Wagner: His Time and Beyond Term Paper

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Therefore, it compromised the superiority of the German art and body politic. The Bayreuth festival, founded by Wagner, was utilized by the Nazis as a propaganda tool against the Jews.

Both Hitler and Wagner were not only racist, but both were also artists and politicians. Whereas Wagner exhibited a number of talents, Hitler was known for his painting and oratory skills. Both were paranoid that they had Jewish forbearers. Some of those things that Hitler and Wagner shared agreed upon are as follows: race is based on appearance, language, nationality and genetics; an "Aryan" white race is the supreme race of purity, beauty, and goodness; Germans will rule the world; all race other than Aryan are inferior; Nietsche's Will to Power and social Darwinism are the foundations upon which personality and society ought to be based; Jews were contaminating German blood; Jesus was not a Jew; Jews have no religion; Jews lust after money and power; Jews are physically repulsive; Jews are parasites; Jews are demons and must be expelled or destroyed; Wagnerian Art could save the world; and finally, each believed they were infallible. (Rose)

Wagner's influence on the Nazi leadership was considerable, although it is often exaggerated. Not only were his operas ultranationalistic, but they provided further support to the Nazi conception of society and culture. His music was used at important moments during the Nazi reign. For example, on the Day of Potsdam, a propaganda show on March 21, 1933 presented by Goebbels to introduce the new Reichstag, the day closed with a performance of Die Meistersinger; reportedly at the insistence of Hitler. The Ride of the Valkyries, furthermore, was played as accompaniment to reports of German air attacks. (Stein)

Wagner was Hitler's idol, perhaps because he viewed the nineteen century musician as somebody who, against all odds, had risen to greatness. Hitler attended Wagner operas often and bragged that he had read all of Wagner's work. While in Linz aspiring to become an artist, according to a friend, Hitler had an ear for no music other than Wagner. While young, Hitler attempted to write a "Wagnerian" opera in 1907, although he had no musical training.

During the years of war, Hitler frequently visited Wagner's heirs at Villa Wahnfried (Wagner's home) in Bayreuth. Bayreuth served as an opportunity for escapism and shrine to Wagner for Hitler and other Nazi leaders. Wagner's family believed Hitler to be Germany's savior. There is little doubt about the influence Wagner's music had on Hitler, for
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the Fuehrer claimed of Parsifa, l one of Wagner's last music dramas, that: "Out of Parsifal I have made a religion." According to Wagner historian, Paul Rose:

Wagner intended Parsifal to be a profound religious parable about how the whole essence of European humanity had been poisoned by alien, inhuman, Jewish values. It is an allegory of the Judaization of Christianity and of Germany -- and of purifying redemption. In place of theological purity, the secularized religion of Parsifal preached the new doctrine of racial purity, which was reflected in the moral and indeed religious, purity of Parsifal himself. In Wagner's mind, this redeeming purity was infringed by Jews, just as devils and witches infringed the purity of traditional Christianity. In this scheme, it is axiomatic that compassion and redemption have no application to the inexorably damned Judaized Klingsor and hence the Jews.

Today there is much debate about the legacy of Wagner. Should he be shunned as an anti-semite, one who laid the foundation of the Third Reich? Or was he a musician who revolutionized the course of European music. While many argue his music was for the Holocaust what violent video games today are for war and violence, others believe the music itself -- and little more -- is how the composer Wagner ought to be remembered. During his years of composition, he was always refining and mature his style, his "total artwork." In the years leading to his exile, his music went little noticed, but his convictions stayed strong, for he was convinced of his greatness. Upon returning to Germany, his legacy would be cemented as one of the most influential composers in the history of Europe. In the aftermath of the Third Reich, to be sure, a stimulating debate arose, in which debated was whether or not Wagner's music ought to be separated from the man and his opinions. Others agree with this, whilst some believe that his music was, at least in part, responsible for the Holocaust.

1. Kohn, Daniel. (1960) The German Mind. USA: Scribners. Pg's 190-214

2. University of South Florida Guide to the Holocaust

Accessed at: http://fcit.usf.edu/HOLOCAUST/arts/musReich.htm

2. Rose, Paul Lawrence. Wagner, Race and Revolution, Yale, 1992.

4. Stein, Leon. The Racial Thinking of Richard Wagner, NY, 1950.

5. Higgins, Charlotte. How the Nazis took flight from Valkyries and Rhinemaidens, Guradian 3 July 2007.

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