Central Vienna, Austria
Central Vienna, AustriaReuters

The famed Vienna Philharmonic orchestra has quietly stripped six former senior Nazi officials of honors awarded them, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Friday.

The decision was divulged to AP by an orchestra member and confirmed by historian Oliver Rathkolb.

Rathkolb led research earlier this year documenting the orchestra's close cooperation with Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other top Hitler associates after Germany's 1938 annexation of Austria.

According to AP, the formal vote to revoke the awards was held at the orchestra's annual meeting on October 23 but the move was not announced. Rathkolb said all ensemble members agreed then to strip the officials from golden rings of honor and medals.

Those losing the honors included Arthur Seyss-Inquart, a top Hitler associate sentenced to death for war crimes and crimes against humanity and Vienna governor Baldur von Schirach, who drew a 20-year prison sentence at the Nuremberg trials for his leading role in the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews.

The others stripped of the honors were senior SS official Albert Reitter; Friedrich Rainer, governor of Salzburg and Carinthia provinces; Rudolf Toepfer, a ranking Hitler-era railway official; and Vienna Mayor Hanns Blaschke.

Under the Nazis, 13 musicians with Jewish roots or kin were fired by the orchestra and five died in concentration camps. By the end of World War II, about half of the Philharmonic's members had joined the Nazi party.

Rathkolb and the other historians discovered as part of their research that Helmut Wobisch, the former head of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, was a member of Nazi Germany's elite paramilitary SS and collaborated with the secret police.

The Austrian Academy of Sciences has also acknowledged that many of its scientists were members of the Nazi party and that some of its students served in the SS.

21 Jewish scientists were excluded from the Academy during World War II, including three Nobel laureates.

Out of the 21 banished Jewish academics, nine were murdered by Nazis during the war.