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

Just in: Memorial concert for Vienna Philharmonic’s SS chief is cancelled

Die Presse reports that the Carinthian Summer Festival has called off its annual concert in memory of Helmut Wobisch, the SS and Gestapo man who was the Vienna Phil’s principal trumpeter and became its business manager after the War. Wobisch was co-founder of the Klagenfurt-based festival.




The cancellation is the first practical consequence of the historians commission report, demonstrating the VPO’s deep complicity in Nazi affairs.
helmut wobisch

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. It’s always nice when people do the right thing. It would be nicer if they’d do it *before* being caught doing the wrong thing.

  2. Eric Heinze says:

    And it only took a half-century? Phew, those fast-paced Austrians! Who can keep up with them?

  3. Better late than never…..

  4. Eric Heinze says:

    Sometimes late = never.

    L’autrichien se lève tôt, mais s’éveille tard.

  5. There is still a street – a main one – named after him in the festival town.

  6. It’s not enough.

  7. What are they doing having an ‘annual concert’ in the first place?

  8. I was last in Austria a decade ago. My impression then, very strongly, was that the country had dealt with WWI, but that WWII had not been properly brought out into the open – unlike Germany. Ten years later, nothing’s changed. All rather worrying, to someone of my generation

    • i had a similar experience. It is as though they were in a time warp. Perhaps now things will move forward.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      It’s true that the Austrians in general have done far less “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” than we have done in Germany (I wrote about that in detail in this thread: – the post is at the bottom of the page). And what they have done, they have done fairly reluctantly. The “we were victims of the Nazis, too” mentality was, and still is quite prevalent.
      However, what little they have done is still far more than what most other countries have done to “come clean” about the atrocities of their own histories, their colonial pasts, their own issues with racism etc. And there is plenty of that everywhere you look. History is not a happy place!
      There is a strong tendency especially in the English speaking countries to just keep pointing at the Nazis instead. They serve as a convenient excuse to distract from those unpleasant facts. And there is a big danger in that. History has that habit of repeating itself if not properly addressed. There is a very good BBC documentary about the Nazis with the title “A Warning from History”. And I think that is what it should be taken as – not a wholesale excuse for other countries not to investigate their own histories.

      • Excellent point. The Germans do lead the pack, as far as efforts to address past sins. Here in America, we have a constitution written by men who thought a “negro” was 3/5 of a human being, yet we love to lecture the world about freedom and democracy, as though all has been rectified. And, aside from some popular movies, not a whole lot has been done to really come to terms with the wholesale slaughter of Native Americans, and the appropriation of their land. (I’m waiting for the Native American Right-of-Return Movement!)

  9. He doesn’t really even sound all that good, recording quality aside.

    • I don’t see the relevance of that. I’m sure you don’t mean to imply that if he’d been a good enough musician, his sins would be forgiven.

      • My point is, why focus so much on this man? The cancellation of this particular concert is nothing but a cosmetic measure, rather than any meaningful response to the charges. I can promise you that the thinking behind this action is something along the lines of, “Oh, dear. I guess we’d better lie low for a while until this goes away.” Then, as soon as the spotlight moves on to some other outrage elsewhere in the world, it will be back to business as usual. Why is this? Because Austrians love their Vaterland, and refuse to see anything negative about it. And they love their Vienna Philharmonic above all else. Until there is some public pressure from Austrians themselves for the VPO to come clean, it will never, ever happen. This is not limited to the VPO, of course. I’m sure that there are similar instances of an uncomfortable truth in just about every institution in the country. If Austrians begin to question the VPO’s history, it won’t be long before they are forced to look at their own families.

        And I should know – I’m of entirely Austrian parentage. I remember once mentioning, to an elderly Austrian great-aunt, that I had just seen an American movie where Nazis were defeated soundly, and her telling response was, “Oh, why must they bring that all that up again and again?” Austrians would much rather sweep everything under the rug, rather than admit that their Alpine fairy kingdom is not the romantic wonderland they want it to be.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I don’t think you can judge the sound quality at all from a 1951 recording, transferred from LP (and it doesn’t sound like de-emphasis was properly applied) and put on Youtube. The playing is very solid for the time but not by the standards of today – the general technical level of playing has risen quite drastically in the past decades. You can get a better idea of what he actually sounded like from high quality recording like the ones Decca made in the 60s – for instance, the Ring. It’s not a given though that when you hear a trumpet solo there that it’s him. The WP always have several principals for each section. You can hear him in the recording of Siegfried’s Funeral March though as this video shows: . Somebody actually tagged him at 2:45 or so.
      Solti seems to be having a great time despite all the old Nazis in front of him.

  10. Abigail Clifford says:

    Some of the comments here unfortunately reveal a certain Dad’s Army little England approach to the whole tragedy
    of the world’s worst ever six years.

    Germany and Austria were responsible for starting world war 2. However 8 million of their people died. Just because they started the whole thing do their lost lives have any less value?
    From a purely musical angle, one of the musical highlights of the 20th century has to be Solti’s recording of Wagner’s ring with the VPO, an orchestra that would have contained many ex soldiers of the Wehrmacht. It sounds amazing, Solti goes right to the heart of the music.Surely the fact that he was a Jewish maestro has much more meaning than how some little town in 2013 names a festival.

    • There’s a huge difference between being a “former member of the Wehrmacht” and being a former Nazi official who was personally responsible for deportations and, ultimately, deaths.

      …And 8 million German and Austrian deaths do not exonerate a criminal.

    • …And the implication that the VPO’s hiring of Solti somehow mitigates the honoring of a Nazi official bears more than a little resemblance to the traditional cop-out, “…But some of my best friends are Jewish.”

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        True – but it’s not like they just invited Solti and maybe one other Jewish conductor simply so they could say “but some of our conductors are Jewish”. I think it is very significant that after the war, a significant number of conductors, some of whom had been victims of Nazi terror themselves – Walter, Klemperer, Krips, Kleiber (the latter non-Jewish, but still a victim), Solti – and some who hadn’t – Szell, Reiner, Bernstein – were willing to go to Vienna and work with the orchestra. Bernstein developed a particularly close relationship with them, coming as close to being their principal conductor (a post they don’t have) as one can.

        • Mr Schaffer, I don’t know why I am bothering here as you accept nothing anyone says in response to your posts and you keep repeating the same meaningless arguments. (Here that the choices of individual conductors has something to do with absolving the WP from having Nazi members and the lies that the orchestra told to those guests; your ignoring the very explicit comments and writings from those conductors about these matters that have been posted on this page in response to your claims that these jolly Jews look so *happy* conducting The Heavenly Orchestra, u,s.w.) But I do have to ask, if Mr Lebrecht is going to continue to accept your posts: You subjected me (and others here) to a set of highly personal accusations and questions, then accused me of not answering them when I did answer them (in detail), and then never acknowledged my answers.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      There wouldn’t have been all that many – if any – ex-Wehrmacht soldiers in the orchestra after the war as the members of the orchestra were generally exempt from military service. There may have been a few who weren’t members of the orchestra during the war and who had to serve in the Wehrmacht, then joined the orchestra later – but I don’t know if that was the case. If it was, it would have been only in a very few cases, I think.

    • While I’m on a roll….

      The claim that Germany and Austria started WWII is a Eurocentric one. One could just as easily date the beginning of the war from the Japanese invasion of China (1937) or the the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

  11. WW II evil is not restricted to German-speaking countries. There were Soviet crimes, Italian crimes, Spanish crimes, Hungarian crimes, Japanese crimes, French crimes, and do not forget Americans sending all Japanese-Americans, some second or third generation, to desert concentration camps.

    • The internment of Japanese-Americans (it wasn’t *all* Japanese Americans, by the way; those in Hawaii, interestingly, were not interned) remains one of the most shameful episodes in American history, but surely you did not mean to equate it with the slaughters perpetrated by the Nazis and the Soviets?

      • Both comments here are incorrect. The internment of Japanese-Americans was and is indeed a horrible chapter in U.S. history. But 1) “all” Japanese-Americans were not subject to internment. The order applied only to those on the Pacific Coast. Of these, 110,000, about 62 percent of whom were U.S. citizens, were indeed interned in the period of 1942-44. 2) Between 1,200 and 1,800 from Hawai’i were interned, either in one of the five camps on the islands or in mainland camps. True, this was only about one percent of the Japanese-origin inhabitants of the territory (Hawai’i’ did not become a state until. 1959), who made up more than a third of the population of the islands, but these people were interned. The whole territory was also under martial law at that time which, of course, the mainland states were not.

        Those able to visit Los Angeles wil find the excellent Japanese American National Museum there in the Little Tokyo district:

        And as Jeffrey E. Sazberg notes, the shameful internment cannot be compared to Nazi and Soviet crimes of death camps and mass murder.

      • No, but democratic states also do vile and evil things.
        How much soul-searching have the Americans tried for their monstrous behavior in Vietnam?
        I think it wouldnt even occur to most of them. for they have no sense of having done wrong.
        How’s that for Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung?!

        • “I think it wouldnt even occur to most of them. for they have no sense of having done wrong.”

          You obviously were not alive and sentient in the US during the late 60s/early 70s, and I’m betting that you haven’t spent much time here since.

          • Not only was this 4-fold 11th generation New England Yankee alive and sentient in the 60s and 70s, she was employed by the US Army at the time, as well. Rather wide of the mark, sir.
            So now, tell us all about it…..

          • …And yet missed Kent State, the ’68 Chicago convention, and every other protest, apparently.

        • What is always hilarious (in the blackest if ways) about comments from folks such as “Ella” is that they raise arguments about other countries, ostensibly to show that there is “bad everywhere,” but invariably excuse the Nazis and say that the Holocaust was not such a big deal. And sure enough, she has done so on another part of this thread. Typical. Twisted.

          • I’ve grown accustomed to Holocaust deniers, who deny the existence of the Final Solution while bemoaning its failure.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            Wow guys, slow in the projections please. Nobody has claimed that the holocaust was “not such a big deal”. But I agree with those who find it conspicuous that many people see all the interest in digging into things that happened over 70 years ago while hypocritically denying to deal with the actual problems and “evil doers” in the more recent past and present.

            Ella didn’t say anything about the holocaust. But you did. Says much about you, nothing about Ella.

          • This is my last reply to you, sir. It says something about *me* because I point out that you and “Ella” think that there is something odd about Jews? About “bringing up the Holocaust” *when that is the subject of the discussion*? Ys, who but a Jew would bring up the Holocaust in a discussion about Nazis? Or about Jewish members of the Vienna Philharmonic who were murdered in the Holcaust for being Jews and whose names and stories were hidden by the Philharmonic for almost 70 years? And this usual trick of the Jew haters: “They” never talk about evil today (we don’t? Where does this baseless assumption come from?), just the nonexistent chapters of history that we cared nothing about then or now. This is of course how “they” are. It is as if we have stumbled into a rabbit hole of Protcols readers. Basta!

          • You too seem to be prey to obsession, eager to attribute ‘certain faults’ to those who disagree with you. Oh dear, you’ll simply have to get used to the plurality of views. Human kind is quite varied.

    • That was the ‘logic’ I heard from Austrians in our group when asked why they chose not to spend a day with us at Dachau.

  12. What exactly is on the man’s rap sheet?
    Whom exactly did he harm? What is known about his deeds that would stand up in court?
    Lest we forget: Oskar Schindler was an Nazi and war profteer who rubbed shoulders with
    the scum of the earth, doing who knows how much harm.
    Yet his good deeds brought him Sainthood.

    • Oskar Schindler saw the error of his ways, and saved over a thousand people.

      Wobisch did not.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        Wobisch was a trumpeter in an orchestra. Schindler was a factory owner. No excuse for SS-Trooper Wobisch, but your comparison is off. Even if Wobisch wanted (and we know he didn’t), he couldn’t have saved over a thousand people. Schindler, btw., also made profits from the work of Jewish workers he saved. It’s a complicated world, there is anything else than just black and white, pure good or pure evil.

        I think it’s enough about Wobisch. If Bernstein, Solti and Klemperer had no problem collaborating with him back then, then why 40 years later all this outrage?

        • Again, one cannot argue with someone such as Fabio Fabrici. This all happened so long ago. The Holocaust is unimportant compared to the Holy Vienna Philharmonc. The now-published statements made by Solti and Bernstein about the orchestra membership and actions during their times there mean nothing. An 80 year coverup — including information withheld from the three conductors he cites — the Jews he finds acceptable and not the distracting noisemakers here and elsewhere — is meaningless. As I posted here within minutes of the release of the historians report (and who are historians, hand-selected by the Philharmonic, compared with the great philosopher of history, Mr Fabrici?), these lines of argument are the ones that we would here in defense of . . . in defense of what exactly? The Nazis? The lies? The 80-year coverup? The presentation of honors to a Nazi war criminal in 1966? . . . And we have, and will continue to, hear these from such folks.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Andrew Patner says:
            March 20, 2013 at 3:46 pm

            “Again, one cannot argue with someone such as Fabio Fabrici. This all happened so long ago. The Holocaust is unimportant compared to the Holy Vienna Philharmonc. The now-published statements made by Solti and Bernstein about the orchestra membership and actions during their times there mean nothing.”

            I realize you are being sarcastic here – of course they do mean something. But something that seems to directly contradict your argument. What the correspondence between Solti and Bernstein regarding Wobisch means is that they clearly knew exactly who they were dealing with. Yet they chose to work with him and the others anyway.

            BTW, I would put it the other way around, compared to the Holocaust, the WP are unimportant. It’s micro-history. Interesting for those of us who have that specialized interest in the history of music, musicians, musical culture and its role in society, but almost completely irrelevant in the *larger* frame of history. The documents recently released by the orchestra provide some very good insights into the mechanisms of what happened, how it happened, what roles individual people played, the fates of the victims. I wonder why nobody here actually discusses these topics.
            Maybe because the material hasn’t been translated yet and our Nazi experts here can’t actually read them in German?

          • Look, buddy. Enough. It is well-known that you spend you days on these various message boards offering your unchangeable opinions on all subjects. Maybe that works for you. Imagine if you had your own website -/ you would not have to worry about readers or commenters. Some of us are actually in these fields as historians, authors, etc. I am glad for you that your sound engineering job in Boston gives you the time to indulge your hobby. No one has questioned your English, your decision to live and work in the U.S. with all of our inferior and provincial orchestras, etc. As long as Mr Lebrecht wants to publish your posts, enjoy. I’ve wasted too much of my time feeding the animals.

          • Were Klemperer, Solti, Kleiber, Walter, Bernstein, Leinsdorf et all still with us, would they laugh or cry at the pathetic presumption of many of the observations here. Obsession is a dangerous thing,
            the fondness for sanctimonius dismissal of fellow humans ditto. Only the living matter, while the dead… will not return.

          • Having known and talked with three of those gentlemen about these subjects myself, I am of course not in any position to argue with your own expertise on these matters which comes from . . . well, from somewhere. Really, I apologize for thinking there was some reason to comment on a subject that you know so much more about than anyone else.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            You are attacking straw men in your full mental armor. Nobody claimed that the shoah is unimportant nor that the VPO is holy. Yes the VPO has been very reluctant to publicly deal with it’s compromised past. So has Austria as a whole country. Encouraged by the Allies btw.
            Do you know the Christian concept of forgiveness? It would be a good idea, particularly considering that none of the actual Nazis still serve in the VPO and that most of them are dead.

          • Of course not, Mr Fabrici, I am Shylock, a primitive Jew. Why would I know about such things as your superior Christian concept of mercy? And, for the last time, the coverup was and is by people from long after the war up to the present day. And, yes,we all know the roles of the Allies and the Soviets in the “first victims” position. It is truly an important reminder in 2013 to encounter someone who so cavalierly throws around the terms of centuries of Jew hatred. Mr Lebrecht has done us a service to provide you with a soapbox. Have a wonderful day.

  13. Why in God’s name didn’t the free countries stop the Nazi slaughter of these poor, precious people before it
    came to this.

    • Well, for one thing, people did not take the Nazis’ rhetoric seriously until it was too late.

      Ironically, this was partially the fault of the Allies. People remembered the WWI propaganda (“The Huns are boiling Belgian babies!”) and figured that the reports of actions against the Jews, Gypsies, and others was simply more of the same.

      This, of course, does not address the question of why Roosevelt and Churchill did not later authorize the destruction of the infrastructure that fed the camps.

  14. Terrific. Let’s blame The Jews for the Holocaust. Let’s make statements so ignorant, so stupid, that they don’t even understand that Sephardic Jews and Hasidic Jews are not comparable descriptors, one referring to an historical, regional, and linguistic division in Europe, North Africa, and the East, and another a sectarian branch of Orthodox Judaism that emerged from Central Europe.

    I suppose that Mr Lebrecht shares this foul rubbish with us to remind us that Jew hatred and mythologizing Jews will never disappear, even — especially? — among refined, cultured people.

    • And you should see, Mr Patner, some of the comments that get spammed out.

      • …For which I, for one, am grateful, even when they’re mine.

      • Ugh. And, Mr Lebrecht, to paraphrase the great line from Willa Cather, “Coraggio, Inglese!”

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        None of mine got spammed out recently, but probably only since I have kind of lost track of this thread recently :-)
        And yes, Mr Patner, I know I still owe you a few answers from our recent exchanges, I didn’t overlook that this time, maybe I’ll get to that soon – but I notice that some people here do get to call people names, call them “holocaust deniers”, “someone such as Fabio Fabrici” which is not really calling someone a name, but implies that he is part of some sinister group or conspiracy, while very few of their arguments actually get addressed. They get drowned out in the self-righteous outrage, the name calling.
        Is that what we call “refined and cultured”?

        • Please explain — given the overwhelming amount of evidence that the Holocaust was both real and terrible — how someone could possibly deny it other than from a position of venality, stupidity, or both.

          Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…and sometimes a “pejorative” is merely an accurate statement of fact.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            Nobody here has denied the holocaust yet you talk about it non stop as if that was the case. The term that describes this phenomenon is called “hallucination”.

          • Mr Fabrici, you made a foul and completely false observation earlier about Jews in the Holocaust that was spammed out. I think the time has come to end this thread. Messrs Shaffer, Patner, Salzberg and others – basta!

          • Thank you, Mr Lebrecht.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            I completely agree with your observations about holocaust deniers. To the possible reasons you have given, I would add that some may have a calculated political motive to do so.

            But I am also confused now. Maybe I lost track of the discussion again – but I don’t recall anyone here actually denying the holocaust. What did I overlook?

  15. Some say lots of things. Others repeat it.

an ArtsJournal blog