Hitler und Wagner

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Without Wagner would there have been a Third Reich - and what would Richard have thought about his greatest 'fan' - Adolf Hitler. ?
Undoubtedly much of Hitler's weltanschauung (world view or world philosophy) was dictated by the music, librettos and writings of his favourite composer.


Adolf Hitler
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Wilhelm Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas (or, as some of his later works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama, and which was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852.


'Der Ring des Nibelungen'
Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' (The Ring of the Nibelung). His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements. His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, greatly influenced the development of classical music.

In addition there was a personal element to Hitler's connection with Wagner.




Cosima, Siegfried and Richard Wagner
Siegfried and Winifred Wagner
Of course Wagner died in 1883, and Hitler was born in 1889 - so there could be no direct, personal connection - however Wagner had  a son, Siegfried, and Siegfried, despite his homosexuality, had sons - Wolfgang and Wieland.
After the death of Siegfried Wagner in 1930, Winifred Wagner, Siegfried's wife, took over the Bayreuth Festival, running it until the end of World War II.


Wolfgang and Wieland Wagner and Hitler
Adolf Hitler and Winifred Wagner
In 1923, Winifred met Adolf Hitler who, as we know, greatly admired Wagner's music. 
When Hitler was jailed for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Winifred sent him food parcels and stationery on which Hitler's autobiography 'Mein Kampf' was written.
In the late 1930s, she served as Hitler's personal translator during treaty negotiations with England.
Winifred's relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage.
'Haus Wahnfried', the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler's favorite retreat, and he had his own separate accommodation in the grounds of Wahnfried, known as the Führerbau.

Entrance Hall - Villa Wahnfried
The name of the villa Wahnfried, is interesting.
Wahnen means endless striving of an artist for the fulfilment of his aspirations and the triumph of his art.
So Wahnfried (Wahnen free) was the name chosen and even today we can see Wagner's motto on the front: "Here where my delusions have found peace, let this place be named Wahnfried."
Above the door to the villa  is a giant mural, depicting Wotan, King of the Gods and the philandering wanderer, being welcomed by classical women.
We should also note that Wotan was the name of Wagner’s beloved St Bernard dog.
The whole house was a place where Wagner could compose, raise his family and entertain guests.
The Grand Hall is the largest room in the villa, and is a two-storey space with a gallery around the second floor and a skylight in the ceiling. Furnishings include two of Wagner's pianos and numerous busts. The specially designed Bechstein piano was the piano Wagner used when he was composing Meistersinger, part of Siegfried and Parsifal. It was a present from the endlessly patient, endlessly generous King Ludwig II for Wagner's birthday in 1864.
In a shady grove beyond the garden, surrounded with ivy, is the tomb of Richard and Cosima Wagner. The stone is unmarked, because as Wagner insisted, as long as it remained, everyone would know who was buried there. 

But to begin at - almost - the beginning - 

The most momentous non-event of the century occurred in February of 1908. And it occurred in Vienna to Alfred Roller. Today Roller is not so much underestimated as unknown, at least outside a small circle of opera devotees.

Yet in 1908 he was one of the most important figures on the Viennese artistic scene. He was a painter who, along with Gustav Klimt, organized the Vienna Se-cession.
He was also professor of fine arts and soon to be appointed director of the School of Applied Arts. But above all he was a stage designer of great distinction.


Alfred Roller
Alfred Roller (2 October 1864, Brünn, Mähren — 21 June 1935, Vienna) was an Austrian painter, graphic designer, and set designer.


Roller's Original Drawings for 'Tristan' - 1903
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Roller at first studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna under Christian Griepenkerl and Eduard Peithner von Lichtenfels, but eventually became disenchanted with the Academy's traditionalism. In 1897 he co-founded the Viennese Secession with Koloman Moser, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Josef Hoffmann, Gustav Klimt, and other artists who rejected the prevalent academic style of art. He became a professor of drawing at the University of Applied Arts Vienna (Kunstgewerbeschule) in 1899, and president of the Secession in 1902.
In his early career Roller was very active as a graphic designer and draughtsman.
He designed numerous covers and vignettes for the pages the Secessionist periodical Ver Sacrum, as well as the posters for the fourth, fourteenth, and sixteenth Secession exhibitions. He also designed the layout of the exhibitions themselves.
In 1902 Roller was introduced to the composer Gustav Mahler by Carl Moll. Roller expressed an interest in stage design and showed Mahler several sketches he had made for Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde'. Mahler was impressed and decided to employ Roller to design the sets for a new production of the piece. The production, which premiered in February 1903, was a great critical success. Roller continued to design sets for Mahler's productions. Eventually Roller left the Secession and his teaching post at the Kunstgewerbeschule to be appointed chief stage designer to the Vienna State Opera, a position he held until 1909.


Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918) was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d'art. Klimt's primary subject was the female body; his works are marked by a frank eroticism. Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna in Austria-Hungary. His mother, Anna Klimt (née Finster), had an unrealized ambition to be a musical performer. His father, Ernst Klimt the Elder, formerly from Bohemia, was a gold engraver. All three of their sons displayed artistic talent early on. Klimt's younger brothers were Ernst Klimt and Georg Klimt. Klimt became one of the founding members and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) in 1897 and of the group's periodical, Ver Sacrum ("Sacred Spring"). He remained with the Secession until 1908.

Richard Wagner
In 1903, on the twentieth anniversary of Wagner’s death, he and Gustav Mahler initiated a cycle of the composer’s works in fresh musical and visual interpretations.
Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. His family later moved to nearby Iglau (now Jihlava), where Mahler grew up. On 8 October 1897 Mahler was formally appointed to succeed Jahn as the Hofoper's director. Early in 1902 Mahler met Alfred Roller, an artist and designer associated with the Vienna Secession movement. A year later, Mahler appointed him chief stage designer to the Hofoper, where Roller's debut was a new production of 'Tristan und Isolde'. The collaboration between Mahler and Roller created more than 20 celebrated productions of, among other operas.



'Tristan und Isolde'
That production and those that followed - in particular the premiere of 'Der Rosenkavalier' in 1911 made him the world’s most talked-about operatic producer.
In that first week of February, Roller received a letter from a friend declaring that a young man of her acquaintance was a great admirer of his.
The lad was an aspiring painter and loved opera; he would give anything, she wrote, to meet Roller to discuss his professional prospects, either in painting or in stage design. 
Despite his heavy commitments, Roller generously agreed to meet him, take a look at some of his work and advise him on a career.
Young Hitler The young man was overjoyed, and a short time later, with Roller’s reply and a portfolio of his works in hand, went to the opera house.
On reaching the entrance, so he later said, he got cold feet and left.
A short time later he summoned up his courage, returned and this time made it as far as the grand staircase, when he again took fright.
On a third occasion he was well on his way to Roller’s office when an opera house attendant asked his business.
At that, he turned on his heels and fled for good.
Now young Adolf was not a naturally timid young man - so what was it that prevented him from meeting Roller.
Was there some force, that prevented him from taking the critical that would have decisively changed world history ?
But he never forgot the gesture, and when he finally met Roller in 1934, he told him the story. The young man was now chancellor of Germany.
If only, history sighs, Roller and Hitler had met in 1908 and Hitler had been taken on as an assistant at the opera, or enrolled at the School of Applied Arts.
As Hitler himself remarked to his personal staff in 1942:
'Without a recommendation it was impossible to get anywhere in Austria.
When I came to Vienna I had a recommendation to Roller.
But I never made use of it. If I had gone to him with it, he would have taken me right off.
But I do not know whether that would have been better for me. Certainly everything would have been much easier.
And much different.'
In any event Hitler never lost his admiration of Roller.
When Winifred Wagner decided in 1933 to stage a new production of Richard Wagner's 'Parsifal' at Bayreuth - the first since the original of 1882 - Hitler, not unnaturally proposed Roller to do it, although he had other, more obscure reasons for making that request (see below) and she agreed.


Winifred Wagner
Winifred Wagner (23 June 1897 – 5 March 1980) was an English woman and wife of Siegfried Wagner, Richard Wagner's son. She was the effective head of the Wagner family from 1930 to 1945.
In 1923, Winifred met Adolf Hitler, who greatly admired Wagner's music. When Hitler was jailed for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Winifred sent him food parcels and stationery on which Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf may have been written. In the late 1930s, she served as Hitler's personal translator during treaty negotiations with Britain.
Her relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage. Haus Wahnfried, the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler's favorite retreat. Hitler gave the festival government assistance and tax exempt status, and treated Winifred's children solicitously.
She corresponded with Hitler for nearly two decades. Scholars have not been allowed to see the letters which are kept locked away by one of Winifred's grandchildren, Amélie Lafferentz.

Haus Wahnfried - Führerbau

Wahnfried was the name given by Richard Wagner to his villa in Bayreuth. The name is a German compound of Wahn (delusion, madness) and Fried(e), (peace, freedom).
The house was constructed from 1872 to 1874 under Carl Wölfel's supervision after plans from Berlin architect Wilhelm Neumann, the plans being altered according to some ideas of Wagner. The front of the house shows Wagner's motto "Hier wo mein Wähnen Frieden fand – Wahnfried – sei dieses Haus von mir benannt." ("Here where my delusions have found peace, let this place be named Wahnfried.")
The grave of Richard Wagner and his wife Cosima lies on the grounds of Wahnfried. An extension to the house was built for Wagner's son, Siegfried Wagner, and was later used by Hitler and was known as the Führerbau


So how did it all start ?
Hitler’s  love  affair  with  Wagnerian  opera  had begun  in  Linz  in 1901 when at the age of twelve he attended  his  first  opera.


Stadtwappen Linz
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Linz - 1900
Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital of the state of Upper Austria (German: Oberösterreich).
IAdolf Hitler was born in the border town of Braunau am Inn but moved to Linz in his childhood. Hitler spent most of his youth in the Linz area, from 1898 until 1907, when he left for Vienna. The family lived first in the village of Leonding on the outskirts of town, and then on the Humboldtstrasse in Linz. After elementary education in Leonding, Hitler was enrolled in the Realschule (school) in Linz with the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.  To the end of his life, Hitler considered Linz to be his "home town", and envisioned extensive architectural schemes for it, wanting it to become the main cultural centre of the Third Reich.

The performance was of 'Lohengrin' and, as he later wrote in Mein Kampf,
‘I was captivated at once. My youthful enthusiasm for the Master of Bayreuth knew no bounds. Again and again I was drawn to his works . . . .
From that moment the lad found himself addicted, literally so, to Wagner’s operas.
The composer’s musical and intellectual influence in Central Europe was then at its zenith, and Hitler em-braced the cult as devoutly as anyone.

'Gustl' Kubizek
Linz Opera House
During the years following the ecstasy of that first 'Lohengrin' performance, Hitler returned to the Linz Opera house night after night.
It was there that he eventually met another opera enthusiast, August Kubizek.

August ("Gustl") Kubizek (3 August 1888, Linz – 23 October 1956, Eferding) was a close friend of Adolf Hitler when both were in their late teens. He later wrote about their friendship.





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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The slightly older August, although training to follow in the footsteps of his father as an upholsterer, was a serious amateur musician, able to play several stringed and brass instruments.
In a short time he became the sole friend of Hitler’s youth.
It was not simply the mutual interest in opera that drew them together but the compliant Kubizek’s willingness - an absolute requisite for everyone else later as well - to listen in tacit agreement or at least silence as the domineering 'Adi' expatiated on whatever caught his fancy.


Albert Speer
According  to  Hitler’s  comments  to  Speer,  the two  young  men spent  hours  wandering  through  the streets of Linz as he rambled on about music, architecture  and  the  importance  of  the  arts. 


Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Spee - March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981 - was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office.







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On  visiting  Vienna for the first time in 1906, it was to Kubizek that he wrote.


Vienna Opera House
Tomorrow I am going to the opera, 'Tristan', and the day after 'Flying Dutchman', etc.,’ he reported soon after arriving.
Later the same day he dispatched a second postcard of the opera house on which he had written grandiloquently:
'The interior of the edifice is not exciting.
If the exterior is mighty majesty, lending the building the seriousness of an artistic monument, one feels in the interior admiration rather than dignity.
Only when the mighty sound waves flow through the auditorium and when the whisperings of the wind give way to the terrible roaring of the sound waves does one feel the grandeur and forget the surfeit of gold and velvet covering the interior'





Academy  of  Fine  Arts - Vienna

On settling in Vienna the following year, he persuaded Kubizek, who had been admitted to the Music Conservatory, to join him there. 
The two lived together until 1908 when Hitler, following the humiliation of his second rejection by the Academy of Fine Arts, suddenly vanished from his companion’s life.
Beyond his Wagnermania, little is known for certain about Hitler’s youthful activities.
He sang in a church choir at Lambach Abbey (Stift Lambach) - a Benedictine monastery in Lambach in Austria.





Stift Lambach
A monastery was founded in about 1040 by Count Arnold II of Lambach-Wels. His son, Bishop Adalbero of Würzburg (later canonised), changed the monastery into a Benedictine abbey ten year later. Since 1056 it has been a Benedictine abbey. During the 17th and 18th centuries a great deal of work in the Baroque style was carried out, much of it by the Carlone family. Lambach escaped the dissolution of the monasteries of Emperor Joseph II in the 1780s. In 1897/98 Adolf Hitler had lived in the town of Lambach (with his parents). He went to the secular Volksschule at which Benedictine teachers were employed. 
Hitler had seen several swastikas each day as a boy in Lambach, when he attended the Benedictine monastery school, which was decorated with carved stones and woodwork that included the symbol.

Paula Hitler
Klara Hitler

On leaving school, the young Adolf joined a music club, and took piano lessons from October 1906 until the end of the following January from a man named Josef Prawratsky.

He soon quit because of lack of money as a result of the expense of his mother’s cancer treatments, however, his sister Paula recalled him ‘sitting for hours at the beautiful Heitzmann grand piano my mother had given him’.








Hitler's Heitzmann 
Klara Hitler née Pölzl (12 August 1860 – 21 December 1907) was an Austrian woman, and the mother of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Paula Hitler (Paula Wolf)[1] (21 January 1896 in Hafeld, Austria – 1 June 1960 in Berchtesgaden) was the younger sister of Adolf Hitler and the last child of Alois Hitler and his third wife, Klara Pölzl. Paula was the only full sibling of Adolf Hitler to survive into adulthood.

In later years he occasionally  played  -  according  to Winifred Wagner fairly well - but what he played remains a mystery.
Kubizek’s  1954  book, 'Young  Hitler' indicates  that Hitler had a fairly solid musical background.

Anton Bruckner
Hitler was devoted to the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven as well as Bruckner, Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Grieg, and he was especially fond of Mozart and of Beethoven’s violin and piano concertos, and above all Schumann’s piano concerto.
The assertion that Hitler read Wagner’s prose writings and everything else he could get his hands on by or about Wagner is contradicted by Franz Jetzinger, librarian at the Linz archive, that Hitler did no serious reading at all at the time - however this story, along with many of Jetzinger's assertions about Hitler, has been strongly disputed (see below).


Brigitte Hamann
Franz Jetzinger (3 December 1882 in Ranshofen in Upper Austria – 19 March 1965 in Ottensheim in Upper Austria) was an Austrian clergyman, academic, politician, civil servant, editor and author. He remains especially famous as author of the book 'Hitler’s Youth'
Jetzinger gained fame in 1958 through the English version of his book 'Hitler’s Youth', in which he could refute many of Hitler’s statements about his early years. Moreover, Jetzinger attracted attention by attacking an earlier published book 'The Young Hitler I Knew' by August Kubizek, whom Jetzinger accused of spreading falsehoods. While earlier Hitler biographers like Joachim Fest or Werner Maser adopted Jetzinger’s criticism as their own, Jetzinger’s crushing judgment of Kubizek’s credibility is now challenged by Brigitte Hamann, author of 'Hitlers Wien'. Hamann asserts personal motives for Jetzinger’s tendency to illustrate nearly every statement in Kubizek’s book as an ex post modification of facts, claiming Jetzinger was economically motivated, because the previous release of Kubizek’s book supposedly undermined the sale of his own work. Many of Jetzinger's statements have now been disscredited.

The young Hitler was undoubtedly enthralled by Wagner’s music and he was 'transported into that extraordinary state which Wagner’s music produced in him, that trance, that escape into a mystical dream-world . . . . . . a changed man; his violence left him, he became quiet, yielding and tracta-ble . . . . intoxicated and bewitched . . . . . . willing to let himself be carried away into a mystical universe . . . . . . from the stale, musty prison of his back room, trans-ported into the blissful regions of Germanic antiquity . . .' according to Kubizek.


Wieland  der Schmied
According to some reliable sources Hitler wrote an opera, based on a prose sketch which Wagner had developed, but abandoned, entitled 'Wieland der Schmied' (Wieland the Blacksmith).
An entire chapter is devoted to the story and tells how the young Hitler worked out leitmotifs, a cast of characters, a plot, a dramatic structure and a rough score.
Even after the passage of forty-five years, Kubizek was able to recall the specific names, all old-Teutonic, of the characters.
Within three days of conceiving the idea of the opera, Hitler had already composed an overture - in Wagnerian style - which he played for his friend on the piano in their completely darkened room. ‘Eventually there was produced a very serious sketch for a music drama with Adolf Hitler as its composer.

In Germanic and Norse mythology, Wayland the Smith (Old English: Wēland; Old Norse: Völundr, Velentr; Old High German: Wiolant; Proto-Germanic: *Wēlandaz, from *Wēla-nandaz, lit. "battle-brave") is a legendary master blacksmith. In Old Norse sources, Völundr appears in Völundarkviða, a poem in the Poetic Edda, and in Þiðrekssaga, and his legend is also depicted on the Ardre image stone VIII. In Old English sources, he appears in Deor, Waldere and in Beowulf and the legend is depicted on the Franks Casket. He is mentioned in the German poems about Dietrich von Bern as the Father of Witige.

National Socialist Symphony Orchestra
Kubizek also explains how Hitler dreamed up the idea of a ‘Mobile Reichs Orchestra’ - or 'Reich Symphony Orchestra' - which was to tour German provinces and perform without charge.
In 1928 an orchestra dedicated to promoting National Socialist ideals was organized and in 1931 it became, with Hitler’s approval, a travelling National Socialist Symphony Orchestra.
By far the best known of Kubizek’s reminiscences relates to 'Rienzi'.

Rienzi
Following  a  performance  at  the  Linz Opera of Wagner’s 'Rienzi', Hitler ascended to a  high  place  -  the  Freinberg  Hill overlooking  the  city  - where he experienced an ideological epiphany.


'Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen' (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes) is an early opera by Richard Wagner in five acts, with the libretto written by the composer after Bulwer-Lytton's novel of the same name (1835). Written between July 1838 and November 1840, it was first performed at the Hofoper, Dresden, on 20 October 1842, and was the composer's first success.
The opera is set in Rome and is based on the life of Cola di Rienzi (1313–1354), a late medieval Italian populist figure who succeeds in outwitting and then defeating the nobles and their followers and in raising the power of the people.

Inspired by the hero of the opera, a simple man driven by a sense of mission to restore greatness to Rome, Hitler fell into a state of ‘complete ecstasy and rapture’ and declared that he too was destined to lead his people to greatness.
Kubizek went on to say that he mentioned the episode to Hitler when they met in Bayreuth in 1939 and found that he recalled it.
In that hour it began,’ the Führer commented.
And it is a story that is anchored in fact.
One fact is that the opera was actually performed at the local opera house beginning in January 1905.
Another is that this is another case where the book and the ‘Reminiscences’ are consistent.
When a sceptical Jetzinger read that passage and challenged it (why ?), Kubizek responded in evident dudgeon, ‘The experience after 'Rienzi' really happened.
But most telling is Hitler’s own testimony to Speer in 1938, a full year before Kubizek raised the topic at Bayreuth.
Explaining why the party rallies opened with the overture to the opera, he said it was not simply because of the impressiveness of the music but also because it had great personal significance.
Listening to this blessed music as a young man in the opera at Linz, I had the vision that I too must some day succeed in uniting the German empire and making it great once more.

Anschluß - 1938
Upon the annexation of Austria, Hitler publicly expressed identical sentiments, without the personal reference to 'Rienzi', telling an audience in Vienna,
I believe it was God’s will to send a youth from here into the Reich, to let him grow up, to raise him to be the leader of the nation so as to enable him to lead his homeland back into the Reich’.

The Anschluß (German for "connection" or union), also known as the Anschluss Österreichs, was the reunion of Austria with the Third Reich in 1938.
With the Anschluß, the German-speaking Republic of Austria ceased to exist as a fully independent state.

In some sense,  then,  the  'Rienzi'  experience  marked  the  primal scene of his political career. 


Wilhelm Furtwängler
Hitler’s love of music was intense, - fanatical even.
But as in painting, his taste  was limited  to a specific  type.
Wilhelm Furtwängler learned this to his shock at a long meeting with the Führer in  August  1933. 


Wilhelm Furtwängler (January 25, 1886 – November 30, 1954) was a German conductor and composer. He is widely considered to have been one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Furtwängler became one of the leading conductors in Europe, as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic from 1922, as principal conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1922–26, and as a major guest conductor of other leading orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic. He was the leading conductor who remained in Germany during the Second World War.


Music, Hitler left him in no  doubt, meant opera, and  opera  meant Wagner and Puccini.


Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (22 December 1858 – 29 November 1924), generally known as Giacomo Puccini, was an Italian composer whose operas are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire.
Puccini has been called "the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi". While his early work was rooted in traditional late-19th-century romantic Italian opera, he successfully developed his work in the 'realistic' verismo style, of which he became one of the leading exponents.


Symphonies - initially - held little interest, and chamber  music  none  at  all. 
There  is  no  record  of  his ever  having  attended  a  chamber  concert  or a lieder recital.
His attendance at symphony concerts was increasingly rare as time passed and, when chancellor, he seldom  appeared  except  on  ceremonial  occasions. 

Hitler Listening to Records
He wanted music to be readily available, however, and after 1933 built up a large collection of phonograph recordings at the Chancellery in Berlin, at the Berghof, on his train and, later on, at his military headquarters on the Eastern front. 
According to all accounts, these were outstanding in quality and quantity, and the playing equipment was excellent.
In the evenings he enjoyed hearing short excerpts and dramatic highlights of favourite pieces. Christa Schroeder:
He would then sit back,
according to Christa Schroeder, and listen with his eyes closed.

Christa Schroeder (born Emilie Christine Schroeder; March 19, 1908 – June 18, 1984) was one of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s personal secretaries before and during World War II.

It was always the same recordings that  were  played,  and  usually  the  guests knew  the number  of  the  record  by  heart. 
When  Hitler said,  for  example,  ‘Aida,  last  act: 'The  fatal  stone  upon me now is closing’, then one of the guests would shout the  catalogue  number  to  a  member  of  the  household staff.
'Record number one-hundred-whatever.'

Aida - Giuseppe Verdi
'Before long,’ according to Speer, ‘the order of the re-cords became virtually fixed. First he wanted a few bra-vura selections from Wagnerian operas, to be followed promptly with operettas.
All the while he would try to guess the names of the singers and, as Speer remarked, ‘was pleased when he guessed right, as he frequently did’.

Aida - sometimes spelled Aïda - is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on a scenario often attributed to French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. Aida was first performed at the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo on 24 December 1871, conducted by Giovanni Bottesini.

Hitler was not genuinely fond of Beethoven and, as time passed, his attendance at performances of his symphonies was usually confined to official events.
This was awkward.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Traditionally Germans looked upon Beethoven along with Goethe, Rembrandt and Shakespeare as the supreme figures of modern Western culture.
Unlike the others, however, Beethoven was never just a cultural figure, but also an ideological symbol, invoked by every political movement.
National Socialists, Rosenberg in particular, claimed the composer as an Aryan hero - and his music as an elixir that would contribute to the nation’s renewal.

Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 concertos for piano, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets. He also composed other chamber music, choral works (including the celebrated Missa Solemnis), and songs.

In his speeches Hitler consequently felt obliged to give the composer his due, but his praise rarely rose above the perfunctory. 

Richard Wagner

So if Hitler had his Wagner, the Party had its Beethoven. When Hitler ‘entertained’ on state occasions, Wagner was performed; when the party ‘entertained’ on party occasions Beethoven was played.
And played he was, more often than any other symphonic composer.


Miklós Horthy
His works, above all the Ninth Symphony, were the pre-eminent musical set pieces for important occasions.
When Hitler wanted to impress state visitors, he hauled them off to a gala performance of a Wagnerian opera.
In 1938, anxious to gain Hungarian support for his impending dismemberment of Czechoslova-kia; he invited the Prince Regent, Admiral Horthy, to make a state visit.

Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya (German: Nikolaus von Horthy und Nagybánya; 18 June 1868 – 9 February 1957) was regent of the Kingdom of Hungary during the years between World Wars I and II and throughout most of World War II, serving from 1 March 1920 to 15 October 1944. He was styled "His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary" (Ő Főméltósága a Magyar Királyság Kormányzója).

The social high point of the occasion was a stunning performance of 'Lohengrin' - a rather tactless choice considering the opera opens with a call to arms to defend Germany from the Hungarian invader.
The following year Prince Paul, Prince Regent of Yugoslavia, was invited to Berlin for similar reasons, in this case the imminent invasion of Poland. He was treated to the happier 'Meistersinger von Nürnberg'.


Adolf Hitler and Prince Paul of Yugoslavia
Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, also known as Paul Karađorđević (Павле Карађорђевић, - 27 April 1893 – 14 September 1976), was regent of Yugoslavia during the minority of King Peter II. Peter was the eldest son of his first cousin Alexander I. His title in Yugoslavia was "Његово Краљевско Височанство, Кнез Намесник", (His Royal Highness The Prince Regent). In 1939, Prince Paul, as acting head of state, accepted an official invitation from Adolf Hitler and spent 9 days in Berlin.

Hitler apparently believed that outstanding musical performances - like his magnificent works of architecture - would leave foreign leaders in awe of the greatness of the Third Reich and incline them to support his policies.
Brahms he did not like.

Hans  Severus  Ziegler
Hitler’s  admirers,  such as  Hans  Severus  Ziegler  and  Furtwängler, traced  his antipathy  to  the  old  rivalry  between  the  Brahms  and Bruckner  camps  in  Vienna. 


Hans Severus Ziegler (13 October 1893 – 1 May 1978) was a German publicist, intendant, teacher and National Socialist Party official. A leading cultural director under the Nazis, he was closely associated with the censorship and cultural co-ordination of the Third Reich.
Ziegler played a leading role in promoting the Nazi vision of culture, particularly with regards to "degenerate" music. He was a strong critic of atonality, dismissing it as decadent "cultural Bolshevism"


In an attempt to have him overlook history, and concentrate on the music, they persuaded him to attend a concert of the Berlin Philharmonic, which included the Brahm's Fourth Symphony. 
But when he blithely commented afterwards,
Well, Furtwängler is such a good conductor that under such a baton even Brahms is impressive,’ they admitted defeat.
Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist.
Born in Hamburg into a Lutheran family, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms's popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven.


Richard Strauss
Unfortunately the record is silent on what Hitler thought of Richard Strauss’s operas, or even which ones he knew.


Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include 'Der Rosenkavalier' and 'Salome'; his lieder, especially his 'Four Last Songs'; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as 'Death and Transfiguration', 'Also sprach Zarathustra', 'An Alpine Symphony', and 'Metamorphosen'. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.
Strauss represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.


Salome - Franz von Stuck
The story that Hitler begged money from relatives to attend the Austrian premiere of 'Salome' in Graz in May 1906, an event that also drew most of the eminent composers of the day, is possibly apocryphal.


Salome, Op. 54, is an opera in one act by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by the composer, based on Hedwig Lachmann's German translation of the French play Salomé by Oscar Wilde. Strauss dedicated the opera to his friend Sir Edgar Speyer.
The opera is famous (at the time of its premiere, infamous) for its "Dance of the Seven Veils". It is now better known for the more shocking final scene (often a concert-piece for dramatic sopranos), where Salome declares her love to – and kisses – the severed head of John the Baptist.


Not until after the Anschluss  in  1938  did  he  even  visit  the  Vienna.
Hitler  liked the  best known  operas  of  Verdi  and  Puccini. 
In  fact, a performance of  'Madama Butterfly' at the Berlin Volksoper inn1937 left him so delighted that he decided then and there to donate 100,000 marks a year to the opera company.

Heinrich  Hoffmann
Even so, when once attending a performance of 'La Boheme', what he talked about during the intermissions was Wagner and Bayreuth. 
Otherwise there were few if any non-German composers whose works he could abide.
According to Heinrich Hoffmann, he especially disliked Stravinsky and Prokofiev, and when Hoffmann’s daughter, Henriette von Schirach, presented him with a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, he brusquely refused to listen to it.

Heinrich Hoffmann (September 12, 1885 – December 11, 1957) was a German photographer best known for his many published photographs of Adolf Hitler.  Hoffmann married Therese "Lelly" Baumann, who was very fond of Hitler, in 1911, their daughter Henriette ("Henny") was born on February 3, 1913 and followed by a son, Heinrich ("Heini") on October 24, 1916. Henriette married Reichsjugendführer (National Hitler Youth commander) Baldur von Schirach, who provided introductions to many of Hoffmann's picture books, in 1932. Therese Hoffmann died a sudden and unexpected death in 1928. Hoffmann and his second wife Erna introduced his Munich studio assistant Eva Braun to Hitler. Braun later became Hitler's female companion.

Anton Brukner
Hitler liked his music to be melodic, euphonious and accessible.
Hitler’s taste underwent several significant changes, however. 
During most of his life, Bruckner held little appeal.


Anton Bruckner (4 September 1824 – 11 October 1896) was an Austrian composer known for his symphonies, masses, and motets. The first are considered emblematic of the final stage of Austro-German Romanticism because of their rich harmonic language, strongly polyphonic character, and considerable length. Bruckner's compositions helped to define contemporary musical radicalism, owing to their dissonances, unprepared modulations, and roving harmonies.
Unlike other musical radicals, such as Richard Wagner or Hugo Wolf who fit the 'enfant terrible' mould, Bruckner showed extreme humility before other musicians, Wagner in particular. This apparent dichotomy between Bruckner the man and Bruckner the composer hampers efforts to describe his life in a way that gives a straightforward context for his music.

Hoffmann did not so much as mention the composer’s name when once identifying Hitler’s favourites.
Even after becoming chancellor, Speer noted, his interest ‘never seemed very marked’.
The composer had, however, symbolic importance to him, both as a ‘home town boy’ and as a rival to Brahms, so beloved in Vienna.
It was a fixed part of the Nuremberg rallies for the cultural session to open with a movement of one of his symphonies.

Hitler at the Regensburg Valhalla
In June 1937 he was famously photographed paying his respects to the composer, standing in mute homage before a monument at ‘Valhalla hall of fame’ near Regensburg as Siegmund von Hausegger and the Munich Philharmonic played the magnificent Adagio of the Seventh Symphony.
Why Hitler staged that event is not known. 
Speculation has ranged from the theory that it was intended as a cultural precursor of the annexation of Austria the following year, to the notion that it was out of nostalgia for his ‘beautiful time as a choirboy’ and Lembach Abbey - with its Bruckner associations.
Undoubtedly the Hitler felt a personal kinship.
Both had come from small Austrian towns, grew up in modest circumstances, had fathers who died at an early age, were autodidacts, and made their way in life despite great obstacles.
On a number of occasions he contrasted the Austrian Catholic Bruckner, whom the Viennese shunned, to the north German Protestant Brahms, whom they idolized.
Then, suddenly in 1940 he developed a passion for Bruckner’s symphonies.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels
He even began mentioning him in the same breath with Wagner. ‘He told me,’ Goebbels noted in his diary, ‘... that it was only now during the war, that he had learned to like him at all.’ The enthusiasm steadily grew.

Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers.

By 1942 he placed Bruckner on a level with Beethoven, and categorized the former’s Seventh Symphony as ‘one of the most splendid manifestations of German musical creativity, the equivalent of Beethoven’s Ninth’.
His feelings about Bruckner, man and composer, are best conveyed by remarks he made after listening to a recording of the first movement of the Seventh at his military headquarters in January 1942:
'Those are pure popular melodies from Upper Austria, nothing taken over literally but ländler and so on that I know from my youth. What the man made out of this primitive material ! In this case it was a priest who deserves well for having supported a great master.'

Bruckner Organ - St Florian 
'The bishop of Linz sat for hours alone in the cathedral when Bruckner, the greatest organist of his time, played the organ.
One can imagine how difficult it was for a small peasant lad when he went to Vienna, that urbanized, debauched society.
A remark by him about Brahms, which a newspaper recently carried, brought him closer to me: Brahms’s music is quite lovely, but he preferred his own.
That is the healthy selfconfidence of a peasant who is modest but when it came down to it knew how to promote a cause when it was his own.
That critic Hanslick made his life in Vienna hell.
But when he could no longer be ignored, he was given honours and awards.
But what could he do with those ?
It was his creative activity that should have been made easier.
Brahms was praised to the heavens.'
From then on Hitler did everything possible to promote Bruckner and to enlist him in his vendetta against Vienna.
St Florian, where the composer’s career had begun, was to be turned into a pilgrimage site in the manner of Bayreuth.
He wants to establish a new cultural centre here,’ Goebbels noted. ‘Simply as a counter-weight to Vienna, which must gradually be shoved aside . . . . He intends to renovate St Florian at his own expense.
Accordingly, Hitler financed a centre of Bruckner studies there, had the famous organ repaired and augmented the composer’s library.
He even designed a monument in his honour to stand in Linz, and endowed a Bruckner Orchestra which he was determined to make one of the world’s best.
The publication of the Haas edition of the composer’s original scores was subsidized from his own funds.
And he dreamed of constructing a bell tower in Linz with a carillon that would play a theme from the Fourth Symphony.

Franz Lehar
An even more startling transformation in Hitler’s musical  taste  was a growing passion for operetta, in particular Franz Lehar’s  'Die lustige Witwe'

Franz Lehár (30 April 1870 – 24 October 1948) was an Austro-Hungarian composer. He is mainly known for his operettas of which the most successful and best known is The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe).
Hitler enjoyed Lehár's music, and hostility diminished across Germany after Goebbels's intervention on Lehár's part. The National Socialist regime was aware of the uses of Lehár's music for propaganda purposes: concerts of his music were given in occupied Paris in 1941. Even so, Lehár's influence was limited.


'Die lustige Witwe' is an operetta by the Austro–Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. The librettists, Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, based the story – concerning a rich widow, and her countrymen's attempt to keep her money in the principality by finding her the right husband – on an 1861 comedy play, L'attaché d'ambassade (The Embassy Attaché) by Henri Meilhac.

The operetta has enjoyed extraordinary international success since its 1905 premiere in Vienna and continues to be frequently revived and recorded. Film and other adaptations have also been made. Well-known music from the score includes the "Vilja Song", "Da geh' ich zu Maxim" ("You'll Find Me at Maxim's"), and the "Merry Widow Waltz".



.
There was a remarkable  irony  in  this.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss’s  'Fledermaus'
Although  Hitler  almost  always avoided mentioning  the  names  of  contemporary composers  and  their  works,  in speeches  in  1920  and  1922 he singled out  'Die lustige Witwe'   as  a  pre-eminent  example  of  artistic  kitsch.
There  is  no  way  of  knowing when he changed his mind.
But some time in the 1930s that very opera became one of his favourites.
He never missed   a   new   production   of   either   that   or   Johann Strauss’s  'Fledermaus',  and  drew  large  sums  from  his private account  for  lavish  new  stagings.

Johann Strauss II (October 25, 1825 – June 3, 1899), also known as Johann Baptist Strauss or Johann Strauss, Jr., the Younger, or the Son (German: Sohn), was an Austrian composer of light music, particularly dance music and operettas. He composed over 400 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other types of dance music, as well as several operettas and a ballet. In his lifetime, he was known as "The Waltz King", and was largely then responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century.
Among his operettas, 'Die Fledermaus' and 'Der Zigeunerbaron' are the best known.

Eventually  Hitler  came  to  revere  Lehar  as  one of  the  greatest  of  composers.

Reichskulturkammer
Reich  Culture  Chamber - RKK
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
So thrilled was he upon meeting the composer in 1936 at a session  of  the Reichskulturkammer that  he  talked about  the experience  for  days  afterwards.

The Reichskulturkammer (RKK) ("Reich Chamber of Culture") was an institution in the Third Reich. It was established by law on 22 September 1933 in the course of the 'Gleichschaltung' (meaning "coordination", "making the same", "bringing into line") process at the instigation of Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels as a professional organization of all German creative artists. Defying the claims raised by the German Labour Front (DAF) under rival Robert Ley, it was designed to control the cultural life in Germany, promoting art created by "Aryans", and seen as consistent with National Socialist ideals.
Every artist had to apply for membership on presentation of an 'Aryan certificate'.

The RKK was affiliated with the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda with its seat in Berlin and was headed by Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.

The  importance  of  Lehar’s  music  in  the  last  years  of  his  life  was evident  when  he celebrated  his  birthday  in  1943  by treating  himself,  and  his  guests,  to  a  recording  of 'Die lustige Witwe'.

Clearly Hitler had a keen ear, but how much did he actually know about music ?
He possessed a powerful memory, and in fields that interested him he  often  befuddled specialists  with  his  detailed,  even expert,  knowledge.
In  fact,  confounding  professionals, and  showing  off  to  his  entourage,  gave  him  wicked pleasure, and those around him occasionally suspected that he boned up on a topic only to bring the conversation round to it so that he could exhibit his ‘extraordinary knowledge’.

Richard Strauss
After  the  Viennese  premiere  of  Richard Strauss’s  'Friedenstag', Hitler  gave  a  reception  for the artists  at  which,  according  to  one account,  ‘He  showed an  astonishing  array  of  musical knowledge,  and  was able, for example, to remind Hans Hotter of what he had been  singing  ten  years  previously: 
“Isn’t  Scarpia  too high for you? That G-flat in Act II?”’
While confirming the story,  Hotter  commented  that  it  was  difficult to  draw much  of  a  conclusion  from  it. 
Hitler  had  an  exception-ally good memory.
According to the nature of an event - in this case music - he would prepare himself by reading relevant  literature  and  surprise everybody  by  his  insider’s knowledge.’

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include 'Der Rosenkavalier' and 'Salome'; his lieder, especially his 'Four Last Songs'; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as 'Tod und Verklärung', 'Also sprach Zarathustra', 'Eine Alpensinfonie'  and Metamorphosen. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.
Strauss represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

Friedenstag (Peace Day) is an opera in one act by Richard Strauss, his Opus 81, to a German libretto by Joseph Gregor. 
The opera was premiered at Munich on 24 July 1938 and dedicated to Viorica Ursuleac and her husband Clemens Krauss, the lead and conductor respectively. Strauss had intended 'Friedenstag' as part of a double-bill, to be conducted by Karl Böhm in Dresden, that would include as the second part his next opera 'Daphne'.

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Winifred Wagner and Adolf Hitler
Bayreuth
Most accounts of his musical expertise relate to his   knowledge   of   Wagnerian   opera. 
Typical   was   a comment of Winifred Wagner (see above) who, as her secretary recorded,  ‘could  not  stop  raving about  what  an  attentive listener  he  is  and  how  well  he knows  the  works,  above all musically’.

Heinz Tietjen 
In the same vein, Heinz Tietjen remarked that  he  was  ‘amazed’ at  how  well  the  Führer  knew Wagner’s scores, citing as an example Hitler’s comment after  a  performance  that  the  oboe  had  not  played quite in  tune.
And  I  had  to  acknowledge  he  was  right,’  the impresario  said.

Heinz Tietjen (June 24, 1881 - November 30, 1967) was a German conductor and music producer.
Tietjen was the director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin between 1925 and 1927, then director of the Prussian State Theatre. From 1931 to 1944, he served as artistic director at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus for Winifred Wagner with whom he had a romantic liaison

Baldur von Schirach
More  convincing  are  the  comments  of Baldur von Schirach.
Writing after he had served twenty years in Spandau, he cannot be suspected of gilding the lily.
He  recalled  a  performance  of  'Die  Walküre',  which Hitler had attended in Weimar in 1925.
Schirach’s father was managing director of the opera house and, after the performance,  Hitler  was  introduced  to him and went on at  great length  about  what he had seen and heard in a way  that demonstrated he  really  knew  his  Wagner.
He compared the production with those he had attended in Vienna  as a  young  man,  naming  singers  and  conductors,  and  so  impressed the  elder  Schirach  that  he  was invited  home  to  tea.
After  he  left,  Schirach  père  was said  to  have  commented:
In  all  my  life  I  never  met  a layman  who  understood  so  much  about  music,  Wagner’s in particular.’

Baldur Benedikt von Schirach (9 May 1907 – 8 August 1974) was a Nazi youth leader later convicted of crimes against humanity. He was the head of the Hitler-Jugend (HJ, the "Hitler Youth") and Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter ("Reich Governor") of Vienna. Schirach was born in Berlin, the youngest of four children of theatre director Rittmeister Carl Baily Norris von Schirach (1873–1948) and his American wife Emma Middleton Lynah Tillou (1872–1944). Through his mother, Schirach descended from two signatories of the United States Declaration of Independence. He had two sisters, Viktoria and Rosalind von Schirach, and a brother, Karl Benedict von Schirach, who committed suicide in 1919 at the age of 19.
Schirach joined a Wehrjugendgruppe (military cadet group) at the age of 10 and became a member of the NSDAP in 1925. He was soon transferred to Munich and in 1929 became leader of the Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Studentenbund (NSDStB, National Socialist German Students' League). In 1931 he was a Reichsjugendführer (youth leader) in the NSDAP and in 1933 he was made head of the Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend) and given an SA rank of Gruppenführer. He was made a state secretary in 1936.

Albert Speer
To this account, Speer added that at his  fiftieth  birthday  celebration in  1939  Hitler  had  been particularly  excited  by  a  gift  of  some  of Wagner’s original  scores  and,  as  he  leafed  through  that  of Götterdämmerung, ‘showed  sheet  after  sheet  to  the  assembled guests, making knowledgeable comments

Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer -  March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981 - was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office.
Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, launching him on a political and governmental career which lasted fourteen years. His architectural skills made him increasingly prominent within the Party and he became a member of Hitler's inner circle. Hitler instructed him to design and construct a number of structures, including the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg where Party rallies were held. Speer also made plans to reconstruct Berlin on a grand scale, with huge buildings, wide boulevards, and a reorganized transportation system.

Which  were  Hitler's  favourite  operas ?
Despite  the poverty of his Vienna years, he managed to attend 'Tristan  und  Isolde'  alone thirty  or  forty  times,  and  in the course  of  his  life  heard  it,  and  'Die  Meistersinger',  probably  a  hundred  times.


'Tristan  und  Isolde'
'Tristan und Isolde' is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting. Wagner referred to the work not as an opera, but called it "eine Handlung" (literally a drama. a plot or an action).
Wagner's composition of 'Tristan und Isolde' was inspired by his affair with Mathilde Wesendonck and the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Widely acknowledged as one of the peaks of the operatic repertory, 'Tristan' was notable for Wagner's advanced use of chromaticism, tonality, orchestral colour and harmonic suspension.



Joachim C. Fest
Otto Dietrich
According  to  his  press  chief, Otto Dietrich, he  knew  'Die  Meistersinger'  by  heart  and could hum or whistle all its themes.
'Lohengrin' no doubt held a special place in his heart.
According to Fest, Hitler considered  the  final scene  of  'Götterdämmerung'  to  be  ‘the summit  of  all  opera’.

Joachim Clemens Fest (8 December 1926 – 11 September 2006) was a German historian, journalist, critic and editor, best known for his writings and public commentary on Nazi Germany, including an important biography of Adolf Hitler and books about Albert Speer.

He  further  cites  Speer  as  having told him,
In Bayreuth, whenever the citadel of the gods collapsed  in  flames  amid  the  musical uproar,  in  the darkness  of  the  loge  he  would  take  the  hand  of  Frau Wagner, sitting next to him, and in deep emotion bestow a kiss upon it.
Be that as it may, it was 'Tristan and Isolde' that meant  most  to  him.
After  listening one evening in 1942 to  a  recording  of  the  'Prelude  and  Liebestod',  he  com-mented, ‘Well, 'Tristan' was his greatest work.

Festung Landsberg 
Christa  Schroeder and Adolf Hitler
According to Christa Schroeder, the  'Liebestod' moved  him  so deeply  that  he said  he  wished  to  hear  it  at the  time  of his death.
And in a letter from Landsberg prison in 1924 he  wrote  that he  often  ‘dreamed  of Tristan’.
At a  1938 Bayreuth performance Winifred  observed, 
He  is  over-joyed   at   each   beautiful   passage   that   he   especially loves;  then  his  face  just  shines.’ 
There  is  no  way of knowing whether it was the eroticism, the sense of longing, the triumph of sensuality over reason that - in contrast  to  his  own  repressed  sexual  instincts - appealed to him.
Possibly it was the cult of the night or the tragic end.
Maybe just the music.

Tannhäuser and Venus - Otto Knille
'Tannhäuser' engaged him less, and he was long familiar only  with  the  composer’s  earliest  score,  the so-called 'Dresden  Version'. 
At  some  point  in  the  1930s he heard the later 'Paris Version', and was so taken with it that he ordered Goebbels and Goring to permit only that score  to  be  performed. 
Despite the fact that Hitler seemed to favour 'Tristan' the most significant of Wagner's works for Hitler, despite his comments about 'Tristan' and  'Götterdämmerung', was 'Parsifal' - and that  was  the  reason  he wanted  Roller  to re-stage  it  at  Bayreuth.
Alfred Roller - 'Parsifal' - 1934
And  this elucidates  Hans  Frank’s  story  that,  while riding  on  his train through  the  Rhineland in 1936,  Hitler  asked  to  have played  for him a  recording  of  Karl  Muck’s performance of the Parsifal Vorspiel.
Afterwards, in a deeply contemplative mood, he  remarked, ‘Out of Parsifal  I shall make  for  myself  a  religion,  religious service in solemn form without theological disputation.’ 
He recalled that the Vienna opera archive held  sketches  of  Roller’s  1914  production and he  commended  these  as  models  for producers. 
Not waiting  for  the  final  victory,  Goebbels  passed  on  the word  to  his  ministerial  officials with  instructions  to  have photographs  of  the  Roller  sketches  circulated  to  every opera house.  Managers  were  informed  that  any  future staging  of  the  work  was  to  follow  the Roller  model and ‘was no longer to be done in the Byzantine-sacred style that was common up to then’.


For Hitler the Gnostic themes of the Grail Quest, and the cosmic struggle between Light and Darkness were perfectly portrayed in 'Parsifal'.
Being an occult initiate, Hitler was aware of the Gnostic message behind "the externals of the story, with its Christian embroidery... the real message was pure, noble blood, in whose protection and glorification the brotherhood of the initiated have come together."


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Adolf Hitler's Interpretation of Parsifal


  "I have built up my religion out of Parsifal.  Divine worship in solemn form ... without pretenses of humility ... One can serve God only in the garb of the hero"  


                     'What is celebrated in Wagner's 'Parsifal' is not the Christian religion of compassion, but pure and noble blood, - blood whose purity the brotherhood of initiates has come together to guard.
The king (Amfortas) then suffers an incurable sickness, caused by his tainted blood.
Then the unknowing but pure human being (Parsifal) is led into temptation, either to submit to the frenzy and to the delights of a corrupt civilisation in Klingsor's magic garden, or to join the select band of knights who guard the secret of life, which is pure blood itself.
All of us suffer the sickness of miscegenated, corrupted blood.
Note how the compassion that leads to knowledge applies only to the man who is inwardly corrupt, to the man of contradictions.
And Eternal life, as vouchsafed by the Grail, is only granted to those who are truly pure and noble !

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Only a new nobility can bring about the new culture.
If we discount everything to do with poetry, it is clear that elitism and renewal exist only in the continuing strain of a lasting struggle.
A divisive process is taking place in terms of world history.
The man who sees the meaning of life in conflict will gradually mount the stairs of a new aristocracy.
He who desires the dependent joys of peace and order will sink back down to the unhistorical mass, no matter what his provenance.
But the mass is prey to decay and self-disintegration.
At this turning- point in the world's revolution the mass is the sum of declining culture and its moribund representatives.
They should be left to die, together with all kings like Amfortas.'


"The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again.
The whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic.
We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race."

Adolf Hitler



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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

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It has sometimes been assumed that Hitler was attracted  to  Wagner’s  works  because  of  the plots,  with their  classic  conflict  between  the  outsider  and  a  rigid social  order,  their  lonely heroes  and  dark  villains,  their Nordic myths and Germanic legends.
However, (apart from 'Parsifal' - see above) there is no  record  of  any  comment  on  how  he interpreted  the works,  or  whether  he  saw  in  them  any  ideological  message  - much  less whether  he  envisaged  himself  as  Lohengrin, Siegmund, Siegfried, Wotan or any other Wagnerian  character.

'Nordic Dreams'
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Rheintöchter
Woglinde, Wellgunde undFloßhilde
 'Das Rheingold'
It was the music that moved  him.
When I hear Wagner it seems to me like the rhythms of the  primeval world,’  he  said.  ‘And  I could imagine that science  will  one  day find measures  of creation  in the proportions of the physically perceptible vibrations of the Rheingold  music.’ 
Perhaps  he  was  trying to say  what Thomas  Mann wrote  in  'Dr  Faustus'  - that  the  elements of music are the first and simplest materials of the world, and make music one with the world, that ‘the beginning of  all things  had  its  music’. 
Christa Schroeder recalled his saying that ‘Wagner’s musical language sounded  in  his  ear like  a  revelation  of  the  divine’.
The vocabulary  suggests  that  the  feelings  conjured  by  the operas  may  have  filled  the void left by the conventional Catholic religious belief  he  lost,  or  never  really  had - and it is quite clear that Hitler saw 'Parsifal' in religious terms. 
In one  of  his  earliest speeches  he  made  the  revealing  comment  that  in  their way Wagner’s  works  were  holy,  that  they  offered  ‘exaltation and liberation from all the wretchedness and misery  as  well  as  all  the  decadence  that  prevails’,  and  that they lift one ‘up into the pure air’.
If escape and purification were part of the appeal, the operas also responded to  that  proclivity for  the  overwhelming,  the  oceanic,  the romantic,  the  orgasmic  that  was  evident  in  his public rallies, parades and spectacles.
Like Wagner himself, Hitler believed that music fully  realized  itself  only  when  it  fused  with other  arts  in visible form on stage.

National  Theatre Weimar
National  Theatre Weimar
And, like Wagner, his interest extended  to  virtually  every  aspect of  operatic  production, 
down  to  the  fabric  and  design  of the  theatre  itself. 
He was  fascinated  by  backstage operations,  including  the functioning  of  stage  machinery. During  his  visit  to  Weimar in 1925, he asked to go behind the stage at the National  Theatre. Schirach  was  with  him  at  the  time  and later remarked, ‘He was familiar with all sorts of lighting systems  and  could  discourse  in detail  on  the  proper  illumination  for  certain  scenes.’

Berghof 
Hans  Severus  Ziegler recalled  taking  a walk with Hitler one night at the Berghof, when  the  moon  suddenly  appeared  from behind  a cloud and lit the surrounding meadow.
Hitler stopped in his  tracks  and  launched into  a  discussion  of  the  colour of light necessary to achieve verisimilitude for moonlight on a stage, as in the concluding scene of the second act of  'Die Meistersinger'.
He  was  insistent  that  it  should  be white; but  ‘it  is  often  greenish  or  blueish  and that  is wrong’, he complained. ‘That is just Romantic kitsch.
Already  in  his  youth  Hitler  had  made  sketches of  Wagnerian  stage  sets  that  he imagined or  actually saw. 
Although  a  drawing  of  Siegfried  holding  a  raised sword  is  a  Kujau  forgery,  several authentic  sketches survive.
Alfred Roller - 'Tristan und Isolde'
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Among  them  is  one  of  the  second  act  of 'Lohengrin'; others include his rendering of the second and third  acts  of  the  famous  1903 Mahler-Roller  production of 'Tristan and Isolde', which he had attended in Vienna.
This interest in stage design increased after he became chancellor,  and  reached  such  a  level that  it was  common  knowledge  that  the  best way  to  get  an appointment   with   him,   which otherwise   might   take months,  was  to  let him know  that  you  had  photos  of a new  staging of  an  operetta  or  opera,  particularly Wagnerian.
An  invitation  was  almost  certain  to  follow, and then  Hitler  would  spend  countless  hours  studying  the pictures.
Most of all he relished working with Benno von Arent,  and  together  they  designed  several productions that he commissioned and paid for with his private funds - among them, 'Lohengrin' in 1935 at the German Opera in Berlin, 'Rienzi' in 1939 at the Dietrich Eckart Open Air Theatre in  Berlin  and  'Die  Meistersinger'  in  1934,  and later  years  at  the  Nuremberg  opera  in connection  with the party rally.


Benno von Arent
Benno von Arent (19 July 1898 – 14 October 1956) was a member of the National Socialist Party and SS, responsible for art, theatres, movies etc.
Arent was born in Görlitz, Prussia, on 19 July 1898. Self-taught, after various apprentice positions he obtained his first theater job in Berlin in 1923 and became a stage designer. He joined the SS in 1931 and the NSDAP in 1932. The same year, he was one of the founders of the "Bund nationalsozialistischer Bühnen- und Filmkünstler" ("Union of national-socialist stage and movie artists"), which was renamed "Kameradschaft deutscher Künstler" ("fellowship of German artists") after Hitler's rise to power in 1933.
Arent was appointed "Reichsbühnenbildner" ("Reich stage designer") in 1936 and "Reichsbeauftragter für die Mode" ("Reich agent for fashion") in 1939. He designed the diplomatic uniform of the Nazi diplomatic service. In 1944, he was given the rank of SS-Oberführer.
He is listed under 'Kunstlerische Mitarbeiter' in the 1938-39 catalog issued by Porzellan-Manufaktur Allach, Munich.

Speer recalled:
'At the chancellery Hitler once sent up to his bedroom for neatly  executed  stage  designs,  coloured  with  crayons, for  all  the  acts  of  'Tristan  and  Isolde';  these  were to  be given  to  Arent  to  serve  as  an  inspiration. 
Another time he gave Arent a series of sketches for all the scenes of 'Der Ring des Nibelungen'.
At lunch he told us with great satisfaction  that  for  three  weeks  he  had  sat  up  over these, night after night.
This surprised me the more because  at  this  particular  time  Hitler’s  daily  schedule  was unusually  heavy  with  visitors,  speeches,  sight-seeing and other public activities.
Undoubtedly,  Arent’s  work  reflected  Hitler’s  taste.

His setting for the second act of 'Tristan', for example, was similar to  Roller’s  Vienna staging that  Hitler adored.' 
The  main  trait  of  the  Hitler-Arent  style  was,  as Speer  phrased  it,  ‘smashing  effects’,  and Arent’s  productions  were  smashing.
Gigantic  choruses  and  parades, huge casts of extras and glitzy costumes characterized   'Lohengrin'   and   'Rienzi'. 
But   the   Hitler-Arent chef-d’oeuvre  was  their  1934  joint  production  of  'Die Meistersinger'.
This  culminated  in  a  third-act  meadow scene staged in the manner of a Nuremberg party rally, with  massed  banners  and  martial  chorus.
No  detail  of the production escaped Hitler’s eye.
He fretted over the moonlight scene in the second act and went into ecstasies  over  the brilliant colours  he  wanted  for  the  final scene  on  the  Mastersingers’  meadow,  and  over  the romantic  look  of  the  little  gabled  houses  opposite  Hans Sachs’s  cobbler’s  shop.

Meistersingers - 1934
So proud of it was he that he sent it on tour - from Nuremberg  to  the  German  Opera  in Berlin  in  1935,  then  to Munich  in  1936, Danzig  in  1938,  Weimar  in  1939  and Linz in 1941.
It even enjoyed a measure of resurrection after  the  war  when  the  costumes  were used  in 1951 at the Bayreuth Festival, then too impoverished to afford to make its own.
Hitler’s adulation of Wagner-the-composer probably developed   into   veneration   of   Wagner-the-man   rather quickly.
Except  for  Frederick  the  Great  and Bismarck, on no other person did he lavish such repeated and fulsome praise.
‘I must be frank to say that Richard Wagner’s  personality  meant  more  to  me  than  Goethe’s,’ he remarked  on  one  occasion. 
The  Führer  talks  to  me  of Richard  Wagner,  he  reveres  him  and  knows  of  no  one like  him,’  Goebbels  once  recorded.
He  even  managed to  introduce Wagner’s  name  into  his  1923  putsch  attempt, telling  the court  at  his  trial  that  he  had  been  partly  inspired  by  the  composer’s  example  of preferring  deeds to words.


Wagner’s  Grave 
'When  I  stood  at  Wagner’s  grave  for  the first  time  my heart  just  overflowed  with pride  that  here  rested  a man who  would not  permit  the  inscription  on  his tombstone: ‘Here  lies  Privy  Counsellor, Music  Director,  His  Excellency Baron Richard von Wagner’.
I was proud that this man,  like  many  men in  German  history,  was content to leave his name to posterity not a title.'

Emil Ludwig
In  the  early 1930s it  was  being argued that Wagner did not simply enchant Hitler with his music and  inspire  his  anti-Semitism,  stagecraft  and political ideas,  but  also  that  he  helped  to  create  the  very ideological  atmosphere  that  put  him  in  power.
Of  all  German  creative  figures,  Wagner is the real father of the current German state of mind,’ wrote Emil Ludwig.
It was not by chance, he went on, that Hitler was a Wagnerian. 
The  two  men  were  personally  alike. Moreover,  they  worked  the same  material.
The  composer  took  the  German  sagas  just  as  they  were.  ‘Such  were  the  ideals  that Wagner proffered  the  German  people.
But  it  was  not  just  the stories and the ‘musical sound’ that created a mood of ‘mystical rapture’ but also his use of  the  German  language. 
‘Only  Hitler’s  prose  could compete with his,

'Lohengrin'
Thomas Mann
These  were  themes developed  in  later years by Thomas Mann.
The novelist was scarcely less smitten by Wagner than was Hitler himself.
He too as a youth had haunted his local opera house, and 'Lohengrin' had  also  been  the first  of  the  Master’s  operas  he  had attended.
Mann  spoke  of  the  composer as his ‘starkstes, bestimmendes  Erlebnis’, his strongest and most formative experience.
From the beginning to the end of his life he was enthralled by the music, and bewitched by the man. Wagner was the subject, or important theme, of nearly a dozen essays, any number of letters and countless  diary entries.
But  while  Hitler admired everything  he  knew  about  the  composer’s  life,  character,  ideology  and  musical  creation,  Mann  was  in someways ambivalent  about  them.
Mann’s most important commentary on Wagner was an address to the Goethe Society of Munich in February 1933 on the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death.
Entitled 'The Sufferings and Greatness of Richard Wagner', it was a deeply searching and astute treatment of  Wagner’s  place  in  European  culture.
The  fruit  of years  of  thought,  it  placed  the  composer  among  the greatest of artistic figures.
In 1937  Mann  noted  in  his  diary  that on the  one  hand  that  he  found  ‘elements  of  a frightening  quality’  in  a  poem  Wagner  had  written  for Cosima,  and  on  the  other  that  he had  listened  to  a  re-cording of 'Die Walkure' ‘with admiration’.

Joachim C. Fest 
According  to  Joachim C. Fest  'the youthful Hitler succumbed  to the  music  of  Richard  Wagner  .  ...  The charged  emotionality  of this  music  seemed  to  have served him as a means for self hypnosis, while he found in its lush air of luxury the necessary ingredients for escapist fantasy . . . . '    Hitler himself in fact later declared that with the exception  of  Richard  Wagner  he  had  ‘no forerunners’, and  by  Wagner  he  meant  not  only  the  composer but Wagner  the  personality,  ‘the  greatest  prophetic  figure the German people has had’ . . . . The points of contact between  the two temperaments  -  all  the  more  marked because  the  young  painter consciously  modelled himself after his hero - produce a curious sense of family resemblance.  

Joachim Clemens Fest (8 December 1926 – 11 September 2006) was a German historian, journalist, critic and editor, best known for his writings and public commentary on Nazi Germany, including an important biography of Adolf Hitler and books about Albert Speer and the German Resistance. He was a leading figure in the debate among German historians about the Nazi period.

The  style  of  public  ceremonies  in  the  Third Reich is inconceivable without Wagner’s operatic tradition,  without  the  essentially  demagogical  art  of  Richard Wagner - for the 'Master of Bayreuth' was not only Hitler’s great  exemplar,  he  was  also  the  young  man’s  ideological  mentor.
Wagner’s  political  writings  were  some of Hitler’s  favourite reading, and his style unmistakably  influenced Hitler’s own grammar and syntax.
Those  political  writings,  together  with  the  operas, form much of the framework for Hitler’s ideology . . . . Here he  found  the  ‘granite  foundations’  for  his  view  of the world.
Nothing  could  have  symbolized  the  association  more provocatively  than  the  opening  scene  of  Hans  Jürgen Syberberg’s 1977 film, 'Hitler', in which the dictator rises ectoplasmically  out  of  Wagner’s  Bayreuth  grave.


'Hitler: A Film from Germany'
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (born 8 December 1935) is a German film director, whose best known film is his lengthy feature, 'Hitler: A Film from Germany'. Born in Nossendorf, Pomerania, the son of an estate owner, Syberberg lived until 1945 in Rostock and Berlin. In 1952 and 1953 he created his first 8 mm takes of rehearsals by the Berliner Ensemble. In 1953 he moved to West Germany, where he in 1956 began studies in literature and art history, completing them the following year.
He earned his doctorate in Munich. For Syberberg, cinema is a form of Gesamtkunstwerk. Many commentators, including Syberberg himself, have characterized his work as a cinematic combination of Bertolt Brecht's doctrine of epic theatre and Richard Wagner's operatic aesthetics. Well known philosophers and intellectuals have written about his work, including Susan Sontag, Gilles Deleuze and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe.


Syberberg - Parsifal
Syberberg - Parsifal
In 1975 Syberberg released 'Winifried Wagner und die Geschichte des Hauses Wahnfried von 1914-1975' - a documentary about Winifred Wagner, wife of Richard Wagner's son Siegfried. The documentary attracted attention because it exposed Winifred's  admiration for Adolf Hitler. The film thus proved an embarrassment to the Wagner family and the Bayreuth Festival (which she had run from 1930 until the end of the Second World War).
Syberberg is also noted for an acclaimed visual interpretation of the Wagner opera 'Parsifal' in 1982.

What  Hitler  admired  in  the  composer  was what  he  admired  in  his  other  heroes, - courage
In  a speech  in  1923  he  defined  the  vital  quality  of  human greatness  as  ‘the heroic’ and attributed it to three men: Luther,  Frederick  the  Great  and  Wagner  -  the  reformer because  he  possessed  the  courage  to  stand  alone against the world, the king because he never lost courage  when his lot appeared hopeless and the composer, because  he  had  the  courage  to  struggle  in  solitude.
Each had fought, had fought alone and had fought ‘like a  titan’.
As  a  desperately  lonely  and  friendless  figure  in his  early  days,  Hitler  must  have  seen  his  own  situation mirrored  in  such  struggles.
Wagner  was  thus  a  symbol or, better, a model of someone who believed in his destiny and let nothing deter him from it.
It was no doubt in this  sense  that  he  considered  the  composer,  in  the oft cited phrase, his only forebear.


Wolfgang Wagner - Adolf Hitler - Wieland Wagner
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Apart from his remarks about 'Parsifal', Hitler  never  ascribed  any  of  his views to Wagner, not in 'Mein Kampf', his speeches, articles  or  recorded  private  conversations. 
However,  there  are  many obvious parallels in outlook -  anti-Semitism, Hellenism, the belief that culture was the 'summum bonum' of a civilization, the notion that the arts should never be hostage  to  commerce,  and  the  like.

Certainly  Wagner’s  pamphlet 'Judentum  in  der  Musik'  resonates  in  Hitler’s  claim  that  Jews lack artistic creativity.

"Das Judenthum in der Musik" ("Jewishness in Music"), is an essay by Richard Wagner which attacks Jews in general, and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular. It was published under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (NZM) of Leipzig in September 1850 and was reissued, in a greatly expanded version, under Wagner’s name in 1869. It is regarded by some as an important landmark in the history of German anti-Semitism.

Some critics point out that Wagner's opposition to Jews was not limited to his articles, and that the operas contained such messages. In particular the characters of Mime in the 'Ring', Klingsor in 'Parsifal' and Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger' appear to be Jewish stereotypes, although none of them are identified as Jews in the libretto. 

Dietrich Eckart


However, at no time did he ever trace his anti-Semitism to the composer, not even in his 1920 speech ‘Warum sind wir Antisemiten ?’ (Why  are  We  Anti-Semites?),  in  which  he  expounded his views for the first time in public.
This is not surprising, as his 'doctrinal' anti-Semitism, was based on Gnostic and occult teachings, originating with Dietrich Eckart.
Kubizek does say, however,that  the  youthful  Hitler was said  to  have  read  every  biography,  letter,  essay,  diary and other scrap by and about his hero that he could lay his  hands  on.
So we are left with the apprehension that Wagner, and in particular his Bühnenweihfestspiel 'Parsifal', was a seminal influence on Adolf Hitler.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
PARSIFAL and the THIRD REICH

Wagner Geburthaus - Leipzig
On January 13, 1933 the newly-elected National Socialist Party celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Richard Wagner's death by staging a grandiose memorial ceremony in Leipzig, the composer's birthplace.
Adolf Hitler invited Siegfried Wagner's widow, the English-born Winifred, and her son Wieland to be guests of honor at this event.
This tribute by Hitler was the continuation of a deep friendship that had begun in 1923 between the Führer and the Wagner family, forging a link between the new Germany and the country's most revered composer.
Within weeks of becoming Chancellor of Germany, Hitler had appropriated Wagner and made him the Reich's great beacon.
Each summer, from 1933 to 1939, Hitler attended the Bayreuth Festival, and he made the Wagner estate, Wahnfried, his second home.
Because she had been one of his earliest supporters, Hitler had great affection for Winifred. Hitler repaid the Wagner family gratitude by pledging his undying friendship, and his deepest devotion to Richard Wagner and Bayreuth.


'Parsifal' - Gralsburg - Paul von Joukowsky
Paul von Joukowsky
With the assistance of Dr. Josef Goebbels, Hitler's untiring propaganda minister, Richard Wagner became the legendary and ideological voice of the new party, and the musical standard by which all classical composers would, from now on, be judged.
Around the time that Hitler came to power, the Bayreuth 'holy of holies' still existed: the original Paul von Joukowsky (1845-1912) sets used at the premiere of Parsifal.
They were still in use at the Festspielhaus even though they were falling apart and were dangerous to the singers.


Emil Preetorius
Realistically, the time had come to replace the production, and the logical person to design the sets would be Emil Preetorius.

The stage designer Emil Preetorius (1883-1973) was born in Mainz and was one of the most important stage designers of the first half of the 20th century.
He studied law and art history in Giessen and in 1909 he co-founded a school of illustration and the book trade in Munich together with Paul Renner. In 1928 Preetorius became a professor at the Munich “Hochschule für Bildende Künste”.
He became the head of scenery for the Bayreuth “Festspiele” in 1932. During the 1930s Emil Preetorius’s scenes, such as the rock of the Valkyrie for the “Ring des Niebelungen”, were among the most important and influential designs for Richard Wagner’s works.

A petition began circulating against this decision, after all, this was the scenery "on which the eyes of the Master had reposed," and the conservative faction at Bayreuth believed that the scenery needed to be kept and revered like a holy icon.
Over a thousand signatures were collected, including those of Arturo Toscanini and Richard Strauss.
Winifred Wagner sent the petition to Hitler along with a pamphlet accusing Preetorius of being "un-German" and "under Jewish influence."


'Parsifal' - Gralsburg - Alfred Roller - 1934
'Parsifal' - Gralsburg - Alfred Roller - 1934
Hitler, on the other hand, favored a new Bayreuth production of Parsifal, and selected Alfred Roller to design it.
The Führer was a great admirer of Roller's work in Vienna.


Following all the controversy,. Alfred Roller's production premiered in 1934.
There were, however,only a few changes to the overall designs that had originated with Paul von Joukowsky.
The temple cupola in the second scene of Act One disappeared, and this made many conservatives very disappointed.
Winifred once again appealed to Hitler that there should be yet another new production of 'Parsifal'.


'Parsifal' - Gralsburg - Wieland Wagner 1937
Wieland Wagner
Hitler agreed, and suggested that Wieland Wagner design the new sets.
Hitler had always revered Siegfried's son because he was a direct descendant of the Master. Once the war began, Hitler gave orders that Wieland should be permanently exempt from military service.
Young Wieland therefore designed the sets for the 1937 'Parsifal'.

Wieland was the elder of two sons of Siegfried and Winifred Wagner, grandson of composer Richard Wagner, and great-grandson of composer Franz Liszt through Wieland's paternal grandmother.

In 1941, he married the dancer and choreographer Gertrude Reissinger. They had four children Iris (b. 1942), Wolf-Siegfried (b. 1943), Nike (b. 1945) and Daphne (b. 1946).
Winifred Wagner's close friendship with Hitler meant that, as a teenager and young man, Wieland knew the dictator as "Uncle Wolf". His family connections allowed him to avoid the draft in the war.


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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013



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