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Berlin Philharmonic opens up Nazi past

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For its 125th anniversary, the Berlin Philharmonic has opened up its Nazi past to the public.

The world-famous orchestra performed free concerts Sunday with Sir Simon Rattle, who has directed the orchestra since 2002. For the occasion, Misha Aster published a book and produced a documentary film titled, “The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich.”

The anniversary event also included an exhibit – based on one designed by the Nazis in 1938 – about music that the Nazis considered “degenerate.” Jazz, music by Jewish composers, and politically challenging music were banned during the Third Reich.

According to reports from the Deutsche Welle public news agency, the symphony, then known as the Reichsorchester, often performed for Hitler’s birthday under director Wilhelm Furtwängler.

Nazi propaganda minister Joesph Goebbels organized a deal naming the Berlin Philharmonic the Nazi’s official orchestra, in return for surrendering its artistic freedom. Aster told the Deutsche Welle that the orchestra took a long time to open its wartime archives because its post-war conductor, Herbert von Karajan, had been a member of the Nazi Party. Karajan died in 1989.

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