An Investigation Into the Effects of the Music of Richard Wagner on the Pseudo-Mysticism of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich
There are those (obviously misguided) individuals in today's world who claim that music is an irrelevant occupation for anyone capable of doing anything else, and that it doesn't really have any connection with reality. Apart from the fact that most of these individuals are probably tone-deaf and/or had their hearts broken by musicians, it may indeed be rather difficult to quickly think of an historical example where music has played an important or pivotal role in a major occurrence. After some reflection, however, two such instances come to mind. The social upheaval of the 1960's and the part Rock and Roll in general and The Beatles in particular played in that upheaval was dismissed by this author with a raised nose and a scholarly sniff. After brushing back his long hair and adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses, this writer determined that the second example would make for a more appropriate study. That second example is the less well-known link between Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, the SS, and the Nazi party; and the music of Richard Wagner.
The police state of Nazi Germany has been well-publicized
over the years, but the debt that state owed to prehistoric gods and myths
has been somewhat overlooked. Wagner's music is intensely romantic,
violent, heroic, and of mythic proportions; exactly the qualities projected
by the Nazi Party. Wagner's operas may have had an almost religious
effect upon Hitler; Wagner's skill for drama and dramatic music no doubt
underscored the impact of the legends already known to Hitler from youth.
Hitler and many of his associates shared a fascination with the history
and mythology of the German Volk, and the following discussion will focus
on examples of "mythical influences", and how they helped shape the personal
and political activities of these men.
Richard Wagner's (1813-1883) most famous works are undoubtably his music dramas. Der Ring des Nibelungen and Tristan und Isolde are two works that are widely acknowledged as being of great musical significance. The development and use of the leitmotif, the parts written for the heldentenor, the manipulation and "warping" of the tonal system, and the development of the music drama itself are all very important aspects of Wagner and his music, and of these two works (Sadie, 352).
The ancient sagas that Wagner used as a basis for these music dramas held for him revealed truths and insights into human behavior and emotions. He has not been alone in his interest and opinions. These myths have been used as an argument for, or illustration of, various beliefs and ideologies. The Ring has been variously interpreted as a look into the human psyche; a means of promoting socialism; a prophecy of the fate of the world and humankind; and a "parable" about the industrial society that was coming of age in Wagner's lifetime. It was also used by the Nazi party to justify and glorify racism, and to supply a basis of fanatic loyalty in the Schutzstaffel, or SS (Sadie, 353) (Speer, 141).
The legends of German mythology are essentially the same as the old Norse legends; many of the proper names are the same in both cultures, and most of the remaining names are very similar to the Norse versions, differing only in spelling. Thus the Norse Odin, the ruler of the gods, becomes Woden, (or Wotan), further south in the Germanic regions. In the same fashion, the Norse heroes known as Sigurd, Brynhild and Gudrun become Siegfried, Brünnhilde and Günther in the German stories. The extremely close parallels between the two cultures makes it an absolute certainty that both the Germanic stories and the earlier Norse legends were derived from the same ancient tales. (Hamilton, 303-304)(Sadie, 352).
These early legends are known to the modern world from two collections: the Elder Edda, which is written in verse, and the Younger Edda, (consisting of the sagas), which is written in prose. The dating for these collections seems to be in some dispute; in Bulfinch's Mythology rather specific dates are assigned: 1056 for the Elder Edda and 1640 for the Younger Edda. However, in Edith Hamilton's Mythology, she speaks of the oldest manuscript of the Elder as dating from circa 1300, some three hundred years after the arrival of Christianity in Iceland, and almost three hundred years after Bulfinch's date. Hamilton does state, however, that all of these legends are completely pagan in nature, (thus predating Christianity), and that almost all scholars agree the stories must be much older than the oldest manuscript. The dates for the Younger Edda are likewise apparently uncertain; Bulfinch's date of 1640 is hard to reconcile with Hamilton's statement that the Younger was "written down by one Snorri Sturluson in the last part of the twelfth century." (It should also be pointed out that Bulfinch was writing in the 19th Century, Hamilton in the 20th. It is very likely Hamilton had the advantage of new data to guide her estimates). Regardless of date, it is agreed the most important collection is the Elder Edda (Bulfinch, 328-329) (Hamilton, 301-303).
These two very long epics furnish the material for almost all of the presently known myths and legends about the ancient gods of the North. Unfortunately, as Christian missionaries from the Mediterranean area journeyed further north, they systematically destroyed all the pagan artifacts they could find in a remarkably successful attempt to completely obliterate all remnants of the belief system they were replacing. Only a few fragments of the entire northern European prehistoric collection of myths have been preserved. The legend of Beowulf in England and the Nibelungenlied in Germany are two tales that survived the zeal of the missionaries. The Eddas are known only from Iceland; apparently Icelandic missionaries were less influential than their counterparts on the continent of Europe -- Iceland was one of the last European countries to be Christianized (Hamilton, 300-301).
All of these surviving legends are essentially gloomy and pessimistic in nature; depressingly so to modern readers. In Nordic and Germanic mythology the Earth, (Midgard), and Heaven, (Asgard), were destined to be utterly destroyed by the Frost Giants, (who lived in Jötunheim), in a final great battle between Good and Evil, called Ragnarok in the Norse legends. (Ragnarok is paralleled by Götterdämmerung in Wagner's Ring Cycle). In this final battle, Evil was predestined to win, and the entirety of creation was to be destroyed. The only bright factor in this thoroughly depressing viewpoint was the belief that, in spite of all, if one could die a courageous, heroic death, then all else faded into insignificance. It is of interest to realize that the Western ideal of heroism and heroic deeds in the face of certain death springs almost entirely from these Nordic myths, and not from the Greek and Roman mythology that most people are more familiar with. (The Greek gods were remarkably un-heroic in their conduct). This idea of heroism and fighting to the death against any odds would fit very well with the kind of fanatic loyalty sought by Hitler and Himmler (Bulfinch, 348-350) (Hamilton, 300-302) (Grout, 746).
(One may speculate that the hopelessness of Nordic religious beliefs made them considerably less attractive than the new, essentially optimistic, view being spread by Christian missionaries. The old beliefs probably hastened their own demise).
When Richard Wagner embarked upon the composition of Der Ring des Nibelungen, (around 1849), he chose as his framework the Teutonic epic of the Nibelungenlied. (The Norse version of this legend is called the Volsungasaga). Wagner finished the first two segments, (Das Rheingold and Die Walküre), and part of the third, (Siegfried), by 1857, but seventeen years would go by before he would finish the great work with the completion of Siegfried and the final music drama in the cycle: Götterdämmerung (Grout, 746-747) (Hamilton, 303).
As mentioned earlier, the Teutonic versions of these myths are very similar to the Nordic versions, differing chiefly in descriptions of climate, and social condition. The Teutonic versions were generally slightly less violent than their Viking equivalents. In turn, it seems apparent that Wagner again tempered the German tales somewhat; in Tristan und Isolde, after the hero Tristan is mortally wounded, he is kept alive by the power of love until he is united with his lover, Isolde. After Tristan's demise in her arms, she is overcome by waves of ecstatic love, and she dies. As discouraging as this ending may seem, Wagner saw it as the triumph of love in the face of all adversity; not even death could truly defeat it. Of course, the story steps outside of the bounds of reality somewhere along the way, but this only adds to the transcendent quality of the story and of the music drama itself (Kerman, 288-289) (Bulfinch, 351-352).
It is generally thought that Wagner was anti-Semitic, and indeed he is described as such in a number of sources. Curiously, the only anti-Semitic act cited by any of these writers was the article he wrote for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in September of 1850 entitled "Das Judenthum in der Musik" (Judaism in Music). This article has apparently been interpreted in various ways; several sources characterized it as an attack upon Jews in music in general and an attack upon Meyerbeer, who had previously come to Wagner's aid. One source said the article was aimed not only at Jews in general but specifically at Mendelssohn, who had just died. The sole source that seemed to offer some evidence to the contrary was the entry in The New Grove Dictionary. In this article, Robert Marshall points out several people who did not consider Wagner's article anything more than a bitter attack upon Meyerbeer, and spoke against its being interpreted in such a broad manner as to include all Jews. A Jewish writer stated the opinion that Wagner's statements "had come from the purest of motives" (Marshall, 111)(Sadie, 348) (Kerman, 284).
If there remains some question as to the depth of Richard Wagner's anti-Semitism, there seems to be no mistake about his great pride in his German ancestry. Wagner himself wrote that he had "come into the world a particularly German type", and that he considered himself "the most German of the Germans". In a letter written to Crown Prince Albert of Saxony, he writes:
"No musician was ever so closely restricted to his lingual fatherland as I am, since I could create my music only to my texts and since both text and music in an unprecedented sense are based only on the German language and the German spirit" (Strobel, 2397).
These statements, taken together with the knowledge that Wagner went to some lengths to separate German music from French and Italian influences, can only reinforce the picture of Wagner as a proud member of the "German race" (Strobel, 2401).
Adolf Hitler's attraction to Richard Wagner's
music began at an early age. In 1905, at the age of sixteen, Hitler
quit school and spent the next three years being idle, which he later described
as the happiest time of his life. Two of his favorite pastimes were
aimlessly roaming the streets of Linz, and attending the opera at night.
He had a passion for music; most especially the mystic operas of Wagner,
which he would attend night after night. His meager supply of pocket
money was spent mainly on the opera, (a standing-room ticket cost only
the equivalent of ten cents), and on purchasing books on German history
and mythology, which he would read for hours at a time (Shirer, 9-12).
His fascination with Wagner's operas seems to have had a profound effect upon him. His only friend from this period of his life was one August Kubizek, (nicknamed "Gustl"), who gave an interesting description:
"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 bourgeois luxury the necessary ingredients for escapist fantasy" (Fest, 22).
Kubizek goes on to relate the events of a particular evening spent in Hitler's company. They had attended a performance of Wagner's Rienzi, and according to "Gustl", Hitler had a quite powerful reaction to the opera. The youthful Adolf was "overwhelmed by the resplendent, dramatic musicality" of the opera, as well as deeply affected by the story therein; that of Cola di Rienzi, a medieval rebel who was an outcast from his fellows and was "destroyed by their incomprehension". After the opera ...
"... Hitler began to orate. Words burst from him like a backed-up flood breaking through crumbling dams. In grandiose, compelling images, he sketched for me his future and that of his people" (Fest, 22-23).
Thirty years later, the boyhood friends would meet again in Bayreuth,
(probably catching an opera), and Hitler would remark: "It began at that
hour!". More convincing evidence of Wagner's influences can hardly
be wished for after a statement such as this one, but more there is
Between 1909 and 1913, a time which Hitler described as "the saddest period of my life", he resided in Vienna. It was here, by his own statement in Mein Kampf, that he became a confirmed anti-Semite. The anti-Semitic opinions Richard Wagner had held were no secret, and the concurrence of opinion between these two men could only have served to pull Hitler closer to a greater regard for Wagner. Indeed, Hitler claims to have heard Tristan und Isolde thirty to forty times during his years in Vienna (Shirer, 15-20) (Fest, 30). (During these years in Vienna, at the Hofoper opera house alone, at least 426 evenings featured performances of works by Wagner) (Fest, 769).
The next example is not really surprising when one remembers Hitler's high opinion of himself as an artist, but it was rather ... well, surprising, to discover the fact that Hitler, knowing absolutely nothing about composition, decided to write an opera based on an idea considered but later dropped by Wagner. This was to have been a story concerning "Wieland the Smith, full of bloody and incestuous nonsense" Drawing themes from Germanic sagas, he also attempted to write dramatic literary works. Apparently, none of these projects were ever completed (Fest, 31).
Another insight into Hitler's fixation on Wagnerian opera was the odd fact that even though at this very time Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, and Anton von Webern were, to quote Kubizek again, causing the "greatest uproar ... in Vienna's concert halls in the memory of man," Hitler remained completely ignorant of any aspect of the controversy; he also completely ignored the work of Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss, preferring instead a steady diet of Wagner and Bruckner. Later, when Hitler was essentially homeless and had lost contact with Kubizek, he met another vagabond, named Reinholt Hanisch, who would become Hitler's new only friend. Hanisch says by this time "only grandiose themes" interested Hitler; "gods and heroes", and "gigantic aspirations" Hanisch adds, "In music, Richard Wagner brings him to bright flames". By the time he left Vienna, on May 24, 1913, Hitler is described as leaving no friends behind, preferring the "company" of Lueger, Ritter von Schönerer, and Richard Wagner. (Fest, 33,47,58).
After entering politics, Hitler used a vaguely coherent mish-mash of ideas to further his own. During his speeches he would call upon statements or ideas from Lenin, Gobineau, Nietzsche, Le Bon, Ludendorff, Lord Northcliff, Schopenhauer, Karl Lueger, and, of course, Richard Wagner. (He would also use the so-called "Secret Protocols" supposedly written by the "Wise Men of Zion", which had already been conclusively proven to be fakes). He was also known to "rhapsodize at length" about Wagner and his music (Fest, 125,133).
In 1923, just before the abortive "Beer-Hall Putsch", Hitler presented himself at Wahnfried, the home of the Wagner family. He is said to have sought out the Master's study, and, deeply moved, stood before Wagner's grave in the garden for a long time. Afterwards, he was introduced to Houston Stewart Chamberlain, (Wagner's son-in-law), who was of advanced age and could not speak. He later wrote a letter to Hitler voicing his support for Hitler's goals and ideas. Hitler valued this letter greatly, almost as if it were "a benediction from the Bayreuth Master himself" (Fest, 180-181).
Hitler continued in his contacts with the family of Wagner. His idea of the supreme expression of opera was the final scene in Götterdämmerung, and, when in Bayreuth, whenever he witnessed this finale, he would turn around in his darkened box, seek out the hand of Frau Winifred Wagner, and "breathe a deeply moved Handkuss upon it". By this time he had seen all of Wagner's operas countless times, and boasted of having listened to Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger over a hundred times each. He often commented on problems of staging, and of the dramatic content, but even though he considered himself a music lover, he never had anything to say about the musical considerations of these works (Fest, 520).
Other indications of Wagner's influences are furnished by Albert Speer, who began as Hitler's chief architect and ended as Reich Armaments Minister. He speaks of the interior furnishings of Hitler's country house, the Berghof at Obersalzberg. The salon was furnished, along with normal items of furniture, with a "sideboard over ten feet high and eighteen feet long" which was used to store phonograph records. Against another wall was "a massive chest containing built-in speakers, and adorned by a large bronze bust of Richard Wagner by Arno Breker" (Speer, 128,135).
The admiration Hitler had for Wagner was reciprocated by the Wagner family; when furnishing this dwelling, the Wagners donated linens and china, and sent Hitler a complete set Richard Wagner's works, along with a page from the original score of Lohengrin (Fest, 251).
There is yet another facet of Hitler's dwelling at Obersalzberg that shows his sense of unity with Germany's "heroic" past: the view. Obersalzberg, as one might imply from the name, is a mountain; high enough to give a good view of the surrounding area. The Berghof, which was designed by Hitler himself, (architect Speer rated Hitler's design as deserving of a "D" if it had been a project submitted by a student), featured a large picture window which offered a view of the Untersberg, Berchtesgaden, and Mozart's hometown, Salzburg. Legend has it that the Emperor Charlemagne still sleeps in the Untersberg, but will someday awaken and restore the German Empire to its past glories. Hitler didn't hesitate to apply this prophecy to himself: "You see the Untersberg over there. It is no accident that I have my residence opposite it" (Speer, 128-131).
On January 30, 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. On February 4, he caused a decree to be issued which gave the government the right to ban political meetings and to shut down the newspapers of his political rivals. A few days later he was to justify this action by citing newspaper criticisms of Wagner. His stated aim was to "preserve the present-day press from similar errors" (Fest, 391).
On the eve of World War II, Hitler's forces reoccupied the Rhineland. Returning from a triumphal trip through this area, and jubilant over the Allies' weakness in letting him get away with the reoccupation, he requested that some Wagner be put on the phonograph. Listening to the overture to Parsifal, he remarked:
"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" (Fest, 499)
The record continued to play. The next selection was the funeral march from Götterdämmerung, and brought forth the following comments from Hitler:
"I first heard it in Vienna. At the Opera. And I still remember as if it were today how madly excited I became on the way home over a few yammering Yids [very derogatory term for Jews] I had to pass. I cannot think of a more incomparable contrast. This glorious mystery of the dying hero and this Jewish crap!" (Fest, 499)
Hitler's associates were aware of his interest
in Wagner. There were several ploys routinely used by his "toadies" (a
synonymous modern word might be "lobbyists"), in an effort to direct the
Führer's attention to them. Hitler would always find the time
to speak with someone who brought photographs of the latest stage of a
building project, the plans for a new building, or photographs of the sets
of a newly staged work, preferably a Wagner opera. The bearer of
such gifts was almost certain to achieve a private meeting with Hitler
Hitler's original affiliation with the early incarnation of the Nazi Party was not without trial; the party had been denounced by Hermann Esser as "an association of visionaries, worshipers of Wotan", which was perhaps closer to the truth than Esser imagined. Even Goebbels, who would become Hitler's propaganda minister, called for Hitler's expulsion from the party (Höhne, 59).
Later, however, (from 1921), Hitler was in control of the Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiter Partei, (National Socialist German Workers Party). He had already made the acquaintance of several men who were to become key figures in the Nazi regime; among them were Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg -- (another admirer of Wagner), and Gregor Strasser. Strasser, a druggist who was to become the number two man in the party, had as his secretary a bespectacled former chicken farmer named Heinrich Himmler (Shirer, 29-30).
Himmler was a small man, balding, and has been described as looking more like a college professor (!) than anything else. Contrary to his appearance, he was to become the most sinister and feared man in Germany. Uncomfortable in the company of men he considered superior to him, he was nonetheless an extremely organized and crafty individual, qualities that were to serve him well in his pursuit of power. Himmler had formally joined the SS, (originally formed as a personal bodyguard for Hitler), in 1925 as member No.168. He came to regard Hitler as a god, and spent all of his spare time reading Hitler's speeches and works by Rosenberg and Walter Darré. These authors in turn led him to study books on Germanic lore, (returning to an earlier, childhood, interest), mysticism, and secret societies, which served to set the stage for his later beliefs and actions (Herzstein, 82-83) (Padfield, 38).
Himmler would eventually control all police functions for the Nazi Party and the state when, in 1943, he reached the zenith of his power with his appointment to the office of Minister of the Interior on August 25, 1943. Himmler was already in charge of the SS, which in August of 1942 had been granted sweeping judiciary rights by the newly appointed Reich Minister of Justice, Dr. Otto Thierack (Herzstein, 95).
Both Hitler and, to use his description, his "ever-loyal" Himmler were affected deeply by the old sagas brought to dramatic life by Wagner. The torch-lit secret initiation ceremonies of the SS which took place every year all over Germany were held at midnight on April 20th, the Führer's birthday. These gatherings were dominated by subtle and not-so-subtle references to the ancient Germanic myths, and incorporated a great deal of Wagnerian-type dramatic stagecraft. This was due much more to Himmler's influences than Hitler's; by this time, the SS was almost a state within a state. It was subordinate only at the very top of the organization -- Himmler answered only to Hitler (Herzstein, 82-83).
There were several attractive reasons for a young man to want to join the SS, (assuming, of course, he had the proper political views, and was "genetically pure"); economic, social, etc. One of the most appealing reasons, for some, was the elite mystique that Himmler had worked so hard to implement. He used proclamations of the sacred status of the German lands and peoples as a creed. He borrowed from both ancient German and ancient Nordic mythology to supply the SS with its symbols, oaths, and rituals. The rooms where their secret meetings were held were decorated with runes, prehistoric markings which were said to give the power of prophecy to anyone who knew how to read them. The symbol of the Schutzstaffel itself -- twin twisted lightning bolts resembling SS -- is a runic symbol (Herzstein, 84-89).
On July 2, 1936, Himmler showed, once again, an effort to connect himself and the Reich to the glorious past of the German people. He attended an observance of the 1000th year anniversary of the death of the Saxon king, Heinrich I, who was remembered historically as the "Conqueror of the Slavs" and was referred to by Himmler as his favorite hero. Himmler also harbored similar ideas of conquest, and fancied himself as the reincarnation of this earlier Heinrich. He showed his reverence to his previous self by laying a wreath on the tomb, an act which was conveniently captured by photographers and widely circulated throughout Germany. He was also photographed visiting an archeological site in Bavaria where he could inspect the ancient runic inscriptions which had been uncovered there (Höhne, 44) (Herzstein, 88-89).
Early on, Himmler wished for German women to adopt the same moral code as displayed by the heroines of the ancient German sagas, regarding any extra-marital relations as offensive to his personal code (Höhne, 32).
Apparently, his personal code underwent some revision, for it wasn't long before Himmler and the Reich began to encourage German women to have as many children as possible, whether or not they were married. (He and Hitler had both considered abolishing the criminal institution of the Christian Church known as marriage, but both came to the conclusion that many Germans were not yet ready to accept such a radical idea). In order to substitute some sort of ceremony for those children born out of wedlock, Himmler instituted a "secular christening" ceremony, called an "SS name-giving". The child was wrapped in a woolen blanket which was covered with embroidered swastikas and runes and set before an altar. The parents then laid their hands upon their child and spoke his or her name in a solemn manner. These Lebensborn children were remembered on their birthdays by the SS, each receiving a gift consisting of the appropriate number of candles for the child's birthday. The candles were manufactured at no charge to the SS by the prisoners at Dachau (Herzstein, 104).
Himmler's mystical zeal seems to have exasperated even Hitler at times, although the Führer never tried to put a stop to it. Hitler himself wrote:
"What nonsense! Here we have at last reached an age that has left all mysticism behind it, and now he wants to start that all over again. We might as well have stayed with the church. At least it had tradition. To think that I may some day be turned into an SS saint! Can you imagine it? I would turn over in my grave ... " (Speer, 141).
and also, concerning Himmler's archeological excavations ...
"Why do we call the whole world's attention to the fact that we have no past? It isn't enough that the Romans were erecting great buildings when our forefathers were still living in mud huts; now Himmler is starting to dig up these villages of mud huts ... All we prove by that is that we were still throwing stone hatchets and crouching around open fires when Greece and Rome had already reached the highest stage of culture. We really should do our best to keep quiet about this past. Instead Himmler is making a great fuss about it all. The present-day Romans must be having a laugh at these revelations" (Speer, 141).
Hitler's friend Goering also preferred a glorious
myth to reality. During the winter of 1942, when some of the heaviest
fighting of the war was taking place at Stalingrad, the Reich Marshall
and his subordinates were celebrating the re-opening of the destroyed Berlin
State Opera House by attending "a festive performance of Richard Wagner's
Meistersinger". This was immediately after Goering had given
Hitler his personal assurances that the (foolishly) promised air supply
of Stalingrad would be supervised by Goering himself. Stalingrad
eventually fell to the Russian offensive, chiefly because of lack of reinforcements
and resupply, and is regarded as one of the major turning points of the
war (Speer, 329-331).
Wagner's spell was by no means confined to the individuals involved in the Nazi drama. The pomp and spectacle of the huge party rallies have been compared to the ritual of the Catholic Church, but equally valid, (if not more so), would be a comparison to the musical dramas of Richard Wagner. The dramatic, almost operatic excesses of the rallies is partly due to these influences. These grand festivals of Nazism displayed a fine understanding of the same dramatic principals used in opera, and a knowledge of the "psychology of the common man" (Fest, 512).
When the end came for Hitler, he staged his own Götterdämmerung in his Berlin bunker. He refused to surrender, preferring the taking of his own life over an unheroic end. By his absolute refusal to even consider capitulation, he ensured vast, horrible destruction of lives and property long after these losses could have had any possible affect upon the outcome of the war. Hitler lived out his fantasy to the end; to the fullest; precipitating the realization of his favorite operatic scene, the final destruction of the gods and Valhalla (Whiting, 184-185).
The Germanic myths and the dramatic presentation of these myths by Richard Wagner were, very obviously, a central tool of the Nazi Party. The psychological effects of these music dramas and stories on the principal figures of the Third Reich are equally obvious, when they are looked for. In Joachim Fest's biography of Hitler, there are no fewer than thirty-four references to Richard Wagner or his music. (To give this figure some perspective, Rudolf Hess, Hitler's second-in-command until his flight to England, is mentioned only thirty times). Indeed, a case could be made, following the judicial trend popular in America today, that the only reason Hitler started the Second World War, tried to carry out genocide against the Jews and other "inferior races", and devoted his misguided life to setting up the "Thousand-Year Reich", (thereby causing the death of millions of people in the process), was because he had viewed the violent, heroic music dramas of Richard Wagner as a child! After completing the research for this report, such a seemingly outlandish idea no longer sounds as outlandish -- it could have been at least part of the reason for these heinous acts. (Will the wife of our Vice-President now try to have warning labels applied to Wagner's operas?) The author will now bow to an irresistible urge to make the following comment: What some judges and juries in the U.S. need to realize is that reaching a determination of the causes of a criminal act does not necessarily excuse that act. Hitler was still guilty, no matter what influences guided him down the road to a destruction of such mythic proportions.
Finally, one cannot help but wonder what Richard Wagner would have thought about Adolf Hitler, one of his all-time biggest fans!
Browder, George C. Foundations of the Nazi Police State. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1990.
Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch's Mythology. New York: Avenel Books, 1978.
Burkhart, Charles. Anthology For Musical Analysis. 4th ed. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1986.
Fest, Joachim C. Hitler. New York: Vintage Books, 1975.
Grout, Donald J. A History of Western Music. 4th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York: Mentor Books, 1964.
Herzstein, Robert Edwin. The Nazis. World War II 21. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1980.
Höhne, Heinz. The Order of The Death's Head. New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1970.
Kerman, Joseph. Listen: Second Brief Edition. New York: Worth Publishers, 1992.
Marshall, Robert L. "Richard Wagner" The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 20 vols. ed. Stanley Sadie. London: MacMillan Publishers Limited, 1980, XX.
Padfield, Peter. Himmler. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1990.
Sadie, Stanley. Stanley Sadie's Music Guide. Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1986.
Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler. New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1961.
Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. New York: Avon Books, 1970.
Strobel, Otto. "Richard Wagner" The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians. ed. Oscar Thompson. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1975.
Whiting, Charles. The Home Front: Germany. World War II 32. Alexandria, Virginia: Time- Life Books, 1982.