From Publishers Weekly
Viennese historian Hamann's important biography tells the complex story of Winifred Wagner (1897–1980), Richard Wagner's daughter-in-law, who headed the Bayreuth opera festival during Hitler's rule. An impressionable 18-year-old, British-born Winifred Williams married Wagner's middle-aged only son, Siegfried, in 1915, bearing him the heirs the Wagners so desperately wanted. When in 1923 Hitler solicited the Wagners for political support, an infatuated Winifred joined the Nazi Party, becoming Hitler's loyal devotee. Widowed in 1930, Winifred assumed directorship of Bayreuth amid rumors of future betrothal to Hitler, who, as Reich chancellor, put the festival center stage in his political campaigns. As increasing numbers of Jewish artists were exiled, Winifred bargained to gain exemptions for her friends and was gradually frozen out by Hitler. Without claiming heroic status for Winifred or denying her anti-Semitism, Hamann (Hitler's Vienna
) meticulously places Winifred's aid in the context of the nationalist, anti-Semitic Wagners and their circle. Hamann describes the public denunciation of Winifred by her American émigré daughter, Friedelind; Winifred's equally problematic relationships with her other children; and her postwar openness about her affection for Hitler. This is a fascinating portrait not only of Winifred but of the Wagners and their milieu. 8 pages of b&w photos; map. (Dec.)
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"Compelling...[and b]rilliantly translated by Alan Bance, Wagner, as a figurehead of cultural politics, is best dealt with by a political historian like Brigitte Hamann"
(New York Sun
"Hamann has produced a gripping, full-dress biography of a woman for whom 'fascinating' is too pale a word."
(St. Petersburg Times
"Hamann provides a rich picture of Winifred's complex personality and of the social and artistic forces surrounding Bayreuth during its Nazi period while giving equal depth and force to the hypocrisies of postwar denazification and Winifred's final years and legacy. An important book for all libraries with in-depth collections on the Nazi era or music history; there are no comparable treatments of this subject in English."
"A unique perspective on the Wagners, centered on the clan's most controversial member and most tumultous period...Hamann diligently explores this naive young woman's slow seduction by wealth and power." (starred)
"[I]mportant...this is a fascinating portrait not only of Winifred but of the Wagners and their milieu." (starred)