Clemens Hellsberg, player-president of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, has moved fast to allay public anxieties over the orchestra’s Nazi past.
He has named three prominent historians - Oliver Rathkolb, Fritz Trümpi and Bernadette Mayrhofer – who will have full access to the archives to look into the orchestra’s conduct after the Anschluss with Germany in March 1938. The results of their study will be published in March on the VPO website.
In particular, the historians will want to know why the orch gave its Ring of Honour to two mass murderers, the Vienna Gauleiter Baldur von Schirach and to Arthur Seyss-Inquart, who presided over the ethnic cleansing of the Netherlands. Seyss-Inquart was hanged at Nuremburg. Schirach, who was jailed for 18 years, remained in friendly contact with the orchestra.
The three historians were handpicked by Hellsberg, who is the VPO’s official historian. One of them, Rathkolb, had previously announced that ‘there is nothing new’ to discover about the VPO’s Nazi record.