Conductor ‘spied for England, performed for SS’

Conductor ‘spied for England, performed for SS’


norman lebrecht

November 24, 2019

A Swiss account of the life of Hans Swarowsky finds him earning small sums as a spy for the British consulate in Zurich, before going off in 1944 to become conductor of the Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Polish city closest to Auschwitz.

He obtained that job through his mentor Richard Strauss, who was friendly with the Nazi ruler of Poland, Hans Frank.

It is alleged that Swarowsky, like Oskar Schindler, saved Poles and Jews from the Płaszów concentration camp by including them in his orchestra and chorus.

After the War, Swarowsky became a sought-after conducting teacher in Vienna, numbering Abbado and Mehta among his star pupils.

Read here.


  • Petros Linardos says:

    Other famous pupils include Jansons, Sinopoli, Adam and Ivan Fischer.

  • fflambeau says:

    From Wikipedia: “He became a professor of conducting at the Vienna Music Academy. His many conducting students included Claudio Abbado, Alexander Alexeev, Zubin Mehta,[1] Leonid Nikolaev, Paul Angerer, Ádám and Iván Fischer, Jesús López-Cobos, Gustav Meier, Miltiades Caridis, Aleksandr Alekseyev, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Gianluigi Gelmetti, Brian Jackson, Alfred Prinz, Bryan Fairfax, James Allen Gähres, Albert Rosen and Bruno Weil.”

    That’s an impressive list. He was Hungarian and Jewish, by the way, not a Swiss as might be implied from the story.

    A very good story (original in German but can be translated on the Internet). Fascinating comment: “the board of the opera vehemently complained about this influence in artistic matters.” NO, not the Germans, the Swiss who may have been influenced by Nazi doctrine. He was a Jew who ended up in Poland: “Swarowsky bravely used his position to rescue imprisoned Polish resistance fighters and Jews from the nearby Płaszów concentration camp by including them in the orchestra and choir. From the same concentration camp came the Jews, who saved Oskar Schindler from death.”

    More research is necessary but this is an important find. Thanks for posting it.

  • Paul Capon says:

    Interesting. I think Clemens Krauss is said to have provided help to Ida Cook and her sister Mary Louise Cook (otherwise known as the romance writer Mary Burchell) in their efforts to help get Jews out of Germany through the writing of romance novels. They must have like his Strauss too.(Modern readers might find her opera descriptions more interesting than the romance though).