Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Richard and Adolf: Did Richard Wagner Incite Adolf Hitler to Commit the Holocaust? Hardcover – February 28, 2007
|New from||Used from|
Find Rare and Collectible Books
Discover rare, signed and first edition books on AbeBooks, an Amazon Company. Learn More on AbeBooks.com.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From Publishers Weekly
Answering his subtitle at the beginning of the book, Nicholson here sets out to show the depth of the connection Hitler felt with the anti-Semetic German composer who lived 60 years before him. As the author writes, "little did the world at large realize the madness that his philosophies would unleash when Adolf Hitler, enraptured by the music, took up the racist refrain." Although the lives of both men are fascinating, the connection between them is quite simple-Hitler was inspired by Wagner's work-and leads to much padding, digression and repetition over the course of nearly 500 pages. One particularly egregious recurring theme is Hitler's supposed homosexuality and "sexual perversions," on which Nicholson attempts to hang much of the madman's philosophy; the connection between this topic and Wagner, however, is non-existent. The most interesting aspect of Nicholson's work is his thorough indictment of Wagner's descendants, who after the war claimed to have joined the Nazis only to keep their annual Wagner festival in business; the Wagners' affection for Hitler and his party is made devastatingly clear here. Unfortunately, that kernel of insight gets lost in this overblown volume. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"A most scholarly, lucidly written account, capturing very starkly and eruditely the awful ambiguity of Wagner." -- David Saks, Senior researcher at the Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg, Editor of the cultural journal 'Jewish Affairs'<br /><br />"Nicholson's book tackles the controversy of whether Wagner's music "incited the Holocaust." --Erika Snyder, The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 11, 2007
"The author of this fascinating book proposes theories which may be true ... I recommend it as an exercise in entertainment and possible aspects of the lives of Wagner and Hitler." --Susan M. Filler, Chicago, Illinois, Shofar Newsletter
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle Edition for FREE. Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
From the word go, there are just factual errors and sweeping unsubstantiated claims. For example:
"the most fervent Wagnerian of all time - Adolf Hitler"
Did he measure this and conclude on his ferventometer that Hitler measured higher than any other rival? In his final days in his Berlin bunker, Hitler listened only to Franz Lehar, and not at all to Wagner. It is likely that Lehar, not Wagner, was his true favourite. Hitler never called himself "The Perfect Wagnerite" like George Bernard Shaw, who makes an excellent case for Wagner belonging on the completely wrong (socialist) side of politics to Hitler. Hitler exterminated many of his left wing SPD and KPD enemies in the concentration camps alongside Jews.
On p38 Nicholson claims that the colours of the Nazi flag come from the colours of the Flying Dutchman's black and red flag. That's pretty ridiculous as red and black are also found on the colours of the modern German and Weimar Republican flags. More exactly, the Nazi flag is red-black-white: the colours of the Imperial German flag, contrasting with the red-black-gold of their hated Weimar Republic flag.
"Wagner never made friends amongst his peers either as musicians or writers". Wrong. He had a extremely close friendship with the liberal dissident writer and musician August Roeckel as well Franz Liszt.
P388 'the Jewish composer Stravinsky described Bayreuth as "lugubrious."' Actually, Stravinsky wasn't Jewish and went to elaborate lengths to show the Nazis that he was of Polish aristocratic descent, while making the pronouncement that: "I loathe all communism, Marxism, the execrable Soviet monster, and also all liberalism, democratism, atheism, etc." In fact, Stravinsky was also a vehement anti-Semite.
Nicholson also writes: "In a strange racist distortion many anti-Semites, including Wagner, ate vegetables alone as a reaction to the Jewish God Jehovah who ate meat." Wrong, Wagner was instrumental in popularising vegetarianism amongst liberal thinkings, including George Bernard Shaw. Wagner got the idea from Schopenhauer, who in turn got it from Buddhism and Hinduism. In many of Wagner's late Bayreuth writings there are strong anti-vivisectionist tirades. This is also why Parsifal is a fool for killing the swan at the start of that work. In Schopenhauer's view, killing any animal, let alone other human beings, is monstrous and bestial - a view shared by Wagner. Wagner was an early campaigner for animal rights and did much to popularise Schopenhauer's teachings on this subject.
P50 "the German Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, the reincarnation of Siegfried". Again there is no citation from Wagner that to confirm this. However, in explaining the meaning of the Ring, Wagner does explain to his Dresden revolutionary friend that Siegfried does not care for power - although his Ring could grant him unlimited power, if he should forsake love. In fact, Bernard Shaw is dead right in calling him "Siegfried Bakunin" - after Wagner's anarchist friend. Siegfried is the anarchist destroyer of the symbols of power that capitalism has over man.
Also predictable (yawn) are the misquotations of Wagner's essay Jews in Music. Of course, the fact that Wagner in this very same essay calls for the formation of an independent state of Israel (ein Jerusalemische Reich) is glossed over, as is Wagner's condemnation of the history of anti-Semitism towards the Jews as "predatory bestiality" (räuberische Rohheit). The exact passage goes:
"das geschichtliche Elend der Juden und die räuberische Rohheit der christlich-germanischen Gewalthaber den Söhnen Israels"
"the misery of the Jews through history and the predatory bestiality of the Christian-Germanic power-brokers towards the Sons of Israel"
Wagner's clear empathy for the "tragic history" (tragisches Geschicht) expressed in the essay resulting in the up-rootedness and alienation of the Jews is also ignored. This is not to deny that there is anti-capitalist hostility towards rich Jewish bankers in the essay too, and this is clearly misguided ("anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools"). However, the attitude towards Jews is ambivalent and the essays ends with a rousing call for Jews and Germans to rise above their differences, "so that we be united and without difference!" (so sind wir einig und ununterschieden!). The destruction of the gulf between Jew and Christian in Europe is something that Wagner sees needing a redemptive process from the tragedy of Jewish history. Nicholson writes:
"[Wagner] evokes the spectre of the Wandering Jew, who has no salvation to expect except the grave. Adapting an ominous tone he urges the Jews, "only one thing can redeem you from the burden of your curse - the redemption of Ahasuerus - going under". That he is urging their destruction is clear from an earlier passage in the article. "
In the very same passage, Wagner calls this process "the Redemptive Rebirth of Self-annihilation" (Selbstvernichtung wiedergebärenden Erlösungswerke). He says it is the pain that BOTH German and Jew alike must mutually go through in order that "we be united and without difference". If this rebirth and embracing of a redemptive apocalypse is, indeed, meant to be a genocide, then it would have to mean Wagner is calling for the mutual SELF-genocide of both Christian and Jew alike. Far from it, for it really expresses Wagner's hope that through long toil and struggle humanity will one day overcome its ethnic divisions to realise its essential oneness. Little wonder Wagner had many Jewish friends, and why two of his pallbearers at his funeral were Jewish. This is also why figures identified as being Ahasvar like eternal wanderers - Wotan, the Flying Dutchman and Kundry are ultimately noble, and heroic characters who rise up to attain their supreme redemption.
Of course, this means nothing else than that since Wotan, chief of the Germanic Gods, is the Eternal Wanderer - he must be Jewish. The chief of the Germanic Gods is Jewish! Of course, this never rates a mention. Instead, we get the usual argument that even though Wagner never said the dwarves are Jewish, they must be since they are ugly. Well, who is the racist here? Nicholson goes on:
"The Ring of the Nibelungs posited the racial superiority of the gods (Wotan, Fricka, Thor and Donner) and the Volsung race descended from Wotan's dalliances - over the Jewish stereotypes - the Nibelungs, particularly Alberich and Mime."
If the Wanderer is the Jewish chief of the gods, this hardly makes sense - unless you were to deny that wanderers in Wagner are not Ahasvar type of Jewish figures at all. In fact, Wotan is really the same as Yahweh Elohim (like Wotan, also God of storms and war), vengeful God of the Old Testament, and giver of the Law. Siegfried, the anarchist, shatters the Law and the power of the Gods over man. Siegfried himself must be half Jewish too. Thor is meant to be a son of Wotan, ergo Jewish.
Finally predictably misquoted is Wagner's response to Gobineau. Wagner is quoted as saying about a passage in Siegfried:
"Wagner recognized that he had written operas that conformed with [Gobineau's racist] views. In Cosima's diary entry of October 17,1882, she reported on a performance one evening of the third act of Siegfried played by Herr Rubinstein which pleased her and the great composer. "That is Gobineau music," Richard says as he comes in, "that is race. Where else will you find two such beings looking at each other! "
Götterdämmerung ends with a supreme redemptive apocalypse of Ahasver: much like the one at the end of "Jews in Music" where Wagner says that through the rebirth of apocalypse "we will be united and without difference". Wagner believed in the ultimate redemptive overcoming of the terrible ethnic divisions between all peoples, and even says in "Heroism and Christianity" that one day all the races will becoming intermixed and indistinguishable in one pure humanity. However, he believed that this overcoming of ethnic differences would involve a cataclysmic struggle to realise the oneness of humanity and not something that you could just achieve by legislation alone. In "Heroism and Christianity" Wagner condemns Gobineau and asks who should commit such an outrage (frevelnd fragen) as to ask whether the blood spilt by Christ was just for the salvation of the white or any other race ("wer wollte frevelnd fragen, ob es der weißen, oder welcher Rasse sonst angehörte?"). Cosima reports Wagner and Gobineau were reduced to a shouting match with the outraged Wagner insisting that a Christian redemption for all humanity could overcome all racial divides.
Likewise we are promised revelatory references in which Wagner heralded the arrival of the Messianic Führer. These references never eventuate, mostly because nothing of the sort exists. As for a much more authoritative discussion of Wagner in Israel, the reader is strongly urged to read The Ring of Myths: The Israelis, Wagner and the Nazis by Na'ama Sheffi, editor of Zmanim (Time), the historical quarterly of Tel Aviv University. If you understand Sheffi, you will also understand why Daniel Barenboim has said that it is important that Wagner be played in Israel "to deny the Nazis one last victory". Sadly, the Nicholsons of the world are fighting tooth and nail to deliver that last victory to the Nazis.
The ultimate problem with this book is that it is too dependent of an uncritical acceptance of the Nazi propagandist lies about Wagner. It is easy to show that Wagner's thinking was throughout his life that of a liberal socialist, who belonged on the opposite side of politics to Hitler. Wagner even wrote to his friend and Jewish theatre director Angelo Neumann saying that "I distance myself completely from the modern "anti-Semitic" movement [of German political parties]. In an upcoming issue of der Bayreuther Blätter, a passage will appear by me that will state in a spirited way how it is impossible for me to associate with that movement..." (my translation from Personal recollections of Wagner). It is really sad that Nicholson's book wants to place Hitler's perverse distortions of Wagner on a pedestal to be unquestionably worshipped as the Eternal Truth.
In the end, this really leaves one with the creepy unease about whether this book is intended to be some sort of covert Hitler worshipping tribute to the Eternal Truth of Nazi interpretations of art. The author struggles throughout the book to hide a morbid obsession with all things Nazi and related to Hitler. Rather than undermining the Nazi lies about Wagner, the author ends up becoming their faithful missionary, hell bent on ensuring that the legacy of Nazis propaganda lives on as gospel, and that Wagner's music eternally continue to be monstrously abused as a propagandist tribute to them, just as Hitler wanted. In reality, Bernard Shaw was right all along in his interpretation of Wagner, unclouded by the sort of politicisation of the issue that took place after the publication of The Perfect Wagnerite: Wagner, and the Ring in particular, is profoundly influenced by the socialist and democratic ideals that emerged during the Dresden uprising, for which Wagner went into exile with a death sentence hanging over his head (see Wagner as I knew him). These ideals were truly the prelude to the 1918 Revolution that created the Weimar Republic and which represented everything that Hitler hated. It is high irony indeed and a testimony to Hitler's incredible stupidity that he never really understood Wagner and the idealistic philosophical richness of his art. It is a stupidity that Nicholson chooses to wholeheartedly endorse and perpetuate.
If you want to begin a serious scholarly inquiry on the subject, you will be disappointed.
There are plenty of footnotes and citations, but I don't think I found any that cited primary sources.
Most were references to various biographies of Wagner--many of which undoubtedly begin with the phrase "Richard Wagner was born..." This author reserves this phrase for the beginning of the third chapter.
Even easy to find primary sources were not researched or cited.
Nicholson quotes an English translation from "Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland" by Heinrich Heine, however he cites "Newman, Life of Richard Wagner, vol.2, 261" for the quote.
The book almost reads like something Novosti Press might have published in English during the Cold War. Here is an example:
"Did Heine know that his own works would be...thrown on the great fires...when the nation threw its soul at the devil?"
This is typical of the writing style of the entire work.
There are also statements I wish had a footnote; e.g. "Hitler's fear arose from specters of those he had killed, visiting him--principally his erstwhile comrade-at-arms and lover Ernst Rölm..." This statement had no source or footnote, not even something like: "Patton, George C, On Hitler and his relationship with Rölm, Speech given to the US Third Army, Oppenheim, March 22, 1945."--except Nicholson would have cited "Wallace, The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People". Wallace in turn might have gotten the information from Patton's speech. In all fairness, Nicholson cites Machtan, "Hidden Hitler" for most of his innuendo that Hitler was a closet homosexual.
In fact, huge portions of the book are devoted to Nietzsche, Ludwig II Siegfried Wagner, Hitler, and Richard Wagner's trysts, perversions, or sexual liaisons. While these would be necessary in a biography, I didn't see how they help answer the question asked in the title.
If you are looking for an overview of Wagner's life and anti-Semitism written in easy to understand language without having to read seventeen different biographies of Wagner written in Universitese with long quotes in French or German this will probably fit the bill nicely.
It does a good job of describing the roots of Wagner's anti-Semitism in his own personal life, his anti-Semitic essays and innuendo in his operas, his relationship with Nietzsche, Chamberlain, etc.
It reads like a History Channel special- and does have a lot of good information. I never knew about the Spear of Longinus before reading this book, and found it fascinating!
I found the last chapter, "Wagner in Israel," very interesting and definitely worth reading.
The binding, paper type, printing and typeset are excellent.
I hope this review has been helpful to both types of readers
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Colin J. Edwards
"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel".Read more