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Katharina Wagner: We have no Nazi secrets to hide

Katie is in combative mood in an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau. She shrugs off the Nikitin ‘swastika’ affair as ‘his choice’ and the Silenced Voices exhibition opposite the Festspielhaus ‘as none of our business’.

So tell us about the concentration camp your Daddy used to run, Katie… Check my essay in the coming issue of Standpoint (and the books by Brigitte Hamann and Jonathan Carr).

The interview is translated below by a trusted Slipped Disc correspondent.

Q: Just before the start of the Festival, history caught up with you
and the Russian singer Yevgeny Nikitin who was to have sung Hollaender left. Was that the only option?
KW: It was no question of an option: we asked him how, in his opinion,
we should handle the situation. That was maybe a little too direct for
him. But his answer was very clear and very direct: that he cannot
appear in Bayreuth.
Q: What is your response to the reactions to his departure? Many
people say it was too hasty a decision or hypocritical.
KW: You’re referring to Nikolaus Bachler of the Bavarian State Opera?
He can say and do as he thinks fit. My sister and I are in favour of
fully opening up the festival’s past. It’s not very differentiated to
always talk about “the Wagner Family.” Such an accusation can’t be
made against Nike and the Wieland branch of the family. And nor can it
be made against me or Eva.
Q: Some people accuse you of delaying the process or commissioning the wrong people.
KW: Wolfram Pyta is a renowned historian and the journalist Peter
Siebenmorgen is too. It’s normal for any historian to be disputed.
I’ve given them both the material to see if there are any new findings
with regard to the Third Reich and the Festival. Siebenmorgen has has
already said that there appears to be nothing particularly new or
spectacular or that history will not need to be rewritten. I’ve also
consulted another expert recommended to me by Nike and asked him to take a look. Like Pyta and Siebenmorgen, his advice was to hand over
the legal estate to the Bundesarchiv. In any case, the legal estate
will be transferred to a public institution and therefore be made
Q: And the ominous safe containing Winifred’s estate?
KW: There are estates that belong to all four branches of the family
and there is Winifred’s estate which was handed over to her
granddaughter Amelie Hohmann in 1976. The Wieland branch handed over his estate to the University of Salzburg, an institution which is
publicly accessible. That’s what I want to do, too. Amelie Hohmann
hasn’t commented so far, but we’re in contact with her via a lawyer.
As a community of heirs, we have to reach an agreement that is
sensible and productive, so that what has so far not been accessible
to the public can be made accessible.
Q: It has been said that you only half-heartedly agreed to the having
the exhibition (Silenced Voices) in front of the Festspielhaus…
KW: Rubbish. The exhibition is on a piece of land that belongs to the
town of Bayreuth. So it’s not for me to give my permission or not. In
terms of content, I think the exhibition is excellent. And we’re
pleased that it can remain there until October 2013 and can be seen in
direct connection with the Festspielhaus.

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  1. To say KW said the “Silenced Voices” exhibition was “none of our business” is I think to misrepresent what she said. The original interview is clear – the interviewer suggests that the Festival “half-heartedly” allowed the exhibition and she responds that there was no question of the Festival either allowing or not-allowing the exhibition to take place as it was not on Festival property. She then describes it as “outstanding”.

  2. Michael Hurshell says:

    Interesting how various excuses are made about why this or that document still isn’t available, after so many decades. As long as that goes on there will be talk. I still don’t understand why the Silenced Voices exhibit couldn’t have been shown “on the grounds” – for example, having at least parts of it at the Siegfried Wagner house. It would have made it look much more like a joint effort between Mr. Heer (who does excellent work) and the festival management.

    • Gurnemanz says:

      ” I still don’t understand why the Silenced Voices exhibit couldn’t have been shown “on the grounds” ”

      Perhaps because, from what little I read about it it contains some rather suspect material. It features a cellist or clarinetist(I can’t remember which instrument exactly he played) murdered at one of the camps who never actually played at Bayreuth but was “on the reserve list because he was Jewish”(I’m dying to see what evidence for that Mr. Heer presents, if any). Some claims about Siegfried Wagner that the exibition makes can be considered outright defamatory, such as him being in lockstep with his mother’s ideological worldview.

      And that’s just what I picked up from various reports on-line.

      • Gurnemanz,
        the musician you’re referring to is Lucian Horwitz, an Austrian cellist who, although he was on the reserve list, never got to play in the Graben at the Festspielhaus because Karl Muck slapped a swastika by his name as some sort of veto. A photo is provided as evidence in the exhibition.
        Of course, exhibitions such as these are always going to ruffle a few feathers, in Germany in particular.
        But don’t rely on online reports, which may be even more biased than you seem to believe the exhibition’s organisers are.
        Go and see it and judge for yourself, it’s now there until October 2013. There’s also an accompanying book, which I’m sure you can order online if you can’t get to Bayreuth yourself.

        That’s what exhibitions are there for, to trigger informed discussion and debate.
        When I was there, a great many of visitors were very impressed by it.
        And Katharina, too, described it as “hervorragend” (excellent/outstanding) in the above interview, so it seems unlikely that any claims about Siegfried Wagner were “outright defamatory”.
        The exhbition is just one part of a wider travelling exhibition about anti-Semitism in German opera houses during the Nazi period.
        Are you suggesting that this didn’t happen?

  3. Gurnemanz says:

    Mr. Lebrechet, you are confusing Wieland and Wolfgang again. Not to mention that the former did not exactly run a camp…

    As for Winnifred’s letters to Hitler, what could we possibly learn from them that is new? That they consumed their relationship? That they were on the verge of marrying? Big deal! Who cares? This is material for the local sleaze rag, not relevant to anything at all.

    • Both ran it. See Hamann and Carr.

      • Gurnemanz says:

        Why are the Wieland branch(Nike) accusing Wolfgang of leaking that information in order to discredit their father? Why did they not respond in like?

        In any event, both were cleared of any wrongdoing after the war by the occupying powers.

        • Who is hiding anything?! As far as I know, nobody has DENIED that the Wagners were associated with Hitler, the Nazis, and their activities. De-nazification trials were held and the relevent information has been gone over time and time again. Apparently there are letters we have yet to see, but Gurnemanz makes a good point about that. This constant harping on the current generation is getting a little old and going nowhere. There is plenty to discuss about current activities in Bayreuth, good and bad, rather than returning to the same song we have heard many times before about a past that can not be changed. What can the Wagners do to satisfy those who dissaprove of their forefathers?

  4. I wonder if Wieland and Wolfgang left a a note in the archives about what it was like to sit on Hitler’s knee (Klemperer). The past can not be changed and it should not be ignored.

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