Collaboration of Musicians with the Nazis

berlin philThe devastating impact of fascism on music culture and culture as a whole cannot be divorced from the history of orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic in Germany and the Vienna Philharmonic in Austria, under the Nazis. In fact, there was an intricate relationship that developed between the regime and two of the most conspicuous conductors in Germany and Austria during the Reich, Wilhelm Furtwangler and Herbert von Karajan. They were to a large extent the public face of German culture that the world saw. They held deeply rooted Nazi sympathies even before Hilter came to power in 1933, so that Hitler and Goebbels found orchestras that were ready and even eager to serve as tool s of Nazi propaganda.


These orchestras, as well as many others, were purged of their Jewish members, and key positions were filled with Nazi supporters. For example, thirteen active musicians were expelled from the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic in 1938. There were hardly any protests from orchestra members against the dismissal of their Jewish colleagues. There was a ban on Jewish composers like Mendelssohn and Mahler. Such orchestras focused on a conservative repertoire taking care to identify themselves with the grandeur of Germanic culture. These orchestras now served as  the representatives of the Nazi regime, providing the musical programme for the Nazis’ party congresses in Nuremberg and the Olympic Games, and giving regular concerts for other Nazi organizations. The Faustian bargain these musicians made with the Nazis came at the cost of their artistic and moral independence. However, the attitude of the people who made therse choices can be summed up by these self-justifying words: “Of course there were compromises, and moral compromises certainly. Was that opportunist? There were perhaps better reasons to take part than to resist.”

The Third Reich: Classical Music and the Nazi Leadership, 1933-1945
Yad Vashem

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra admits links with Nazis
RT Network

Davidson on the Vienna Philharmonic’s Suppressed Nazi Past

Bernadette Mayrhofer
Expulsion and Murder of Vienna Philharmonic Musicians after 1938   Weiner Philharmoniker

The Vienna Philharmonic under National Socialism (1938 – 1945)
Weiner Philharmoniker

Fritz Trümpi,
The Repertoire of the Vienna Philharmonic in the Nazi Era
Weiner Philharmoniker

Fritz Trümpi
An Association Based on National Socialist Principles
Weiner Philharmoniker

Bernadette Mayrhofer
Persecution and Murder of Members of the Vienna Philharmonic
Weiner Philharmoniker

The Vienna Philharmonic: An Orchestra, a ring and a past
Vienna Review

Latest: Vienna Philharmonic appoints independent historians to study its links with top Nazis
Slipped Disc

Bernadette Mayrhofer
Impending Expulsion of the “Closely Related” (Versippte), “Half-breeds”
(Mischlinge), and Foreigners Lacking a “Certificate of Aryan Descent”
Weiner Philharmoniker

Orchestra to Disclose Its Nazi Past
The New York Times

Historian Probes Conductor Von Karajan’s Nazi Past
Arutz Sheva

Vienna professor: Karajan lied, lied and lied again about his Nazi past
Slipped Disc

Herbert Von Karajan
Music and the Holocaust

Norman Lebrecht: The clapped-out legacy of Karajan that impoverished classical music
The Independent

Berlin Philharmoniker

Das Reichsorchester—The Berlin Philharmonic and the Nazis
World Socialist Web Site

Berlin Philharmonic Examines Nazi Past on 125th Birthday

Dresden Opera Moves Forward, Confronts Nazi Past
The Jewish Daily Forward

Beautiful music does not drown out shameful history of the past
The Jewish Chronicle Online

Wilhelm Furtwangler
Music and the Holcoaust

Review of Video:
Great Conductors of the Third Reich – Art in the Service of Evil
Music Web International

Correspondence between Wilhelm Furtwängler and Joseph Goebbels about Art and the State (April 1933)
German History in Documents and Images

Vienna Philharmonic and the Jewish musicians who perished under Hitler
The Guardian
Includes short profiles of five Jewish musicians who played with the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra before perishing in Nazi death camps or ghettos.


Share Button

We will be adding new content all the time.

  • List Item #1
  • List Item #2
  • List Item #3

Keep up to date by signing up now.