The Arts in Vienna - New York City

The Arts of Vienna

A Proud History, A Painful Past - New York City

Vienna’s History and Legacy of the Past 150 Years

As part of the three-week festival, “Vienna: City of Dreams,” sponsored by New York City’s famous Carnegie Hall, the Chumir Foundation held a symposium examining the intersection of arts, politics and war in Vienna over the past 150 years. In three separate panel discussions, participants from Austria, the United States and Canada explored human creativity in “fin-de-siècle” Vienna as well as the roots of societal breakdown between two world wars; the progression of discrimination and atrocities in Vienna’s Nazified cultural and scientific establishments as well as the ethical steps taken in recent decades towards remembrance and reconciliation; and what history teaches about contemporary conditions and the appropriate ethical responses to global risks. 

After World War I and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, the building of an Austrian national identity and pride was assisted by the arts. The Salzburg Festival, first proposed in 1917 and begun in 1920, was conceived by its founders with this among its purposes. UNESCO, discussed by allied world leaders during World War II and established in its aftermath, was intended to advance education and culture internationally as tools of peace. Current examples of explicit political and social purpose in artistic initiatives are seen in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the... Read More

The panel considered the long history of anti-Semitism in Austria, the period of open immigration of the reign of Emperor Franz Josef, as well as the political upheavals and instabilities that followed the Treaty of Versailles that dismantled the Habsburg Empire and ended World War I. Interwar divisions over political philosophies, over support for Austrian independence versus an alliance with the culturally- linked and increasingly inhumane regime of Nazi Germany, the economic stresses and promise of an integrated relationship, the eventual autocratic government under Austro-fascism and the... Read More

Current conditions in several countries of Europe, a prime focus of this discussion, raise alarms with many informed observers. Risks are seen, in varying degrees in different jurisdictions. And conditions might be seen in two broadly different categories of concern: humanitarian and governance. On the first, there is evidence of ethnic, religious and nationalistic divisiveness/discrimination, hostility to immigrant populations (exacerbated by current migration pressures) and promotion of anti-pluralistic views, as reflected in public opinion and policies. Recent economic crisis and... Read More