Today (April 24) in London History – “German Conductor Banned by Nazis; Acclaimed in London”

Two April 24th dates for this Today in London History podcast. On April 24th, 1933 the Jewish German conductor Bruno Walter, who’d been banned from conducting in Leipzig and Berlin, was given a rapturous reception in London. And on April 24th, 1946 the British Museum reopened its doors for the first time since August 1939.


Good for you London. Good for you England. Good for you the United Kingdom.

Makes me proud of London. Makes me proud to be a Londoner. 

The headline says it all.

“A German Conductor Banned by Nazis; Acclaimed in London.”

The date is Monday, April 23rd, 1933. The concert is the Courtauld Concert. The venue is the Queen’s Hall. The orchestra is the London Philharmonic.

The programme is Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner. 

The audience is London at its best.

The reception is…

Well let’s elaborate on that word in the headline: “Acclaimed.”

The audience stood up to greet the conductor when he first appeared. Those audience members stood up and gave a great burst of cheering. At the end of the concert the conductor was called back to the platform half a dozen times.

Good for you London. Good for you England. Good for you The United Kingdom.

And yes of course you’ll be wondering. Here you go.

The conductor was Bruno Walter. 

The German Bruno Walter.

The German Jew Bruno Walter. 

Here’s how the Illustrated London News subtitled its coverage.

Bruno Walter, who, as a Jew, has been forbidden to give concerts in his native Germany, has triumphed at the Queen’s Hall. 

There it is in a brief newspaper account – it couldn’t be more stark, more black and white – unmistakable evil and unmistakable good.

The particulars from Germany – so predictable and so vile. In the words of the Illustrated London News, “Bruno Walter was barred recently by the Nazi police from giving a concert in Leipzig because he is a Jew. And he was prevented from conducting in the State Opera House in Berlin.

Anything else? There was one further detail. Made all the more piquant for us because we know what they didn’t know. We know what was less than five years ahead. We know about the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in March 1938.

It’s clear from a single sentence in the Illustrated London News account that the foetid Nazi gangrene hadn’t overtaken the entire German-speaking world. In 1933 they didn’t have their death-grip on Vienna the way they did Leipzig and Berlin. 

In the words of the Illustrated London News, “In Vienna there was a Nazi move to boycott Bruno Walter but the Viennese gave him a magnificent reception” 

Normally, I just do a single event for each date we land on. But I think in the circumstances we can have a Chapter 2 for April 24th,

On April 24th, 1946 the British Museum opened its doors for the first time since August 1939. 

And what a brilliant, thrilling, heartening re-opening it was. The museum reopened with the first-ever exhibition to the public of the Sutton Hoo discoveries. Treasures from the richest ship grave in Western Europe. 

I think we can join those two April 24th events in London separated by thirteen years – 1933 and 1946. There’s something quietly inspiring about them. They speak of decency and beauty and hope. Those aren’t bad bookends. Decency and beauty and hope at the beginning of what Winston Churchill called The Gathering Storm. And decency and beauty and hope when it was all over. 

A Today in London recommendation. Sure, go see the Sutton Hoo Exhibition at the British Museum. 

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See ya tomorrow. 

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