an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Baldur von Schirach’s best composer friend

The Gauleiter of Vienna was a lover of the arts, a regular first-nighter when he wasn’t organising mass murder. He was such a friend of the Vienna Philharmonic that they gave him a medal after he came out of jail, in 1966.

This picture, newly retrieved, shows him in 1943 at the Burg Theatre for the world premiere of Gerhart Hauptmann’s ‘Iphigenia’, with the playwright (centre ) and Richard Strauss (left).

(c) Lebrecht Music&Artsschirach2

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. The Allies handed out 20 years to Schirach at Nurnberg and he served every last day of the sentence. Thus he paid for his manifold sins according to international law. Christ would have then said to him…go thy way and sin no more.
    So why all the self/serving moralising now? Like every one of us Shirach was many people…good, bad, ugly…despite his misdeeds, he was much more than those alone, just as we are more than the sum of our faults, be they ever so dreadfully manifold. He was guilty of ghastly things, but was also an aesthete and great friend of the Hochkultur that some of us on this site hold dear.

    Too many people today are exempt from sanity whenever these matters are mentioned, just as all too many then were exempted from sanity as the Zeitgeist caught up with them.

    Schirach s parents were Americans, by the way…or at least born there.

    • There is a difference between not harrassing someone who has “paid his debt” and specifically honouring him with one of the greatest honours available. A convicted person has indeed a right, once realeased from prison, to live a quiet life without being bothered by reference to his past deed. It does not justifiy giving him a Nobel Prize.

      • Christopher Oakmount says:

        You completely misunderstood me. My point was the question if the VPO disgraced themselves as a whole in 1966 or if it was Mr Wobisch on his own. I also marvel how a ring turns into a medal turns into the nobel price. I am totally for the VPO to put everything on the table (finally after too long a wait) and having historians evaluate the evidence, but less hyperbole would help.

        • I am sorry, I was not replying to your (quite valid) post, but to Ella’s!

          • Christopher Oakmount says:

            The posts came up on my pc in a wrong order and tree, hence my misunderstanding. Thanks.

        • By the way, the Nobel Prize allusion was JUST an analogy. I do not think that the vienna ring (or whatever its name is) is an actual equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

          The point is that whether a private decision or a decision made by the VPO, giving the ring back to Schirach was a shame and a disgrace. That we do not know who to blame does not make it less shameful.

  2. Christopher Oakmount says:

    The joury is still out if the Vienna Philharmonic gave him a duplicate of a ring of honour (bestowed on him during the war) after he came out of jail, in 1966. It might have been a “private favour” by former VPO principal trumpet and Geschäftsführer Wobisch, who was a nazi. It remains a very dubious act and worthy of investigation, but oversimplification is not helping either.

  3. What is your point, Norman. Von Schirach was also co-patron of the very extensive Mozart Festival organized by the National Socialists in 1941 in which many if not most of the great artists working in Central Europe participated. Von Schirach was clearly a complicated man and by his own admission a very weak man.

    • Not complicated at all, Tom. Von Schirach organised the eviction and murder of Vienna’s Jews. Any more questions?

      • Yes, What is the point of posting the picture. What does it say or prove ?

        • Just that he was as much embedded in cultural affairs as he was in the Nazi hierarchy. You probably know that Strauss looked to him as a personal protector, as did Pfitzner. This is evidence of their intimacy. Strauss had no reason to be at the premiere other than to snuggle up to Mr Genocide.

          • Easy on the wishful thinking, please.
            In fact, Strauss had a Jewish daughter in law and
            two Jewish grandsons to protect, reason enough
            for a bit of intimacy.

          • Well it could also have been because Hauptmann was an almost exact contemporary of Strauss and the composer might have felt some fellow-feeling for a man who was in a cultural and political situation not that different to his own… Hauptmann was hardly a Nazi icon but he’d had a distinguished career including the Nobel Prize for Literature before World War One…

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Norman, Ella is right about Richard Strauss. Strauss performed a balancing act with the Nazis to protect his family and stood up for other Jews such as Stephan Zweig. If you have a different idea about Strauss, we’d like to hear your facts.

          • Read my books. I don’t need to repeat them here.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Norman Lebrecht says:
            March 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm

            “Strauss had no reason to be at the premiere other than to snuggle up to Mr Genocide.”

            I agree. Strauss was a musician. Why in the world would he go to the premiere of *a play* where people *talk*? That’s deeply suspicious. What makes it even more strange is the subject of the play. Strauss had no interest in classical mythology as the fact that he never composed any operas based on classical Greek or Roman subjects clearly demonstrates. And, as everyone knows, only Nazis go to the theater. I think the evidence is pretty damning!

  4. Petros Linardos says:

    @Michael Schaffer:

    “Strauss had no interest in classical mythology as the fact that he never composed any operas based on classical Greek or Roman subjects”:

    Fact: Richard Strauss’ operas include Electra, Die ägyptische Helena, Daphne, Die Liebe der Danae.

    • Quite right, Petros.
      Ah, the pleasures of debate. One neednt prove anything, simply state ones views as fact, whether one is at all informed or not. And oh the ease with which one states what Strauss should or should not have done.

      • Folks, I think Mr Schaeffer was using irony – never easy to do online.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          With hindsight I think you are right. But I would question whether it is a good idea to use irony in a an discussion. I see irony as a form of personal attack that doesn’t contribute to a civil exchange of ideas.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Depends on the situation. And on people “getting” the irony off course. In this case, I would have thought it was glaringly obvious that I wasn’t serious. Did you really think I was serious when I said “only Nazis go to the theater”?

  5. Galen Johnson says:

    “I consider the Streicher-Goebbels Jew-baiting as a disgrace to German honor, as evidence of incompetence — the basest weapon of untalented, lazy mediocrity against a higher intelligence and greater talent. I openly testify here that I have received so much support, so much self-sacrificing friendship, so much generous help and intellectual inspiration from Jews that it would be a crime not to acknowledge it all with gratitude.”

    –Richard Strauss private notebook, 1933

    Like some other Germans, Strauss assumed the Nazi government was too inept, stupid and brutish to last. He was wrong–just as the many Jews who stayed in Germany for the same reason were wrong (see Erik Larson’s “In the Gardens of the Beasts.”) Strauss found himself ensnared by his own egoism, that he could use the Nazis during the short time he figured they’d be in power. Instead, they used him.

    Strauss was cordial with Schirach for one simple reason: Schirach was willing and able to shield Strauss’s Jewish daughter-in-law Alice and two grandchildren from Auschwitz. Alice was arrested by the Gestapo at one point, but Schirach arranged for her release. Strauss even drove to Theresienstadt, naively trying to help Alice’s parents and other relations imprisoned there; he was rudely turned away. They were all killed.

    That picture evokes many layers of meaning, of course, but one is of a desperate old man trying to protect his family.

an ArtsJournal blog