Nike Wagner, the composer's great-granddaughter, puts the question that this raises in these terms: "Should we allow ourselves to listen to his works with pleasure, even though we know that he was an anti-Semite?" There's a bigger issue behind this question: Can Germans enjoy any part of their history in a carefree way?
On 25 February 1941, less than a year into the nazi occupation of the Netherlands, communist union leaders called for a general strike against the increasing persecution of the Jews. The resulting two day strike in Amsterdam and various other cities in North Holland, the February Strike was the first and only massive public protest against the persecution of the Jews in occupied Europe. [more inside]
The 101st Bayreuth Festival opened today with a new staging of Richard Wagner's opera The Flying Dutchman. The celebrity audience including German Chancellor Angela Merkel were overshadowed by the sudden departure from the cast of its leading baritone, Evgeny Nikitin, who withdrew from the company four days ago after a German TV program showed film clips of the Russian singer sporting what appeared to be a swastika tattoo. [more inside]
The day after Kristallnacht, Hitler said: "It was necessary not to make propaganda for violence as such, but to explain certain matters of foreign policy to the German people in such a way, that the inner voice of the people all by itself gradually would call for violence." Towards that end, Goebbels commissioned and closely supervised the production of a propaganda documentary titled Der ewige Jude - "The Eternal Jew". Few if any of the inhabitants of the Łódź Ghetto who appear in its footage survived the war. [more inside]
In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda In Southern California 1933 - 1945, a digital exhibition from the Oviatt Library at Cal State Northridge. "The Nazi Propaganda period, 1933 to 1945, chronicles a crucial twelve years in American history. This exhibit's story about the local threat to American ideals demonstrates how European events reached across the ocean and affected people in Southern California -- in our own backyard." Magazines, pamphlets, newspapers, stickers and more. [more inside]
In 1945-46, some of the (very few) Polish Jews who had survived the Final Solution returned -- sick, poor, wounded -- to Poland. In Elie Wiesel's words, "they had thought all too naively that antisemitism, discredited 6 million times over, had died at Auschwitz with its victims. They were wrong." In 2001 Princeton professor Jan T Gross published the story of the 1941 destruction of the Jewish community at Jedwabne, Poland, and proved how Jews were rounded up, clubbed, drowned, gutted or burned to death not by German forces as previously believed but by mobs of their own non-Jewish neighbors. Now professor Gross tells the story of the Kielce pogrom in his new book, "Fear". Of course, the Kielce butchery took place in 1946 -- more than a year after the end of WWII and defeat of Nazism. More inside.
Mahler performances were rare in Vienna in those days because Mahler's city had already been contaminated by the acolytes of Adolf Hitler. By their reckoning, Mahler's music was loathsome — a product of "Jewish decadence." To put Mahler's music on the program was therefore a political act. It was to protest and deny the hateful faith that blazed across the border from Germany. That much I understood quite clearly, even as a boy. The New Yorker's Alex Ross reprints Hans Fantel's New York Times 1989 essay on Bruno Walter's 1938 performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony -- the last performance of the Vienna Philharmonic before Hitler invaded Austria.
The Wartime Ninth. "Berlin. October 7, 1944. In the Beethovensaal a concert is about to begin, but the theater is empty, relieved of its usual audience studded with Nazi elite. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is on stage, awaiting its cue. Conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler stands awkwardly on the podium. The vague meandering of his baton summons the first shadowy note of Bruckner's Ninth Symphony. A Radio Berlin engineer starts his Magnetophon. The most extraordinary orchestral recording of the century has just begun". More inside.