In 2007, the Berliner Philharmoniker celebrated their 125th anniversary. Film director Enrique Sánchez Lansch took this occasion to tell a hitherto unknown chapter in the history of the Berliner Philharmoniker: the years of National Socialism from 1933 to 1945. The film, “The Reichsorchester”, made in collaboration with musicians of the orchestra and its archive, caused a stir in cinemas around the world. It can now be seen in the Digital Concert Hall.
Soon after the Nazis seized power, the Berliner Philharmoniker were engaged by the regime for high-profile events, including the Olympic Games in 1936 and party rallies in Nuremberg. What was it like to be a member of the Berliner Philharmoniker at that time? How did they deal with the Nazi party members in their own ranks – of which there were less than one would perhaps expect. And how did they react to the exclusion of Jewish colleagues? Interviews with concertmaster Hans Bastiaan and double bassist Erich Hartmann, the only surviving Philharmonikers from this time, provide us with the answers. There are also contributions from family members of other musicians, such as the cellist Joseph Schuster, who emigrated to the U.S.
The picture is completed by a wealth of archive material: excerpts from concerts with Wilhelm Furtwängler, Hans Knappertsbusch and Erich Kleiber and private photos and films of orchestral musicians. In addition, it provides an insight into Nazi events in the old Berlin Philharmonie, at which the orchestra participated alongside party leaders such as Joseph Goebbels. All these elements come together in the film to create a unique piece of history that tells us not only about the Berliner Philharmoniker but also about the relationship between art, power and the abuse of power.
A film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch (2007)
Hans Bastiaan, Sergiu Celibidache, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Erich Hartmann, Mariele Höfer-Szepes, Erich Kleiber, Hans Knapperstbusch, Ursula Küllmar, Ingrid Lorenz, Andreas Röhn, John Schuster, Hellmut Stern