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Vienna Philharmonic orchestra strips honors from former Nazi leaders

By Kyle Johnson,

The Vienna Philharmonic has announced that it has stripped honors bestowed upon six former Nazi officials.

The move was confirmed by Vienna historian Oliver Rathkolb to The Associated Press. When the orchestra met back on Oct. 23, the decision was voted on, but no announcement was made at the time.

According to Reuters, the senior Nazi officials losing the honors are Baldur von Schirach, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Friedrich Rainer, Albert Reitter, Hanns Blaschke and Rudolf Toepfer. Their standings in the Nazi party range from mayor to SS leaders.

Adolf Hitler was also supposedly awarded with the gold Nicolai medal, but no one is sure he ever received it. However, it too was revoked.

Rathkolb, who the orchestra preferred comment on the move, said, "There were a lot of questions and a very good debate. They are still very interested in these issues. From the point of view of finding a clear-cut approach to the Nazi past, it was an important symbolic act."

By 1942, nearly half the orchestra were members of the Nazi party and 13 musicians with Jewish relatives or backgrounds were pushed out, with five of them ending up in concentration camps.

The move is being welcomed by many as the Philharmonic is seen as too secretive. "Ten years ago, it was not even possible to get access to important documents in the orchestra's archive. So a lot has happened in a relatively short time," historian Fritz Truempi said.

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