00011213.gif Tolischus- Hitler and Wagner ....The present war almost unbeknown to both the Allies and the Germans themselves, is dominated by Richard Wagner - not the Richard Wagner of the incomparable, though still debated, malodies [sic], but the Richard Wagner who brought back to life the dismal, pitiless and forgotten world of Germanic antiquity, the world of fighting god and fighting heroes of dragons and demons, of destiny and pagan epics, which presents itself to other peoples as mere Wagnerian opera, but which has become subconscious reality to the German masses, and has been elevated to the inspirational mythos of the National Socialist movement that rules the Third Reich. "Whoever wants to understand National Socialist Germany must know Wagner," Adolf Hitler has often told his friends; and the whole National Socialist regime, which finds its foundation in the Germanic mythos and the cult of the heroic, is in fact unthinkable without Wagner and all he represents. In that sense the whole present was resolves itself into a super-Wagnerian opera turned into grim reality. It must be kept in mind, however, that they little know of Wagner who only Wagner's music know. For Wagner was the first totalitarian artist who strove to combine art, science and life- music, poetry, grammar, philosophy, sociology and politics- into a unitary, and all-embracing expression of a new Germanic Weltanschauung that was to save the German people from the danger of modern civilization, under the aegis of Bayreuth as the German Olympus from which was also to come salvation of all Europe. In that respect he became a synthesis of the German intellectual turmoil that began to separate the German from the rest of the occident early in the nineteenth century - a turmoil that was first a protest against the French Revolution, then a patriotic uprising against Napoleon, then a revolt against the pygmy States and their reactionary policies, in which Wagner personally took a hand, and then a revulsion against the whole nineteenth century with its great industrial revolution and the social evils that followed in its wake. It was a turmoil symbolized by such names as Arndt, Fichte, Jahn List, Feuerbach, Treitschke, and Konstantin Frantz, whose "metapolitics" especially interested Wagner, and finally, as an extreme outsider, Nietzsche. Though these men differed in stature and ideas, the end result of this turmoil was a nostalgia for the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" through which, in its heyday, Germans ruled the known earth. It marked a break with French enlightenment, universalist humanism, and Hellenic classicism, of which Goethe was the last representative, and led to a concentration on the Germanic mythos which found its climax in an exaltation of Germanism as the remedy for the world' s ills. "Am Deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen" (through German virtue the world will recover) was the final wisdom distilled from the turmoil to which Nietzsche contributed a scornful and aristocratic philosophy for the "lords of the earth," the antithesis of the "Judean- Christian slaves' religion of the masses," while Wagner himself, influenced by Count de Gobineau's "Inequity of the Human Races", added a good shot of anti-Semitism. In Wagner's English son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, these ideas found their final crystallization in an "Aryan Germanic Weltanschauung" that is the direct precursor of the National Socialist racial dogma and its thesis of German superiority. It is against this rather profuse and, in its decisive aspect, unequivocal, background that Wagner's work must be viewed. p.10-13 Otto D. Tolischus- They wanted war 00011214.gif page 2 For Wagner was part of this turmoil all his life; and, though his personal ideology wavered successibly and ranged from Buddhistic negation to heroic self-assertion, from pagan fatalism to Christian redemption, in the end he implanted the Germanic mythos far more successfully in subconscious German mind then all the German philosophers and historians. For he presented this mythos not as a cold intellectual, abstraction-as such it found its own refutation- but in the far more pleasant and far more subtle form of "musical dreams," which conquered the world with their revolutionary harmonies, but at the same time evoked in the German people certain emotional reactions that found their fruition in National Socialism. Hitler took his ideas where he found them and in utilizing them proved to be the great synthesizer of opposites. Nearly every element of National Socialist ideology can be traced to some antecedent which far from weakening it, gives it strength by a multiform and susceptive familiarity that makes it all things to all Germans. But more powerful even than any political or economic ideas of National Socialism are its deeper emotional and mythological elements, which raises it far above a purely political organization and make it a fanatic pseudo-religious movement that is inexplicable to all non-German "unbelievers." And these elements come from Wagner, from those have also been adopted even such details as the "heil" of the Hitler salute, the National Socialist battle slogan, "Germany Awake!" and the [unreadable] by the S.S. The fiery solstice celebration and other German cult ceremonies designed to replace Christian ritual were natural developments of the return to the Germanic mythos. p. 14 - Otto D. Tolischus - They wanted war. Wagner was a romanticist who has now been taken over by political realists. And lest it be thought from American precedents that operas are after all only for the select few, it must be kept In mind that nearly every German city has its opera house and that Hitler himself explained, "I am convinced that art, and the uncorrupted and most immediate reproduction of a nation's spiritual life, have unconsciously the greatest direct influence on the mass in combination." Hitler himself has been a personal devotee of Wagner all his life. Like Ludwig II of Bavaria, Wagner's ill starred royal patron, he became an enthusiastic Wagnerite after witnessing, as a youngster, a performance of "Lohengrien" in an Austrian provincial town. "At once I was captivated," he writes in Mein Kampf. "My youthful enthusiasm for the Bayreuth master knew no bounds. Again and again I was drawn to his works and today I feel it a special good fortune that the modesty of the provincial performance permitted later augmentation." As a result of this enthusiasm, Hitler has attended hundreds of Wagner performances, traveling from the cheapest seats in the highest balconies in his days of penury to the royal box in his days of power. He has steeped himself in the provocative Wagner melodies. Although he cannot carry a tune, he reads Wagner's scores, and so detailed is his interest that every little change in every performance immediately brings inquiries from him. p. 14 Otto D.Tolischus-They wanted war. 00011215.gif page 3 Tolischus - They wanted War - Hitler and Wagner Though captivated by Wagner's art as such, he is even more captivated by the fact that it is German art and the most intoxicating expression of a Germanic mythos which Hitler transferred from the stage to the political arena and made a world issue. Besides that, early in his political career Hitler became personally attached to Bayreuth and the "Bayreuth Kultur circle" led by Houston Stewart Chamberlain when the latter, after listening to Hitler's speech in Bayreuth in October, 1923 - at a time when few people took Hitler seriously - received the comparatively unknown at Haus Wahnfried and immediately hailed him as the savior of Germany. In 1934 Hitler laid the cornerstone of a national monument to Wagner at the composer's birthplace in Leipzig. It was therefore only natural that immediately on his accession to power Hitler, with all the resources of his totalitarian power, exalted Bayreuth to the position that Wagner had dreamed of. Bayreuth and its Wagner festivals were and are in charge of an English-born woman, Winifred Wagner (nee Williams), widow of Wagner's son Siegfried. And lo! with a Wagner tradition, she ascribes to the Bayreuth festivals a religious character." As late as 1931 she also demanded that Bayreuth must be "a festival of pure art, away from the impression of day-to-day affairs." But National Socialism has no use for "art for art's sake," and Bayreuth immediately became the Olympus of German art and the Valhalla of the Germanic mythos, to which Hitler's presence at the festivals gave the final sanctification. Wagner's "musical dreams" were really dramatized philosophic dissertation for which he wrote not only the music but also librettos of undoubted poetic and dramatic power, in which he took his stand on the problems of the age. But because he sought and compassed in them God, man and the world, he soon burst through the limitations of historic opera as known before his time, and delved into Nordic mythology, which being a personification of abstract concepts, enabled him to give dramatic life and blood to his own abstract ideas. The originally incidental but in the end the paramount, result of this was that he led the German mind away from the rational, individualistic, utilitarian world of the time which hoped for escape from its shortcomings in scientific progress and conjured up in its stead the ancient, irrational, mystic and heroic world of the Germanic gods, rule. by the ancient pagan ethics of the tribal code, the blood feud and the law of destiny and personal atonement for guilt, in place of the Christian sin and redemption. The ancient mystic world, utilized by Wagner to personify his own philosophic ideas regarding the problems of the modern world, is portrayed with compelling vividness in the "Nibelunger Ring" that amazing series of four interdependent "musical dramas" on which he worked for a quarter of a century and which are the towering monuments to his genius. Whatever ideas Wagner wanted to express in them originally - and he changed these ideas repeatedly until the clarity of the work suffered - his own political pamphleteering and National Socialist ideology have given the "Nibelungen Ring" an interpretation reflected directly in National Socialist practice. In the terms of Wagner's own librettos, the essential elements of this interpretation may be briefly summarized as follows: Wotan, chif [sic] of the ancient Germanic gods, subject to destiny and his own law, and as such the symbol for a mundane ruler, seeks to increase his might in order to safeguard his realm. For that purpose he concludes a treaty with the giants Fasolt and Fafnir, who may by [sic] taken as symbols of the bourgeoisie; the giants undertake to build for Wotan "a fortress peerless and proud" -Valhalla- in return for which they are to get the Goddess Freia. who holds the key to the gods' eternal youth. p p 15-17- Otto D.Tolischus- They wanted war. 00011216.gif page 4 Tolischus- They wanted war- Hitler and Wagner But Wotan regards the treaty as a scrap of paper from the start and depends on the tricky half-god or demi-god Loge or Loki, his "Chancellor" to get him out of any difficulties. When, therefore, the giants call for their reward- and Freia may be regarded here as the constitutional guarantees that limit the rulers' powers - Wotan refuses to pay. Therein lies his original guilt for which he must later atone. When the giants rebel, Loki suggests that Wotan pay the giants in gold. In order to get the gold, the two capture Alberich, ruler of the gnomes or Nibelungs, and make him pay all he possesses as ransom. Alberich in National Socialist interpretation is "'the type of the money-Jew" who by renouncing "love" has succeeded in stealing the gold from the Rhine daughters, who may be taken as symbols of either the nation or the German people. From this gold he has forged a magic ring that gives its owner power over the world - a symbol of the power of gold - in addition to which he has also acquired a magic helmet that permits him to assume any shape he wishes or to make himself entirely invisible. Thus equipped, he swings the whip over the Nibelungs - the "propetariat" - (and also over his own brother, Rime) making them work to increase his treasure. Having seized the treasure as ransom, Wotan puts the ring on his own finger and exults: "It is mine now, the spell of might, That makes me lord of the world." This lust for gold as well as power adds, of course, to Wotan's guilt, but that exaltation is brief. For Alberich puts a curse on the ring that its future possessor shall die of it, and ring and treasure must soon be surrendered to the giants to keep Freia out of their clutches. The curse fulfills itself immediately; Fafnir kills Fasolt to get the ring and treasure for himself alone and then retires with them to a cave which he guards thereafter in the shape of a dragon and under the motto: "I hold what I have, let me sleep"- a motto which the National Socialists apply to England. From this mythological setting. Wagner developed a complicated succession of events supposed to symbolize man's struggle against the curse of the gods, or the "tragedy of modern capitalism." Wotan, knowing that Alberich is trying to regain the ring in order to destroy him, seeks to regain it for himself, But having given the ring to Fafnir as ransom for Freia, he cannot recapture it himself. Wherefore he puts his hope on heroes. And the final perfection of these is Siegfried, grandson Wotan himself, but also a "free and natural man." Siegfried kills the dragon and captures the ring and treasure but gives the ring as a love token to Bruenhilde. As the result both of them also fall under its curse. Siegfried is trapped and stabbed in the back by Hagen, "lust -child" of Alberich and a Queen he had lured with gold, on whom Alberich pins his hopes for the ring. p. 17-19 Otto D. Tolischus -They wanted war. 00011217.gif page 7 Hagen seeks to gain the ring for himself, but Bruenhilde foils him and returns it to the Rhine daughters while immolating herself on Siegfried's funeral pyre. Hagen jumps after the ring but is dragged off to the deep. And Wotan, who has long since despaired of success for himself, now atones for his double guilt by setting Valhalla in flames, which ends the gods and their world. The action leads to pagan atonement through general and self-willed annihilation, that holds so strange a fascination to the German mind. This final effect has been further intensified by the fact that Wagner's "Nibelungen Ring" has been inextricably intertwined in the German mind with the Nibelugenlied from which Wagner took his inspiration without following it. For the Nibelugenlied translated the Nordic myth to which Wagner reverted into a heroic epic of medieval knighthood, and the most powerful part of it deals with the gruesome vengeance of Kriemhild, Siegfried's widow, against Hagen, who emerges as a new hero. In the Nibelungenlied, Kriemhild is the sister of the King of the Burgundians, who also are called Nibelungen, and Hagen is the King's "Iron Chancellor", of such terrifying mien that daughters of his hosts hesitate to give him the customary welcome kiss. This Hagen also kills Siegfried by stabbing him in the back after tricking Kriemhild into betraying Siegfried's one vulnerable spot and after carefully removing Siegfried's swords. He also robs the widow of her husband's Nibelungen treasure because he thinks all this is necessary to protect the honor and interest of his King. In fact, Hagen's "loyalty" goes so far that when he and his King are captured alive he tricks Kriemhild into killing her royal brother on the promise of revealing to her the whereabouts of the Nibelung treasure. Then when Kriemhild shows him the head of her brother Hagen laughs at her, whereupon she chops off Hagen's head as well and is herself killed by one of her own vassals. It is this "grim" Hagen of the Nibelungenlied rather than Siegfried who in the revaluation of all values, is now presented to German youth as the ideal hero for emulation. The spirit of Hagen is in that strong tribal design for living that lifted Hitler from the muck of failure. p 19-21 Otto D. Tolischus - They wanted war.
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