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Concertgebouw conductor Willem Mengelberg was severely punished for his Nazi sympathies after the Second World War. He is also shown to have saved Jewish orchestra members and dozens of other Jews.

At the zenith of his career, Willem Mengelberg was voted the most popular man in the Netherlands, his fame surpassing even that of the nation’s reigning monarch. A famous conductor, renowned for molding Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra into a world-class ensemble, he was also the most important Gustav Mahler champion of his time. Yet, a quarter century later, he was considered a collaborator and traitor to his country, with his name tarnished for his Nazi sympathies. This fascinating documentary presents another side to the story of this fallen hero, revealing how, in the first years of the war, he wrote letters to Nazi authorities pleading for Jewish musicians to not be deported and risked his life protecting Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution, who would have otherwise been fated to die in the death camps. But should this insight, more than 75 years after the war, alter or exonerate Mengelberg’s reputation?

Of the 16 Jewish members of Mengelberg's Concertgebouw Orchestra, the relatively high number of 13 survived the war. It had been known for some time that Mengelberg visited Reich Commissioner Seyss-Inquart several times to plead for them. But after the war, this was dismissed as self-interest by the Central Honor Council, the purification committee for the art sector. Willem Mengelberg was sentenced to a lifelong conducting ban and was de facto banned from the Netherlands.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    86 minutes
  • Language
    Dutch w/subtitles
  • Country
  • Premiere
    Palm Beach County
  • Director
    Jaap van Eyck
  • Screenwriter
    Jaap van Eyck
  • Cast
    Willem Mengelberg
  • Cinematographer
    Jair Mahazri
  • Editor
    Alfred Edelstein