It’s Anschluss day and the Vienna Opera is putting on a show

It’s Anschluss day and the Vienna Opera is putting on a show


norman lebrecht

March 12, 2018

press release:

Eighty years after the so-called “Anschluss” (Annexation of Austria) of 1938 the Wiener Staatsoper will remember the darkest years in the history of the House with an exhibition in the Gustav Mahler-Saal which will run from Tuesday, 13th March 2018.

On 12th March 1938 German troops crossed the border into Austria, on 13th March the Federal Constitutional Order on the Unification of Austria with the German Reich was issued. Its consequences also profoundly affected artists and institutions – at the Wiener Staatsoper, performers as well as members of staff were murdered, persecuted and dismissed, the very soul of the house was ripped apart.

Building on the exhibition “Victims, persecutors, spectators” from 2008 commemorating 70 years after the Annexation, the implacability and vandalism of the National Socialist regime will be told through individual stories. Alongside the personal, the exhibition also documents the effects of terror on the politics of the repertoire of the
Wiener Staatsoper: censorship and the effect that the years between 1938 and 1945 had on the repertoire will be explained – several works and composers disappeared from the repertoire of the Wiener Staatsoper. The exhibition will also shed light on the side of the perpetrators and profiteers.

Curated by dramaturgs Dr. Andreas Láng and Dr. Oliver Láng, the exhibition can be seen in the Gustav Mahler-Saal when visiting for a performance until the middle of May 2018.


  • Jenny B says:

    and my life altered for ever, because my dad was a witness and soon to be a refugee …….

  • Tony Britten says:

    And we commemorate the Anschluss tonight with the world premiere of my film about the ‘Hitler Emigres’ ; ‘Through Lotte’s Lens’. 6.30, Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley, followed by a Q&A

  • Rich C. says:

    I have been to the Weiner Staatsoper a few times but don’t recall a Gustav Mahler-Saal. Has the interior theatre been renamed that? Or is it just an exhibition room in the complex?

  • BillG says:

    There are some observers who feel the Staatsoper was a little to welcoming for ole ‘dolf. How much can a normal person due in such a situation? How much is too much cooperation with the thug-ocracy? It’s a hard question that I glad I have not had to face.

    • Sue says:

      Bingo. This regime was known to punish all who would not comply. As Klaus Tennstedt tells it, Germans were forbidden to listen to Jewish music or Russian music and the consequences were harsh for transgressing. He and his father listening to this music at home under an eiderdown in the bedroom. Lest anyone think everyone was falling over themselves to adore the Fuhrer and his regime of terror.

  • Sharon says:

    Erik Bruhn the famous classical ballet dancer of the fifties and sixties stated that when he was a student they used to dance in Denmark with Nazi occupation troops and officers in the audience while outside of the theater he was secretly distributing the newspaper of the Danish resistance and a large dolls’ house in the garden of his family’s home was being used by the resistance as storage for arms

    • Mike Schachter says:

      And they also performed Porgy and Bess a few timed, an opera by a Jewish American about Black Americans, must have been welcome by the occupiers

  • James says:

    Seven years later to the day, on 12 March 1945, the opera house itself was destroyed during an American air raid on Vienna. It didn’t reopen for business
    until November 1955.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I saw Herr Kurz on TV tonight helping commemorating the Anschluss, as a prime minister. For a populist rightwing politician, a quite hypocritical gesture: ironically his type of party was the type that was the breeding ground that caused nazism in the first place. He should be deeply ashamed of himself.

  • Has-been says:

    Mr Borstlap
    It wa not a ‘type’ of party that brought the NAZIs to power but a confluence of economic, social and political forces. One of the better rules of debate is never to make comparisons with the events of the 1930s and 40s.

    • Wiener says:

      Danke, HAS,- BEEN, Alle die nicht dabei waren sind jetzt die großen Widerstandskämpfer!

    • John Borstlap says:

      OK, but if there had not been an ideology, a political ‘vision’ etc. etc., those forces would not have been possible to mobilize so easily. We see the same process happening today, in another context, but the similarities are there for all to see.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Germany was not unified until past the one-third point in the 19th century. From that moment on, many in Austria wanted Austria to join up with imperial Germany (pan Germans). After all, the word Austria literally means, “Eastern Reich” and the principal language was and is German. All this heated up greatly before WWI. Partly due to a large influx of poor Eastern European Jews moving into Vienna, antisemitism became rampant. But it was the infamous Dreyfuss Affair in Paris that lead Theodor Herzl to begin his Zionist movement. Then came the war.

    It can be said that Austria was greatly responsible for kicking off WWI by literally declaring war on Serbia. I like to think that EVERYBODY was responsible by refusing to curb a huge and expensive arms race (sound familiar?), and by forming their rigid Allied and Axis pacts. In many respects, WWII was simply a continuation of WWI in Europe. As such, it’s hardly surprising that a majority of Austrians welcomed Hitler. After all, he was one of theirs and they had naively thought that Vienna would be a vital center for Hitler. (Hitler, of course, loathed the place). The rest, as they say, is history.

    From a musical standpoint, the great irony is that Mahler had been Hitler’s favorite conductor of the Wagner operas. As the old saying goes, “if only Hitler had sold more pictures and had made it into art school”.