Film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch (Germany 2008)
In conjunction with the Berliner Philharmoniker’s 125th anniversary in 2007, the orchestra’s more recent history and its status during the Nazi period were examined in The Reich’s Orchestra, a bookby Misha Aster, in an exhibition at the Philharmonie focusing on the role of “emissaries of German culture”, devised by the regime for the Philharmonic, and finally in the documentary film Das Reichsorchester by Enrique Sánchez Lansch.
Taken over by the Third Reich and granted immense privileges, the Berliner Philharmoniker was placed at the service of the regime. This included performances at such official functions as the National Socialist Party Day, the eve of Hitler’s birthday, and concerts for the Nazi organisation “Kraft durch Freude” (Strength through Joy), but above all its appearances abroad, principally in the occupied countries. Enrique Sánchez Lansch principally allows contemporary witnesses, only a few of whom survive, to have their say – for example, violinist Johannes Bastiaan (b. 1911), a member of the orchestra from 1934 to 1976, and his double-bassist colleague Erich Hartmann (b. 1920), who played with the Berliner Philharmoniker from 1943 until 1985.
Children of deceased Philharmonic musicians are also interviewed. The conversations reveal the repression and denial of the Nazi years, which still persists, but also an immense naïveté. The musicians continued to make music: even in the very worst years – to the bitter end – they were protected and “lived a bit as though in a bell jar” (Bastiaan).