Plot & Details
Of the millions who have enjoyed performances by the Berlin Philharmonic, few are aware of a dark and disturbing chapter from that orchestra's history. For the said symphony, the period of 1933 through 1945 remains inextricably intertwined with the rise of the Third Reich. That era witnessed the philharmonic, under the baton of Wilhelm Fürtwangler, culling financial support from the Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda and blasting out national socialist anthems as a mouthpiece for Adolf Hitler's Germany. In what might seem an unusual step, the Philharmonic opted to commemorate its 125th anniversary by formally acknowledging this controversial period with Enrique Sanchez Lansch's documentary The Reichsorchester: The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich. The film hones in on the orchestra during the said era, and profiles the lives, personalities and destinies of its many individual members at that time. Throughout, Lansch returns time and again to a central idea: the fact that the performers (by virtue of their proximity to Nazi leadership) were encouraged to divest themselves of individual responsibility and accountability in favor of loyalty to the Reich and its principles. Lansch couples a substantial amount of archival footage with interviews with the surviving orchestra members to provide a unique window of insight into life in the Nazi era.