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Nazi Victims Demand Israel Philharmonic Cancel Wagner Concert

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A confrontation developed today between the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and former Nazi concentration camp inmates and partisan fighters over a Wagner concert the orchestra is scheduled to perform at the Mann Auditorium here next Wednesday. The works of Richard Wagner have not been performed in this country since the infamous Crystal Night in 1938 marked the beginning of all-out Nazi persecution of Jews. The works of Richard Strauss have also been dropped from concerts in Israel because of public protests.

Elchanan Bergman, a spokesman for the Philharmonic, said today that the orchestra was determined to give its Wagner concert. He said the orchestra had written Education Minister Aharon Yadlin for an opinion but had gotten no reply. He noted that the Kol Israel (State radio) orchestra performed Wagner, Strauss and other German composers and there was no reason why the Philharmonic could not do the same. He pointed out that the ban on Wagner had been self-imposed by the orchestra members and that now, what with normal relations established with West Germany, there was no reason why the orchestra could not reverse its own ban.

But Pessah Burstein, chairman of the World Federation of Nazi Fighters and Concentration Camp Inmates wrote to the Philharmonic that “we have been shocked to learn of your decision to devote a whole program to the Wagner works, a decision that hurts a large part of the population, the remnants of the holocaust.” Burstein has also written Yadlin urging him to intervene to cancel the performance. The Wagner concert is to be conducted by Zubin Mehta, the Philharmonic’s musical advisor.

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