Monthly Archives: March 2013

Brief History of Senkaku/Diaoyu Island Conflict

Article written by Joyman Lee published in History Today, volume 61, Issue 5 2011: [the article’s viewpoint is solely that of its author and not of this blog]

On September 7th, 2010 a Chinese fishing craft collided with two Japanese coastguard patrol boats near the oil-rich, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu, meaning ‘fishing platform’, in China. Following the collision, coastguards boarded the trawler and arrested its crew and captain Zhan Qixiong who, as subsequent video footage revealed, had rammed his boat into the coastguard vessels. Following the incident, anti-Japanese protests were held in Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shenyang. Chinese tour groups visiting Japan were recalled, four expatriate employees of Fujita, the Japanese car component manufacturers, were arrested in the northern Chinese province of Hebei and, more critically, a decision was made to suspend the export of rare earths to Japan. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao turned down requests to meet with his Japanese counterpart, Naoto Kan, and on November 1st Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian president, in a provocative move, visited the disputed southern Kuril Islands, which the Soviet Union annexed from Japan in 1945.

These events marked a low point in foreign relations for Japan, already mired in controversy over its plan to relocate the Futenma military base used for decades by US forces in Okinawa. Japan seemed to be under siege from all sides, while a rising China appeared increasingly powerful and assertive, capable of undermining Japan’s vital interests and infringing her territorial sovereignty.

It is important to look at the current dispute between China and Japan in the light of the history of Chinese foreign policy. Chang Chi-hsiung of Taiwan’s Academia Sinica has argued that the pre-modern Chinese world order was based on status and stability (mingfen zhixu). Legitimacy rested not on physical control but on the recognition and enactment of the proper roles and duties appropriate to one’s status. Under the logic of this system, emperors extended their power beyond China’s borders not by force, but by their ‘benevolence’ or ‘virtuous’ rule, which Confucian thinkers believed would lead foreign states to acknowledge the emperor’s moral suzerainty. Thus, outside China proper, it was possible to rule even where there was no mechanism of physical governance in place. Practical benefits accompanied acceptance of China’s nominal status at the head of this universal structure: tributary trade with China was not only extremely profitable but also provided many goods that could not be easily accessed elsewhere. On the other hand, gifts and titles from the Chinese emperor allowed rulers to strengthen their own position vis-à-vis their subjects. Although Japan stayed out of the system during its Tokugawa period (1603-1868) the vast majority of states in east, inner and south-east Asia, including the Ryukyus (modern-day Okinawa), accepted a tributary relationship with China.

This Sinocentric international order was much weakened during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Defeat by Britain in the Opium Wars (1839-42) and the resultant Treaty of Nanjing (1842), as well as the Treaty of Wangxia with the United States in 1854, allowed western powers to impose European-derived international law on their relations with east Asia. The British institutionalised legally a system of treaty ports and control of Chinese maritime customs, which combined to reduce China to semi-colonial status (see ‘China’s Age of Fragility’ by Robert Bickers, History Today March 2011). Although some revisionist historians argue that the Qing responded swiftly and that by 1862 scholars at the government-run language school Tongwen Guan were reading key texts such as Henry Wheaton’s Elements of International Law (1836) there was considerable confusion as to how the Qing should apply this understanding to relations with China’s neighbours. Meanwhile during its Meiji period (1868-1912) Japan launched an aggressive programme of modernisation and industrialisation, which included adoption of the western lexicon into its diplomatic language. In 1876 Japan forced China’s closest ally Korea into signing the Kanghwa Treaty, copying the methods employed by US Admiral Perry to open up Japan to overseas trade 22 years previously. Conflict over Chinese and Japanese relations with Korea came to a head at a meeting at Tianjin in 1885 in which China rebuffed Japanese demands for the Japan-Korea relationship to be recognised under western international law. Rather than pleading ignorance of western norms as Korean negotiators had done, the Chinese viceroy Li Hongzhang told the Japanese statesman Ito Hirobumi that there was a ‘striking difference’ between Korea’s tributary relations with China and the mere treaty obligations that she had towards Japan.

In her study Japan’s Colonisation of Korea: Discourse and Power (2005) Alexis Dudden argues that Japan was able to undermine China’s central position in Asia during the late 19th century by using the language and force of western international law to replace Chinese legal terms hitherto widely accepted in east Asia, introducing a new Sino-Japanese lexicon translated from English. At Tianjin Ito refused to communicate with Li Hongzhang either in Chinese or Japanese but instead spoke in English, catching the Chinese viceroy by surprise. The conflict between the Chinese and Japanese visions for east Asia would be decided on the battlefield. Despite basic naval parity Japan took advantage of a series of disastrous political and strategic errors by Li to defeat China decisively in 1894-95, establishing control over both the Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands and Korea in addition to seizing Taiwan. At a later meeting in 1905 the Chinese viceroy Yuan Shikai complained that there was a Chinese word in the text that he had not seen before, only to be humoured by the Japanese representative, who replied that the word kogi was translated from ‘protest’ in English. Japan, not China, was to be the new source of the modern vocabulary in kanji (Chinese characters) both legally and in other fields, from botany to economics.

How does this relate to the present dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands? Since 1970 the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Japan have all put forward bold sovereignty claims over the islands, which are equidistant from Taiwan and the southwestern tip of the Ryukyus. According to Chinese sources the first mention of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands is in a 15th-century document now held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Early sources tended to mention only the islands’ location on the voyage to the Ryukyus from China, but by the 17th century Chinese sources clearly named the maritime boundary between the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and the Ryukyus as the Heishuigou (‘Black Water Trench’), an area of high turbulence which we now know marks the edge of the continental shelf. In 1720 Xu Baoguang, the deputy Chinese ambassador sent to confer the royal title upon the Ryukyuan king, collaborated with the local literati to compile the travelogue Zhongshan Chuanxin lu (Record of the Mission to Chusan), which demarcated the westernmost border of the Ryukyuan kingdom at Kume-jima south of the Heishuigou Trench. Deputy ambassador Zhou Huang likewise identified Heishuigou as the boundary in 1756 and later the envoy Li Dingyuan noted the practice of sacrificing a live goat or pig when convoys crossed the trench. In the late 19th century the reformer Wang Tao, who had had experience of travelling in Europe, responded to the Japanese annexation of the Ryukyus by referring to Japanese sources which listed the Ryukyus as a separate country in 1670. He argued that even though the islands were vassals of both China and the Japanese state of Satsuma, the former relationship was more formal; the conquest of an inner tributary (Ryukyus) by an outer tributary (Japan) of China was a cause for outrage.

In contrast Japan’s argument largely ignored the historical position put forward in Chinese accounts. Claiming that the uninhabited islands were not occupied by any power, or terra nullius, Japan annexed the islands in 1895 shortly after its victory in the Sino-Japanese War. Japan claimed that the islands were ‘discovered’ in 1884 by Fukuoka merchant Koga Tatsushiro, who then applied to lease the land from the Japanese state. At the time, however, the interior ministry noted that it was still unclear as to whether the islands belonged to Japan, especially as there was detailed knowledge of the islands in Chinese and Ryukyuan writings, making Koga’s claims of ‘discovery’ difficult to substantiate. Nonetheless a Cabinet decision in 1895 ruled that the islands should become part of Japan, which provided the basis for their inclusion in Japan’s territories under the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952 that concluded the Second World War in Asia, but at which neither China nor Taiwan were present.

From the Chinese perspective there is little substance to Japan’s claims that the islands were not ‘occupied’, given that a fine distinction exists between ‘uninhabited’ and ‘unoccupied’. Sources suggest that there are graves of Taiwanese fishermen on the island. Although US occupation authorities in Okinawa administered the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands from 1945 until 1972 and used them as a training base, the US government did not see the transfer to Japan of the right of administration over the islands as equivalent to the transfer of sovereignty, which it insisted was a matter to be resolved by the relevant parties. Realising that such an ambiguity existed, the Okinawa Legislative Assembly, still under US control at the time, passed a resolution in August 1970 which declared the islands to be part of Japan and its claims were backed up by the then foreign minister Aichi Kiichi in the National Diet. In the meantime Taiwan issued an official protest, followed before the end of the year by similar complaints voiced by official Chinese media.

The dispute over the islands is a time bomb, given the enormity of the stakes involved. Despite Japanese claims that Chinese and Taiwanese interests in the islands are guided primarily by the possibility of major oil deposits, there has been little constructive dialogue between the countries involved in the question of the recent disputes over ownership of the islands. This remains at the very centre of broader tension between China and Japan, with the Nanjing Massacre of 1937 a focal point. Japan’s intransigent position on atrocities committed during the Second World War helps to fuel Chinese popular sentiment against it and makes the country an easy scapegoat for domestic discontent. Yet these days it is also easy to forget that China was the underdog for much of the 20th century; even today China is less articulate on the global scene than Japan.

The Chinese stance over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is comparable with the situation in the 1930s when Nationalist China refused to accept or acknowledge Japan’s control over Manchuria (Manchukuo in Japanese) despite widespread concern that militarily China would not be able to withstand Japanese aggression. By refusing to recognise Japanese control over the lost territories China sought to destabilise the foreign presence there even though the Chinese Nationalist government then based in Nanjing was unable to exert physical control. At the same time the government’s defiance of Japan helped to consolidate its claim to be China’s sole and legitimate rulers. China’s insistence on its sovereignty over Manchuria during the 1930s and over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands now is overwhelmingly more important in driving its foreign policy than the stress on physical control that is common to the West. The tussle between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan is another such example. Despite Taiwan’s physical separation from the mainland, it would be unthinkable for any Beijing government to consider it culturally or politically separate. Any attempt by Taiwan to declare formal independence is likely to end in armed conflict.

The situation viewed from Tokyo today sees a more assertive China flexing its muscles and imposing an arbitrary or at least un-western and unfamiliar logic on the world, infringing Japan’s control over territories that so far as it is concerned were acquired legally in the 19th century under the prevailing norms of the time.

However the dispute between China and Japan cannot be understood without grasping the complexities of nation state formation in Asia in the late 19th century. Despite the economic rise of East Asia since the Second World War border disputes remain an enduring legacy of the late 19th century when sharp differences of power existed between countries that understood the ways of the West, such as Russia and Japan, and those, such as China, which were less swift to respond. The fact that Japan had temporarily triumphed over the islands did not necessarily mean that an alternative worldview based on a different vision of legitimacy was completely wiped out. Tensions have subsided, probably briefly, in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan’s north-east coast in March. Yet Japan has ongoing border disputes not only with China but also with Russia and Korea. While these were marginal issues during the peak of its postwar economic expansion, since the 1990s gradual shifts in the balance of power in the region have highlighted Japan’s vulnerabilities in acute ways. As the discrepancy between the territorial status quo and the political and economic balance of power becomes more glaring in East Asia, the potential for conflict will only increase.


Leave a comment

Filed under Articles

Greek Jews Mark WWII Nazi Deportation in Thessaloniki

Article by Costas Kantouris for the Associated Press, March 16, 2013:

Jewish residents of this northern Greek city on Saturday marked the 70th anniversary of the roundup and deportation of its Jews to Nazi extermination camps during World War II.

Several hundred people gathered at Thessaloniki’s Freedom Square, where the first group of Jews was rounded up by the occupying German forces on March 15, 1943.

The crowd held a moment of silence, then marched to the city’s old railway station, where the first trains departed for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex. A short ceremony was held at the station and flowers laid on the tracks.

Speakers included the city’s mayor, Yannis Boutaris, and Holocaust survivors.

“The commemoration is an honor for the city of Thessaloniki. But some people look upon this era nostalgically and are bringing back the old Nazi symbols,” said David Saltiel, leader of the city’s Jewish community. He was referring to the emergence of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn, a party with neo-Nazi roots that swept into Parliament for the first time in June on an anti-immigrant platform.

Survivors of the concentration camps, from… View Full Caption
On March 15, 1943, 2,800 Jews departed for the concentration camp.

“We were packed 80 to each train wagon … When we arrived, they sent a number straight to the crematoriums and kept some of us for work. We were beaten often by the guards,” recalled Holocaust survivor Moshe Haelion.

Another survivor of the camps, Zana Santicario-Saatsoglou, described how for many years she was unable to tell her story. “My children used to ask me what that number on my arm was,” she said, referring to the identification number tattooed on Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners. “I told them it was my old phone number in Thessaloniki.”

By August 1943, 46,091 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of those, 1,950 survived. Fewer than 5,000 of the 80,000 Jews living in Greece survived. The majority, after returning from the camps, emigrated to Israel.

Today, the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, which until the early 20th century formed a slight majority of the city’s inhabitants, numbers fewer than 1,000.

The Jews of Thessaloniki were mostly Sephardic ones, who immigrated to the city, then part of the Ottoman Empire, after 1492 to escape persecution in Spain.

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles

Greek WWI Cemetery Vandalized in Macedonia

Report by Sinisa Jakov Mursic for, March 15, 2013:

The Greek foreign ministry expressed anger after the World War I cemetery was severely vandalised by unknown attackers.

“These incidents confirm yet again the risks and consequences of nationalism and populism, which is being cultivated in FYROM to the point where the dead are vulgarly insulted and history is disrespected,” Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said in a diplomatic note to the Macedonian foreign ministry on Thursday.

According to local media, the incident happened earlier this week. Greek soldiers’ tombstones were damaged and crosses were completely demolished.

The Macedonian authorities have condemned the attack and vowed to find and punish the perpetrators.

The incident comes amid long-standing bad relations between the two countries, fuelled by strong Greek objections to Macedonia’s name.

Greece insists that the name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

Since 2008, Greece has been blocking Macedonia from joining NATO over the unresolved name dispute.

The blockade has also meant that Macedonia hasn’t yet been offered a date for EU membership talks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles

Swiss Born WWII Hero to be buried in Arlington Cemetery

Story from the Associated Press, March 11, 2013:

ALBANY, N.Y. — Rene Joyeuse shot his way out of a Nazi ambush and provided vital information to the Allies ahead of the D-Day invasion, exploits that earned him one of the U.S. military’s highest medals, with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower himself pinning the Distinguished Service Cross on the Switzerland-born spy at the end of World War II.

After trading espionage for medicine after the war, he immigrated to America and helped pioneer emergency trauma care at hospitals across his adopted country. All he asked in return, according to his family, was to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Initially rejected because he didn’t meet the cemetery’s eligibility criteria, Joyeuse will be buried at Arlington on March 29, one of his two sons said Monday.

“It’s the one thing that he wanted,” Remi Joyeuse, of Knoxville, Tenn., said. “As a kid I remember him saying, ‘I’ll be buried in Arlington when I die.”

If any veteran deserves to be buried alongside America’s heroes, it’s Joyeuse, according to author and military historian Patrick O’Donnell, who wrote about the spy’s wartime exploits in a 2004 book, “Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs.”

“He was one of the most extraordinary spies of World War II,” O’Donnell said.

Joyeuse, a retired physician, was 92 when he died last June in Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, where he lived and worked, after battling Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade. Soon after, his survivors — wife Suzanne, sons Remi and Marc-Jerome — were crushed to learn from Arlington officials that he wasn’t eligible for burial there.

The family said they were told that it was because he wasn’t a U.S. citizen during the war, but an Arlington official said Monday that he was initially rejected because he wasn’t a member of the American military at the time of his heroics. There are 62 foreign nationals interred at Arlington, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Lynch. New grave exceptions by the Secretary of the Army are rare.

After the family request for an Arlington burial was rejected, they reached out to local congressional members and current and former military and intelligence officials for help in reversing the decision. In November, Army Secretary and former U.S. Rep. John McHugh, of northern New York, approved the former spy’s burial at Arlington.

It’s a fitting honor for someone whose bravery directly aided American soldiers on the beaches of Normandy, O’Donnell said.

“I’ve never seen a veteran more qualified to be buried at Arlington,” said O’Donnell, author of several books on World War II. “What he had done for the United States was extraordinary.”

His case may have been blurred by the ambiguous status of his wartime service.

Joyeuse was raised in France and left after the war started. He made his way to the U.S., where he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania and joined the Free French forces. But his fluency in French, German, Italian and English soon caught the attention of the Office of Strategic Services, America’s spy wartime spy agency and precursor to the CIA.

The OSS had him parachuted into German-held France in the spring of 1944. Despite narrowly escaping capture and suffering a leg wound during a shootout with the Gestapo, he provided key information on an oil refinery and an underground V-1 rocket factory. Both were bombed by Allied planes in the weeks before the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, O’Donnell said.

After the war, Joyeuse served with the French army in Indochina as a medic. His jungle combat experience of treating wounded soldiers with scant medical supplies prompted him to enter the medical profession upon his return to France and his subsequent move to America, with Suzanne, in the 1950s. Joyeuse became an expert in emergency treatment of trauma patients, as well as a surgeon and college professor.

“He put away his cloak and dagger and picked up his doctor’s coat and went to work,” O’Donnell said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles

Austria, Jews and the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Anschluss

Marina Plistiev, a Kyrgyzstan-born Jew, has lived in Vienna for 34 years but still doesn’t like to take public transport.

She recalls the day in 1986 as a teenager when she and her four-year-old brother, whom she’d collected from school with a fever, were told to get off a tram for having the wrong tickets, and nobody stuck up for them, apparently because they were Jews.

“With me (now), you don’t see I’m Jewish but with my children you see that they’re Jews. They get funny looks,” she told Reuters at Kosherland, the grocery store that she and her husband started 13 years ago.

While Austria is one of the world’s wealthiest, most law-abiding and stable democracies, the anti-Semitism that Plistiev senses quietly lingers in a nation that was once a enthusiastic executor of Nazi Germany’s Holocaust against Jews.

After decades of airbrushing it out of history, Austria has come a long way in acknowledging its Nazi past, and the 75th anniversary on Tuesday of its annexation by Hitler’s Third Reich will be the occasion for various soul-searching ceremonies.

But Jewish leaders who fought hard to win restitution after World War Two are on guard against a rising trend in anti-Semitic incidents, occasionally condemned by Austrian political leaders but seen more generally as a regrettable fact of life.

Austrian Jews have grown more vigilant as hooligans have verbally abused a rabbi, Austria’s popular far-right party chief posted a cartoon widely seen as suggestively anti-Semitic, and a debate has opened on the legality of infant male circumcision.

A new poll timed to coincide with the anniversary found that three of five Austrians want a “strong man” to lead the country and two out of five think things were not all bad under Adolf Hitler. That was more than in previous surveys.

The history of Vienna — once home to Jewish luminaries of 20th-century culture such as Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Arnold Schoenberg, but later Adolf Eichmann’s testing ground for what would become the “Final Solution” that led to genocide of 6 million Jews — means its Jews are always on the alert.

Today Austria’s Jewish community of 15,000 is diverse, formed mainly of post-war immigrants from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

But before Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, the “Anschluss”, Austria’s Jewish population was 195,000, the same size as present-day Linz, a provincial capital not far from Hitler’s birthplace.
Two-thirds of them were driven out in the “Aryanisation” program immediately following the Anschluss and all but about 2,000 left behind were killed in concentration camps. Today’s Austrian Jewish community is almost entirely in Vienna.

Austrians, many of whom had wanted a union with Germany, maintained for decades that their country was Hitler’s first victim, ignoring the fact that huge, cheering crowds had greeted Hitler in March 1938 with flowers, Nazi flags and salutes.

Within days of March 12, tens of thousands of Jews and dissenters were under arrest, imprisoned or packed off to concentration camps. Jews were shut out of jobs and schools, forced to wear yellow badges, and had their property confiscated.

The IKG, Austria’s official Jewish organization, says the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Austria of which it knows doubled last year to 135.

The anti-foreigner Freedom Party of Heinz-Christian Strache, who posted the disputed cartoon, consistently scores above 20 percent in opinion polls and has a chance of joining a coalition government after elections this year.

Still, many Viennese Jews freely stroll through the streets in Orthodox garb, especially in districts such as Leopoldstadt, the former Jewish ghetto where many Jews live again today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles

Vienna Philharmonic and Jewish Musicians under Hitler

Luke Harding and Louise Osborne for The Guardian, March 11, 2013:

On 23 March 1938, the violinist Viktor Robitsek received a curt note from the management of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. It told him he was being fired. Robitsek’s “crime” had nothing to do with his musical talents: he was Jewish.

Eleven days earlier Hitler’s troops had marched into Vienna. Most residents greeted the occupiers warmly. But among the Führer’s many ardent admirers were some of Robitsek’s colleagues, about half of whom were card-carrying Nazis.

On the 75th anniversary of Austria’s fateful Anschluss with Germany, the world’s most famous orchestra is finally revealing some of its dark secrets. A panel of historians allowed access to its archives has discovered that five Jewish musicians – among them Robitsek – perished in Nazi death camps or ghettos. Two more died after persecution. In total 13 Jews were driven from the orchestra.

This shameful episode of expulsion and death took place with the approval of many of the orchestra’s members. By 1942, in the middle of the war, 60 of its 123 musicians were active Nazis. Two were members of the SS. The figure is proportionally higher than among Austria’s overall population.

Postwar Austria has been slow to acknowledge its central role in Hitler’s Third Reich and the Holocaust, only officially expressing regret in 1991. The Vienna Philharmonic now faces accusations that it, like much of Austrian society, deliberately covered up its Nazi ghosts. On Monday, the Philharmonic said it was discussing whether it should revoke honours for key Nazi figures.

The researchers found that to mark its 100th anniversary in 1942 the orchestra awarded honours to high-profile Nazis including Baldur von Schirach, Vienna’s infamous governor at the time, who was responsible for the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews. Schirach was among those given a special ring by the orchestra as a mark of honour.

“The orchestra overdid it,” said the historian Oliver Rathkolb, who led the research, which the orchestra published on its website at the weekend. “It was not necessary to give so many medals and rings of honour to people like Baldur von Schirach. In a formal sense, the Vienna Philharmonic still honours Schirach and therefore the chairman of the orchestra, Clemens Hellsberg, has asked to revoke the rings of honour to these people.”

The panel has also uncovered the role played by Helmut Wobisch, a trumpeter and fervent member of the Nazi party who later joined the SS.

Schirach lost the ring, but in 1966 or 1967, after he was released from Spandau prison after serving a sentence for crimes against humanity, Wobisch gave him a replacement.

Wobisch himself had been sacked from the orchestra in 1945 but managed to rejoin two years later as lead trumpeter. After the war just four party members were fired during the “de-Nazification” period and six pensioned off.

Rathkolb said he was surprised at the “high rate of Nazification” at the Vienna Philharmonic. Many of its members joined the Nazi party before 1938, when membership was illegal in Austria, he noted. However, he said it was notable that the chairman of the orchestra at the time, Wilhelm Jerger, tried to intervene on behalf of Jewish colleagues, petitioning Schirach to stop their deportation.

On 27 October 1941, he petitioned the governor to spare Robitzek and his wife, Elsa, who were to be sent to Theresienstadt, a major transit centre, at 9am the following day. Both were elderly and ill, he wrote, signing off “Heil Hitler”. The letter failed to have any effect.

“Jerger intervened in a positive way,” said Rathkolb. “He described the cultural history of his former colleagues like you would today in an encyclopedia. This was surprising for the Nazi period.”

The wave of anti-Jewish violence unleashed by the Anschluss not only changed the makeup of the orchestra but also diminished its audience. “Because so many Jews were forced out of Austria or killed, you see in the Nazi reports already in 1938-39 that they all had financial problems because the audience was so negatively affected by Nazi persecution policies,” said Rathkolb.

Music played an important role in Nazi society and was used as a propaganda tool. There was a strong rivalry between the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras and many musicians may have joined the Nazi party in order to advance their careers.

The Philharmonic is most popularly known for its annual New Year’s Concert, a Strauss waltz extravaganza that is broadcast to an audience of more than 50 million in 80 countries. It now emerges that the concert originated as a propaganda instrument under Nazi rule in 1939. The orchestra rarely played the music of the Strauss family, known for the “Blue Danube” and numerous other waltzes, before this period.

“There was competition to go to the Nazis,” said Kurt Drexel, a lecturer at the Institute of Music at the University of Innsbruck. “There were so many compositions for the Nazi party and for the institution. They needed a lot of music. If you joined as a composer you had lots of opportunities to earn money, become famous and have your music played in public. It was a good career opportunity.”

Rathkolb said that although the Philharmonic was responsible for failingto make its dark history public, he did not think it had tried to hide its past. “I think it’s something to do with the long policy of silence in Austrian society in general,” he said, adding that debates around National Socialism in the orchestra ended in 1947.

“De-nazification was over, the first international tour went to Edinburgh… it closed the chapter of the Nazi past. Since then no one talked openly about the philharmonic and the Nazi past.”

Not everyone agrees with this. Harald Walser, a Green MP in Austria and one of the Philharmonic’s most vocal and persistent critics, welcomed the orchestra’s decision to become more transparent, although he said it did not go far enough.

“It’s a little step in the right direction,” he told Reuters. “But we’re still a long way from having adequate access to the archives.”

Murder after deportation

Five Jewish musicians played with the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra before perishing in Nazi death camps or ghettos. Here are their stories:

Moriz Glattauer (Violin I)

First violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic, Moriz Glattauer retired from the orchestra in 1938. A member of Vienna’s Jewish community, he had a long career with the Philharmonic dating back to 1916. He and his wife were forced to move out of their home then deported in 1942 to the Jewish ghetto of Theresienstadt, north-west of Prague. Glattauer died there the following year, aged 73; his wife was gassed in Auschwitz in 1945.

Viktor Robitsek (Violin II)

Second violinist Viktor Robitsek was fired in March 1938, after 35 years with the orchestra. The management sent him a curt note saying he was dismissed with “immediate effect”. Robitsek was Jewish, but saw himself as non-confessional and had left the local Jewish community many years before. He and his wife were forced to move house four times. In October 1941 Philharmonic board member Wilhelm Jerger wrote to Vienna’s Gauleiter Baldur von Schirach, asking him not to deport the elderly couple. The plea was unsuccessful: both were sent to the Jewish ghetto in Lodz. Robitsek was murdered there in June 1942; his wife perished three weeks earlier.

Max Starkmann (violin I, viola)

Starkmann was a first violinist. He also played the viola. Further details have yet to be released.

Julius Stwertka (Concertmaster, Violin I)

Julius Stwertka was 66 years old when Nazi Germany carried out its infamous Anschluss with Austria in March 1938. A distinguished musician, recruited by Gustav Mahler, he was violinst and then Konzertmeister with the Philharmonic, and is pictured in a black and white photo from 1935 sitting in the pit next to Wilhelm Furtwängler. The Anschluss unleashed 250 new anti-Semitic laws and a wave of anti-Jewish violence. Stwertka and his wife Rosa were deported to the Jewish ghetto in Theresienstadt. He survived for just a few weeks, dying in December 1942. His wife was sent to Auschwitz in 1944. Her date of death is unknown.

Armin Tyroler
Armin Tyroler (Oboe II)

Armin Tyroler was one of the Philharmonic’s most celebrated musicians. A teacher, professor of music, and a campaigner for better conditions for his less fortunate colleagues, Tyroler was honoured by the city of Vienna in 1933. In his acceptance speech he argued that musicians could only be artists if they were freed from hardship. He called Vienna his “adored city” and said he wanted it to be a “city of songs, a city of happiness”. In 1940 Tyroler and his second wife Rudolfine were forced to move home, then in 1942 sent – together with the Stwertkas – to Theresienstadt. In the ghetto Tyroler founded a Jewish cultural organisation and took part in a concert. On October 28, 1944, he and his wife were deported to Auschwitz. He was gassed two days later. His wife’s date of death is unknown.

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles

Story by Luis Martinez for, March 8, 2013:

Two unidentified sailors from the Civil War’s iconic USS Monitor were buried with full military honors Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, 151 years to the day after the ironclad’s famous battle with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia.

A crowd of several hundred spectators, several dressed in Civil War garb, gathered to witness the interment. The flag-draped caskets containing the remains of the two sailors were brought on horse-drawn caissons accompanied by a full Navy Ceremonial Guard and a Navy band.

At the gravesite a Navy chaplain said a prayer over the two caskets and the brief ceremony concluded with the firing of thee rifle volleys and a bugler playing Taps.

Among those who attended were several dozen descendants of the 16 sailors who perished when the sank in a New Year’s Eve storm in 1862. Once the service concluded, several stood to give the caskets one last touch, a final goodbye to two sailors who may have been their ancestors.

Sitting in the front row was Andrew Bryan of Holden, Maine. He has said he has a strong suspicion that one of the two sailors buried today is his great grandfather, William Bryan, who served as a yeoman on the ship.

Civil War Remains to be Interred at Arlington Watch Video
In the decade that has gone by since the ship’s turret was raised from the ocean floor off Cape Hatteras, efforts to identify the two sailors have proved unsuccessful. Enough forensic work has been done, however, to determine that they were both Caucasians who stood about five-foot-seven. One was in his late teens to early 20s, the other in his 30s.

Based on William Bryan’s age and stature it is believed he could be the older of the two sailors, though only a DNA match could make that a certainty. William Bryan’s family was living proof that the Civil War pitched brother fighting brother; one of his brothers died fighting for the Confederacy.

The results from DNA samples Andrew Bryan provided to investigators proved inconclusive. But he said he is hopeful that a positive ID could be around the corner. A female relative in Australia has agreed to provide a DNA sample, making a mitochondrial DNA match possible.

“He spent his life on the ocean, so if he’s still there that’s fine, but if this is him I want him to be recognized,” said Bryan.

Bryan said he is gratified by all the attention the burial has generated. It may fade now, he said, “but as for our family it’s a continuance … it helps keep the story going, there’s an interest to it, people will better understand the roots of our country.”

Another descendant has been heartened by the interest the Monitor burial has generated. William Finlayson had two ancestors who served on the Monitor. One was the ship’s first captain, John L. Worden, who was injured in the battle with the Virginia; and his nephew, who served as his aide on the ship. Neither was on the ship at the time that it sank

Finlayson said the level of interest surrounding the burial has been “just incredible” but he said he and other descendants are excited by something “you can only feel in your heart if you’re directly related to it by blood.”

Civil War historian James McPherson called the recognition for the sailors was “fully deserved”. He said he believes Union sailors deserve as much recognition as the soldiers who died at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Every sailor in the Navy was a volunteer at the time. McPherson said the sailors aboard the Monitor knew they had a hazardous assignment. In an age of wooden ships, people were afraid the Monitor “would be a coffin for the crew, and that it would sink, not float.”

He described Friday’s burial as “our chance as a nation to pay our respects and say goodbye” to the Monitor’s sailors.

Recalling the language of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, he said, “They did pay their last full measure of devotion and in turn we ought to recognize and acknowledge that.”

The remains of the 14 other sailors who perished aboard the Monitor may be contained in the ship’s wreckage, too large and fragile to be raised from the ocean floor, 250 feet deep.

The wreck site is now designated as the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary,. It is believed that 85 percent of the ship’s structure is located at the site.

David Alberg, the sanctuary’s supervisor, called the location hallowed ground. “We treat it as a gravesite,” he said. “It is a place where tremendous sacrifice was made in defense of our country.”

On Thursday, Alberg accompanied the sailors’ remains as they made the final trip from the military’s forensics lab in Hawaii to their final resting place.

He said the interest and respect afforded the remains on their final trip tell him Friday’s burial is a unifying event. He thought it was appropriate that for their final journey the two unidentified sailors who served to preserve the Union flew across a country “at 30,000 feet, seeing coast-to-coast the nation they helped create.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles