in he Americas or Africa were also forgotten or disappeared into the background – difficult to judge the past based today’s morality.

        • Thomtids

          Nuremberg – “Winners’ Justice”. Usually, the historical winner just had the losers executed and thrown into any handy river or Local Authority car-park. Few of the things Churchill got right was wanting to simply have the German Leaders shot, early. But then he also wanted to drop nuclear bombs on Russia early, too!
          And as you say, most of the Waffen SS Officers were “de-natzified” and re-commissioned into post war peace-keeping forces. The really reprehensible war criminals you don’t hear mentioned today were the Japanese. I met some of their POWs who survived minus all his finger-ends etc. They hated the Japs and we never had a Japanese Car franchise in the City I grew up in because the whole City refused to buy their goods. (They had a lot of local lads captured in Singapore). We conveniently forget that very few were executed and most were protected by the Americans. They were evil bastards. Even by today’s moral standards!

      • Thomtids

        Harris did what he was told to do by Churchill and Portal (the Gt Uncle of the present Archbishop of Canterbury. After the creation of SHAEF the “Point Blank” Directive set out by Eisenhower, Tedder and Spaatz, and Churchill clearly defined where Harris was obliged to bomb. Harris fought his official corner against others wanting his air assets. He was the first to observe that no one had won a war by bombing but that no one had tried. He also said that if the bombing saved the bones of one “Grenadier” it was worth it.
        He was the only one of the top-ranking War Staff to decline a Peerage, returning to South Africa and retirement.
        He did his duty.
        Churchill was the perpetrator of War Crimes against civilians.

        • Lorenzo

          I know, but the “just following orders” pro/con question arises here. The point remains that the Allies won and it doesn’t matter in any practical sense how they went about it, whereas the Axis lost so it seems we can slag their descendants as long as somebody can get a magazine article out of it.

          I favor giving WWII a rest. Anyone who wants to decry atrocities is supplied with enough new material on a daily basis to keep himself fully occupied with current events.

          • Thomtids

            Certainly, the only theme that appears is the denunciation from history that was written with a lot of back-covering going on. Or partisan revisionism along the lines of the piece we aren’t really discussing!
            At least, in Richard III’s case, 500 years in a Local Authority car park (and not one parking ticket!) and he’s been rehabilitated from some ne’er-do-well, crook-backed waster into a real, fighting leader. And to be buried in Leicester! Last of the bloody House of York monarchs and they won’t bury him in York Minster. Infamy, infamy…..

  • Alberto Dietz

    Norman Lebrecht is so bent on selective memory he conveniently avoided mentioning, a) the Vienna Philarmonic goes back to at least 1842; b) The criminal actions of the war mongering lot led by the infamous Woodrow Wilson caused the fall of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and this marked the end of Western civilization which undisputed capital was Vienna (where the beautiful music of J. Strauss Jr came from); c) Nazism was created at Versailles by the same early NWO, bankster owned, evil swine.

    Lebrecht picks up on a few musicians but doesn’t tell us that Prescott Bush had no problems dealing with his pal Fritz Thyssen, a main backer of the Austrian corporal, and blatantly ignores the here and now of Kiev Nazism being most willingly sponsored by both progressives and neocons from within the Beltway.

    Mehta did an excellent job at today’s New Year’s Concert. Israel didn’t mind at all.

    Maybe Labrecht would have approved a pathetic Pussy Riot “concert” or an intrusion by the despicable Femen gang.

    Thanks God for Vlad!!

  • The Elderking

    I have just witnessed the 2014 concert and at 7:20 mins in some bloke called Barenboim gives a Nazi salute!

    I am deeply offended.

    These Nazis get everywhere.

  • Laguna Beach Fogey

    Excellent. Another reason to attend the next concert.

  • swatnan

    So, they were also responsible for the M1

    • Thomtids

      Oh no. Not the bloody Romans again!

  • sfin

    I fail to see the relevance in this article.

    I’m a retired military pilot and, when I served, my immersion suit, which I wore when flying over cold seas, was developed directly from the research data recovered from the nazi concentration camps and their experiments carried out out on live human subjects.

    Did that stop us using them? No.

    I believe Hugo Boss designed uniforms for the nazi military.

    Does that stop people buying their suits today? No.

    I know it’s a quiet, political period but do get a grip!

  • Lorenzo

    Europe is full of people who are fed to the teeth with the likes of Lebrecht trying to shove down their throats guilt for what their grandpas and great grandpas may or may not have done. Perhaps in Lebrecht’s private England, Attainder and Corruption of Blood are still enforceable, but this is no longer so in the civilized world.

    And I’d be happy to sluice down lager in a tavern where a band would play Strauss or even Lehár, should such an idyllic place exist.

    As for Lebrecht’s musical puritanism, he can put it in Longyearbyen in December. The sun does not shine there at that time.

  • Terence Hale

    “Vienna Phil’s New Year’s Day concert”. I watched the concert on German television and found the acoustics bad, this may have been the German TV but I had the feeling it was the orchestra.

  • UKSteve

    Stupid. stupid article.

  • Smash the Femimarxists

    How awful that men should seek freedom of association. No problem though with women-only yoga classes etc. Time for all these absurd one-way “equality” laws to be scrapped and promote the more libertarian ethos of the Anglosphere.

  • Retiree

    I tend to agree with those who point out that since nobody in the VPO today has any direct connection to the VPO of the WWII era, it’s kind of a stretch to make a case for a Nazi connection. And to be sure, the VPO has things in its past that shouldn’t go unacknowledged, but really, how long must people go on beating this drum? While I cannot get inside the heads of the people in the hall (or the millions who watch from around the world) I can’t imagine that any among them are fondly wishing the orchestra would break into “Deutschland Uber Alles” or that swastikas could again be lining the walls of the hall. Finally, at least two New Years Eve conductors — Daniel Barenboim and Lorin Maazel (who conducted quite a few of these) — were Jews who have apparently had no qualms about being associated with the event. It would seem a much more positive and useful exercise to be calling out racism and tolerance that is alive and well in the world on this New Years Day 2015.

  • Richard

    Interesting article, at least the bits about the Nazis, though I cannot agree with the writer’s view that historical fact should be translated into plans of action. And about men-only clubs: should MENSA be banned because it excludes 99% of the population whose IQ-scores don’t meet its entry requirements? What about mosques which discriminate against non-Muslims? And so on. The indicative mood does not necessarily translate into the imperative mood. It is ridiculous to think it should.

    • Tanya Tintner

      Fallacious argument. Mensa is a club set up specifially for the top 2% (not 1%) according to IQ tests, therefore by definition it will exclude the remaining 98%. The Vienna Philharmonic is an orchestra of outstanding musicians, therefore its mandate is, as it were, to exclude musicians of lesser ability, not “women”.

      • Richard

        There is an implicit and an explicit understanding of the nature of a private club (which essentially is what the Vienna Philharmonic is). This implicit/explicit understanding pervades most aspects of public life. For instance, in a political example, the Labour Party has always been the party of lax immigration controls and higher welfare payments, even if they don’t specifically state these things in their manifesto. That is what you get from them. Similarly, the Vienna Philharmonic has their own implicit criteria for inclusion. Think of private gentlemen’s clubs: they are not set up to exclude women, but many of them still do. Overtly, they exist in order to promote social interaction. And yes, you are correct about MENSA: two standard deviations above the IQ-norm for ethnic British.

  • tommo2

    Men seem to be fighting the feminist cause for women because its sexist not to. It’s too obvious that feminists are very selective in their cause. They want more representation in boardrooms and male dominated orchestras but when it comes to honour killings and FGM their lips are sealed.

  • Innit Bruv

    Usual muckraking by Lebrecht, an untalented hack who is to music criticism what
    the Sun and Kelvin MacKenzie are to journalism.

  • Gary Prince

    By nazi, I assume Lebrecht means national SOCIALIST.

  • artemis in france

    Anyone of my génération will know of the skeletons in Austria’s and especailly Vienna’s closets. I am very glad to hear that at last some acceptance and admission of guilt has been forthcoming. It is iall in the past – one hopes – although still there is antisemitism in many parts of Europe. That is one issue. The other would seem to be that of sex discrimination. As a woman I feel a gréât deal of fuss is made about this. I noted that there were a few women in the orchestra yesterday and that the camera played on one in particular. Perhaps they were attempting to make the proportion of women look higher than it actually was. A waste of time since the orchestra was predominantly mâle, anyone could see that. Still, over the next décade all that will change. As those women already présent impress with their ability and professionalism, and as the men get younger and therefore more open-minded, the balance will shift. Give it twenty years and the percentage of women will be approaching 50 percent. Stop worrying about something which is actually not that important.

  • Harrison Lawler

    Reading this article about a globally feted orchestra funded by rabid anti-semitic despots, “a triumph of brand marketing over musical substance, with a smiley tag of ‘hope, friendship and peace’”, casting spells with “musical sweetness” while the world “ignores the dirt in the kitchen”, I could have sworn we were being introduced to the biography of Gustavo Dudamel, Jose Antonio Abreu and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra!

  • Theodor Greenberg

    While I enjoyed this scathing and often entertaining article from Mr. Lebrecht, I do not sense, despite his obvious sensitivity and emotion for this subject, a coherent argument.

    Namely, what makes this concert unique? The Nazis accomplished many things culturally, including making Beethoven 9 the party-piece of political ideology, bringing Bruckner into the standard concert repertoire, and offering the environment in which many pieces by Nazi composers of so-called high culture (Richard Strauss) came to light, for example Metamorphosen and Four Last Songs, both of which are melancholy lullabies for the fallen Reich and have entered our standard repertoire.

    I sense a certain elitism in Mr. Lebrecht’s claim that this music is bad because of its lowbrow origins, as if Kultur (big K) should only have bourgeois blood. The Strauss family of course pre-dated Nazism, unlike many of the card-carrying Nazi party members like Richard S. and Orff who have become loved on an international level. The Viennese Strauss family’s music is, if anything, damned difficult to play, requiring the utmost sophistication in lightness and rhythmic sensibility, meaning that its qualities reside almost solely in the performance–it can sound hackneyed and inflexible, like at yesterday’s concert with Zubin Mehta, or in the hands of an artist like Carlos Kleiber, can attain glorious heights and seem to be the most beautiful music in existence. One benefit of the New Year’s concert is that it offers one of the few possibilities of redeeming this music, of hearing it played well, which as any conductor knows, is almost impossible to achieve with an orchestra unfamiliar to the style.

    Why then, the hatred for this New Year’s concert? We know that die Philharmoniker were Nazi sympathizers and that their cultural tastes were, at times, not bad at all, that they liked Beethoven and Wagner and other good German music (also some wretched fare like Orff), and that old ladies sat at performances of this music and purred “wie schoen” — music served as an aesthetic distraction from the realities of genocide.

    What about this is unique? Has the relationship of aesthetic dishonesty and cultural barbarism improved since the ’40s? Do the old ladies in New York now hear Beethoven as an ugly reminder of the struggle for bourgeois freedom in a world of barbarism?

    It’s important to be mindful of the roots of this concert, but the fact that an artistic tradition was born under conditions of barbarism should surprise only the most naive. I’m still baffled as to what Mr. Lebrecht finds uniquely fascist about this concert or this music.

    • zak44

      Strauss didn’t actively oppose the Third Reich, but he was hardly a committed Nazi. He shielded his Jewish daughter-in-law during the Hitler years, refused to blacklist Jewish composers, and remained publicly loyal to Jewish friends like his librettist Stefan Zweig, and wrote in his diaries that he considered “the Jew-baiting by Goebbels a disgrace to German honour.”

      Did he show as much courage as he might have? Probably not. He backed off his defense of Zweig when things got hot and shamefully joined in attacks on Thomas Mann, but his complicity with the Nazis stopped well short of the favors that people like Karl Bohm, Herbert Von Karajan, Hans Pfinzner, and Carl Orff reaped for their active participation.

  • Julia Deri

    “The Nazi origins were suppressed until last year when a historian discovered that the Philharmonic had given its ring of honour to six mass-murderers, including Schirach; the butcher of Holland, Arthur Seyss-Inquart; and the head of Reich railways who ran the trains to Auschwitz. Those honours weren’t revoked until 2013 and some of the criminals could be seen attending Philharmonic concerts into the 1960s”. – It happened recently so the tradition is still vivid 🙁 Did the author write lies? I do not think so. And I am very sad about it.

  • HotAirBaboon

    Really looking forward to Mr Lebrecht’s series of articles on Art and Culture under Stalin, Mao and the Kims……. oh sorry, wrong team.

  • Modest proposal: 1. Raze to the ground the Musikverein to atone for sins commited; 2. Disband the Vienna Philharmonic; 3. Organise an annual klezmer concerto.

  • Cornelius Bonkers

    Let’s be honest, it’s well known that Lebrecht is a bit of a snob; maybe he just doesn’t like music written for Austrian chavs?

  • ICE

    Haters gonna hate and you my friend, you are one great hater

  • GenJackRipper

    So a conservative magazine is bemoaning a old traditional institution for it having bad 70 year old roots and them not beeing inclusive?

    Is this magazine conservative or communist? Con/Com…

  • AAL

    What a load of pointless, “politically correct” rubbish. Obviously, the historical facts are interesting. Interesting from the point of history. But they are irrelevant to today’s Neujahrskonzert. It’s like saying that we should find the pyramids less fascinating, because the pharaonic regime was a tyrannical one. The concert IS a tradition, even if you start counting at 1945. Seventy years are enough to create a tradition. And what about the other – even worse- rubbish? “the sound is obtained at the expense of unacceptable prejudice.” Unacceptable by whom? It’s their business, and theirs alone, how they maintain their sound.