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Vienna professor: Karajan lied, lied and lied again about his Nazi past

New research by Oliver Rathkolb at the University of Vienna, using documents that were previously inaccessible, confirms the key fact that Herbert von Karajan always denied – that he joined the Nazi party in Salzburg (where it was illegal) in April 1933. Karajan, while he was alive, would set his Swiss lawyers on anyone who sought confirmation of that fact.

Rathkolb also finds that the conductor falsified documents to further his career. As a teenager he had been a member of a rightwing nationalist society in Salzburg. His early letters contain ugly anti-semitic sentiments.

None of this is revolutionary. It mostly confirms what has long been known.

But Karajan’s racism was never black and white. Some of his closest associates were Jewish – a secretary, his record producer, his protégés. If he tired of them, he might abuse them in anti-semtiic terms – but that was hardly unexpected for an Austrian of his generation.

More puzzling, for me, is his dual identity. Karajan’s grandfather was Greek. His close friend and US agent Ronald Wilford is part-Greek.

The Greeks suffered terribly under the heel of the same Nazis that Karajan supported. How, in the dead of night, did he reconcile those two halves of his identity, persecutor and persecuted? Was it a case of, as Wilde put it, ‘for each man kills the thing he loves…’?

karajan nazi

photo: Taler, 1941

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Comments

  1. Joel Cohen says:

    He LOOKS Greek in this photo. Actually, he kinda looks Jewish. How mysterious is the human psyche.

    • Exactly, Joel. That’s why I picked it.

      • Well, my first thought was “is this Goebbels?”

      • He “looks” Jewish? You think there is a “Jewish look”? I find that idea quite disturbing…as I find Joel’s idea that psychological traits are somehow racially or genetically encoded.

        Actually, it was his great-great-grandfather who had come from Greece, not his grandfather. I doubt Karajan felt much of a “Greek identity” based on a very distant ancestry. In any case, he didn’t “support” the suppression of Greek people. He wasn’t in much of a position to “support” anything. He wasn’t a terribly important person. At the beginning of the 3rd Reich, he was a total nobody who had just gone through the depression era in a tiny provincial theater, and he lost even that miserable job and didn’t get another one for a while despite his party membership – which may indeed not have become active in 1935 which is why they had him sign again in 1935 in Aachen. But in the later years of the 3rd Reich his career seemed to fall apart progressively because apparently and contrary to the picture painted by many, it doesn’t look like he was good at playing politics at all.

        So obviously none of that makes him any kind of hero. But how can anyone of us who live in much easier times today say we would have been heroes?

      • And remember that Karajan’s first wife came from a Jewish family. Most of these twists, turns and explanations are contained in Osborne’s biography, which contains a long chapter on the Nazi party issue:
        .
        http://www.amazon.com/Herbert-Von-Karajan-Life-Music/dp/1555534252/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355508724&sr=1-1&keywords=karajan

      • Raised Eyebrow says:

        That’s why you picked it? Not because he looks 9/10 of the way toward a vigorous conductorial Hitlergruß?

    • and a passing resemblance to his fellow DG artist Leonard Bernstein, in his later years.

    • I think he is looking like Goebbels on this 1941 picture. Don’t you think? See it:

      http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/images/goebbels.jpg

    • Gentlemen: Exactly what is it to “look Jewish?”

      Ashkenazi? Sephardic? Ethiopian? Please! Let these eugenics-styled remarks pass into irrelevance where they belong.

    • Christopher Oakmount says:

      As an Austrian who was born in 1972 and thus no longer schooled in racial distinction -
      How exactly does Karajan look Jewish on this photo?

      • Joel Cohen says:

        OK, here come the stereotypes, drawn/observed from the photo Norman has posted: Long nose, dark hair slicked down with grease, slightly darker skin tone than the Teutons he is directing, a certain “lean and hungry look.” He looks markedly “other” as compared to idealized Nazi/Aryan physical types that were being flaunted everywhere.

        And so our young, frantically ambitious conductor tries to put as much distance as possible between his ambition and those risky-in-1933 parts of himself by joining the Nazi party. Twice.

        Just speculating, but….

        • That’s not just speculating, that’s total nonsense. A “long nose” was not part of the Jewish stereotype, nor was “slicked back hair” – that was actually fairly fashionable at the time. Nor was a dark skinned tone a “problem”. Karajan actually had quite light skin but as an avid outdoorsman he was often well tanned.
          Nor was his – very distant – Greek heritage “risky” at all. Greeks were not seen as an “inferior race” – quite the opposite actually, given their significance for European culture. Nor were they ever “persecuted” by the Nazis. They just happened to be in the way later in the war when it became an important objective to disrupt British interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Which wasn’t foreseeable at all to Karajan in 1933.
          Nor was Karajan’s less distant Slovenian heritage a “problem” either.

          Instead of babbling nonsense and stereotypes – which don’t even match the stereotypes in effect at the time – one should ask why, if Karajan was a “true believer”, he joined the NSDAP as late as April 1933 – and that was very late by their standards – and why he actually had to join again in 1935 to get his job in Aachen. If he was a “true believer”, why didn’t he follow up on and maintain his membership, especially since the party was closed to new applications in June of 1933 and already having the party book was quite valuable from a political point of view?

  2. “But Karajan’s racism was never black and white”
    How very true.
    Aside from his unstinting loyalty to the likes of Glotz and Weissenberg, and his first wife being partly Jewish one thinks of the role he had in promoting Leontyne Price…i’d imagine she was one of the first black singers to feature at the Vienna State Opera.

  3. Thomas Notini says:

    Anyone who knows where he got his “von” from?

    • Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:

      From Wiki,

      ……..”His great-great-grandfather, Geórgios Ioánnes Karagiánnis (Greek: Γεώργιος Ιωάννης Καραγιάννης), was born in Kozani, a town in the then Ottoman province of Rumelia (present West Macedonia in today’s Greece), leaving for Vienna in 1767, and eventually Chemnitz, Electorate of Saxony.[10] He and his brother participated in the establishment of Saxony’s cloth industry, and both were ennobled for their services by Frederick Augustus III on 1 June 1792, thus the prefix “von” to the family name.”………

  4. As mentioned by you and others, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. How he was able to “reconcile those two halves of his identity, persecutor and persecuted”, as you put it? I think the answer is quite simple: He was an opportunist without a conscience. He blew with the wind, much like Prefect Renault in Casablanca: “And the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy [i.e., the French puppet government of Germany during the occupation]“.

    There are lots of other precedents amongst other prominent musicians of that time. Greatness as a musician does not necessarily imply greatness of character. This might also explain why he had close associates later on who were Jewish; after Germany lost the war, maybe it was the expedient thing for him to do? Certainly couldn’t hurt to have some Jewish associates if one was trying to hide this kind of past. Or else, having survived the war unscathed, he decided to put it all behind him as best he could. Being an opportunist, he was probably only antisemitic when it was expedient for him to be so (i.e. during the Nazi era). Even his early membership in the Austrian Nazi party would not necessarily contradict this. He was always looking to advance his own career. I don’t know whether he had much of a musical career in Austria before the war; perhaps he already had his sights set on German venues, seeing pretty much what was to come next? By 1933, after all, the writing on the wall was there for everyone to see.

    • “Even his early membership in the Austrian Nazi party would not necessarily contradict this. He was always looking to advance his own career. I don’t know whether he had much of a musical career in Austria before the war; perhaps he already had his sights set on German venues, seeing pretty much what was to come next? By 1933, after all, the writing on the wall was there for everyone to see.”

      Was it? Some very farseeing individuals did indeed foresee some of the worst things that were to come. Most didn’t, including many in foreign countries like yours – in which there were actually a lot of very prominent supporters of Hitler’s regime.
      But maybe you should inform yourself a little about Karajan’s early career – something that is very easily done these days, with the internet and all that – before you make wild speculations?

      So Robert, when was the last time you took a heroic stance against a totalitarian regime? Your own country has in the past decade been involved in two completely pointless wars which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and as far as I can tell, you are still there. You haven’t emigrated to a more peaceful country yourself.

      • “So Robert, when was the last time you took a heroic stance against a totalitarian regime? Your own country has in the past decade been involved in two completely pointless wars which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and as far as I can tell, you are still there. You haven’t emigrated to a more peaceful country yourself.”

        Well, I admit that I never had to take a heroic stance against a totalitarian regime, fortunately. I’ve lived in Germany between 1976-1980 and in Switzerland ever since then (you can read all about that on my website … just click on my name at the top of my messages). I never voted for G.W. Bush, even though my mother, who was a state representative in Texas, has a signed picture of them shaking hands when he was governor of Texas… Nevertheless, I don’t really miss having SH or OBL amongst us anymore … do you??

        But April 1933 certainly didn’t call for a heroic stance in Salzburg yet, although Hitler had already been elected chancellor of Germany in January 1933. In 1971, my birthday (Feb. 7, 1952) was drawn from a hat by the U.S. military, and it was number 305 in the list. So I didn’t have to go to Vietnam. Of course, I didn’t volunteer for that war, either. I was admittedly much more concerned with completing my musical studies back then. So are you going to call me a “Trittbrettfahrer” with all the other anti-Vietnam demonstrators? Or do you wish to accuse me of being an opportunist?

        [Und, da Sie mein Geburtsland als "your own country" bezeichnen, ohne dieses explizit beim Namen zu benennen, wäre es mehr als interessant zu erfahren, zu welchem Land Sie sich bekennen, und in welcher Epoche Sie darin geboren wurden...]

        • “In 1971, my birthday (Feb. 7, 1952) was drawn from a hat by the U.S. military, and it was number 305 in the list. So I didn’t have to go to Vietnam. Of course, I didn’t volunteer for that war, either. I was admittedly much more concerned with completing my musical studies back then. So are you going to call me a “Trittbrettfahrer” with all the other anti-Vietnam demonstrators? Or do you wish to accuse me of being an opportunist?”

          No, I don’t wish to accuse you of anything. I am not into pointing fingers self-righteously at people who were born into difficult situations they couldn’t really influence. Like you. Or like Karajan. It is not your fault that you were born into a place at a time when racism was rampant (Texas, in your case, I gather from your website). Nor do I wish to fault you for not standing up to that but for wanting to continue your musical path instead – just like Karajan when he was about your age.
          I am glad you were lucky enough not to be sent off to help kill off millions (yes, about 3 million people died in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos as a result of your little post-colonial war there) or to get killed yourself. You were luckier than many people in the 20th century. Maybe you should consider that and be a little less ready to point fingers yourself?
          I am not a Christian, but I do kind of like the “whoever is without sin cast the first stone” thing.

      • To make this perfectly clear, I did not point my finger at anyone. Norman asked a rhetorical question as to how HvK could reconcile his Nazi affiliation with the fact that his immediate ancestors were members of ethnic groups which were persecuted by the Nazis. My response was to state the obvious conclusion (to me, anyway) that it didn’t matter to HvK, and that he was an opportunist. At that point, you started pointing a finger at me, saying things like “So Robert, when was the last time you took a heroic stance against a totalitarian regime?” Is that not finger-pointing?

        Q.E.D.

        I’m tired of this thread now. May it rest in peace!

  5. I don’t know if there’s a good English translation for the word “Konvertiteneifer” (“a convert’s fervour”). It has nothing unusual that someone whose affiliation to a group (here the German “Volksgemeinschaft”) might be questioned tries to silence any questions by behaving as an especially loyal and radical group member. Just consider all the gays in the radical conservative wing of the Catholic Church.

    So Karajan might simply have denied the Greek part of his identity. The rest would be an interesting case for Dr. Freud.

  6. Odd. I always seem to hear these lies whenever I listen to one of his recordings.

  7. The ability of human beings to gloss over horror and evil is very common. We Americans, who regard this nation as morally exceptional, sometimes vote to re-elect politicians of the worst stripe. When you ask individuals how they could vote for a candidate who has done unquestionably evil deeds, they mouth excuses like “but he’s good on the economy,” and “he really believed there were WMDs in that country.” How can the US Congress and Executive routinely support repressive, murderous regimes around the world? It is not just in America. How could decent Italians tolerate someone like Berlusconi? How could English, French and Dutch citizens have supported colonization?

    Was Karajan immoral or stupid or naive? I know I have changed my mind over the years about issues with a heavy moral tinge. As a young man, I assumed most of what our nation did in military interventions was justified. I no longer do. It is very possible that privately Karajan abhorred his early moral beliefs. Denying them falsely is just self-preservation. Should he have admitted culpability, recognizing that doing so would end his career? Perhaps. For example, we expect someone who has caused a terrible auto accident to stay and accept the consequences. But did he personally advance Nazism in an material sense?

    Musicians and celebrities of all sorts often hold beliefs that are ill-considered (at least to our way of thinking). I gave up long ago hating celebrities for their political stances. And for the same reason I still listen to music whose writers or performers were unsavory.

  8. Can’t we just state the obvious about Karajan? He was simply willing to use anything – including the Nazis – to further his musical career. In this he was completely ruthless. Of course the same may be said about the young George Solti after the wall who went back to conduct in Germany. He admits in his autobiography that he would have murdered his grandfather to get that job. Of course nothing excuses Karajan for his Nazi sympathies, but the same can be said for vast numbers of other Germans and Austrians who supported Hitler. That included conductors. Bruno Walter, in a letter to Furtwängler dated January 1949, wrote: “Please bear in mind that your art was used over the years as an extremely effective means of foreign propaganda for the regime of the devil: that you, thanks to your fame and great talent, performed valuable service for this regime and that in Germany itself the presence and activities of an artist of your rank helped to provide cultural and moral credit to those terrible criminals or at least gave considerable help to them…in contrast to that, of what significance was your helpful behaviour in individual cases of Jewish distress?”
    I doubt whether Karjan was any more more or less in his Nazi sympathies than most other Germans and Austrians of the day. He was probably better than most in using the party for the propagation of his own career. But he did come up cropper near the end of the war when he seemed to fall out-of-favour with the Nazis. Ironically that may have helped his career after the war!

    • “Bruno Walter”

      Yet Bruno Walter, himself a victim of racist craziness, chose to continue his career in a country – the US – in which large parts of the population were disadvantaged based on racial grounds. Somehow he didn’t seem to have a problem with that though, and neither did other “heroes” such as Toscanini. Maybe they themselves thought black people weren’t real people, so their plight in their new guest country didn’t matter?

      • Daniel Farber says:

        The moral equivalence of the US with Nazi Germany implied here is preposterous.

        • Rightly spoken, Daniel!

        • It’s not that preposterous actually. Depending on the particular time in history, racist and supremacist madness was a well known phenomenon with fatal consequences for whole ethnicities in the US of A. There was a short time in history where the enforced antagonism to the “bad guys” made the US a moral leader. Those times have ended many years ago, the moral high ground has faded away beginning immediately in the aftermath of WWII and finding it’s despicable low probably in the neocon policies of the Bush Jr. era.
          Moral high ground is a very perishable commodity. It has to be won anew every day again.

          • Daniel Farber says:

            You’re implying that as between George W. Bush and Hitler, it’s “pick ‘em” in immorality?

          • No, I’m not implying that, “Nazi Germany” and “Hitler” are not synonymous though, yet you use them that way.
            I find many features of the public complacency and mainstream thinking between Nazi Germany and the Bush Jr. USA comparable, not necessarily equivalent though.
            And certainly not in certain horrific outcomes of such supremacist and racist ideologies, like the Shoah.

          • It is not just George W. Bush. Bill Clinton’s sanctions against Iraq killed, at a minimum, 250,000 children (dysentery, etc.). Madeline Albright and Bill Richardson (the UN representative) both defended those actions, saying that it was unfortunate the children had to die but policies were more important. Vietnam is hard to judge — one can argue the western powers — France and then the US — ultimately were responsible for all the deaths in the civil war that resulted. But looking just at some direct numbers:
            US bombing deaths: 35,000 to 182,000
            Agent Orange effect:s: Vietnam said 400,000 people were killed or maimed form it, and 500,000 children were born with birth defects
            American bombing in Cambodia: 40,000

            Obama is a piker by comparison — civilians deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan number a few thousand, though there were some spectacular mass killings, like the 140 civilians killed in one bomb strike in 2009 (93 were children). Did American mourn over those deaths? Nope.

            So “W” Bush, LBJ, Nixon, Clinton and Obama are not in Hitler’s league, but Americans refuse to acknowledge any evil on their part because they voted them in office and in some cases re-elected them even after their war crimes were known.

            Perhaps the better question is — who is more morally complicit, Karajan, or Americans who voted for “W” and Obama a second time?

      • harold braun says:

        Bullshit,Dear Michael!

        • Not as much as you think, Harold.

          When we think of a country that should have a high moral stance, we think if Israel. It was, after all, to a high degree, founded because of the sufferings of Jews in the Holocaust. One would expect that such a country would thoroughly distance itself from an openly racist regime that oppressed and segregated individuals into ghettos based on their race.

          I won’t get into the ongoing relations of that country with the Palestinians. That would be beating a dead horse.

          What is unarguably documented is that Israel had close ties to apartheid South Africa for over a decade. As a historical fact, it is true that the Israel-South Africa relationship during apartheid was an on-off relationship and that Israel denounced Eric Louw’s speech defending apartheid and broke off diplomatic relations in 1963 due to apartheid.

          On the other hand, after the Yom Kippur war in 1973, Israel reversed itself and signed the Israel South Africa Agreement in 1975. The agreement covered many different areas of defence co-operation at a time when both countries were unable to source weapons and defence technology freely on the international market. John Vorster and Pik Botha visited Israel officially, and, in 1981, Ariel Sharon visited South African forces in Namibia. Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi wrote in 1988 that the alliance between South Africa and Israel was one of the most underreported news stories of the past four decades and that Israel played a crucial role in the survival of the apartheid regime (Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin (1988). The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms and Why). Israel eventually reduced its relations with South Africa significantly and denounced apartheid in 1987, but did not break off contacts completely, making it one of the few countries in the world to not entirely boycott apartheid South Africa.

          Thus history teaches us that opportunism based on circumstances is one of the prime movers of both individuals and countries, regardless of moral implications. Such moral convenience should be condemned whenever it occurs, whether it be Karajan, Pfitzner, Schwarzkopf etc. or the US, Russia, China, etc.. That said, however, I completely disagree with Peter M’s bundling Obama together with the Bush W administration’s morally reprehensible actions.

          I did purchase a few recordings with Karajan years ago, but once I realised how close his ties with the nazis were, I discontinued buying his recordings. Of all German musicians who embraced and prospered under nazi rule, he is one of the most repugnant.

          • “When we think of a country that should have a high moral stance, we think if Israel. It was, after all, to a high degree, founded because of the sufferings of Jews in the Holocaust. One would expect that such a country would thoroughly distance itself from an openly racist regime that oppressed and segregated individuals into ghettos based on their race.”

            When a country is faced with immediate threats to its very existence, it cannot afford the luxury of taking any kind of moral stance … especially if it has relatively few friends and allies in the world.

            (Do I see some more finger pointing here?)

          • The state of Israel was founded upon a grave injustice: the expulsion of the local Palestinians. Already Hanna Ahrend predicted at the time of the founding, that this injustice would cause an endless circle of violence and hatred. She was right. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the holocaust, so to them it was an injustice indeed. But this has nothing to do with the subject: Karajan’s membership of the nazi party.

  9. Young, brilliantly-gifted musicians, full of ambition and inspiration, if born in a time and place which is quickly darkening – as was the case in the thirties – feel deep-down that the perspective of their contribution to culture getting realized is, in fact, very fragile. They feel that any means, including immoral ones, are somehow ‘justified’ because they serve a ‘higher’ purpose. In other words: they think that their career in the world has to be fought-over with all instruments available and if membership of a primitive political movements, which is in the ascendance, as the nazi party obviously and visibly was at the beginning of the thirties, is adding to the chances – well, Karajan must have thought: so what? Reading-back into that period what has happened later-on, is a bit distorting the picture: what if Karajan had known in advance the trajectory from the nazi party at that time to world war and holocaust? It is not an excuse, but a correction. WE do know, people at the time did NOT, but obviously they could have noticed the utter primitivism of the movement. This, combined with the ‘genius cult’ in the German-speaking world at the time, result of exaggerated romanticism, proved to be a trap. That Karajan lied, must have been because the subject was too embarrassing and potentially damaging. He just tried to bluff himself out of an impossible but true accusation.

  10. Roberto Gonzalez says:

    Maestro Karajan appears to have suffered from Waldheimer’s syndrome? Remember the head of the United Nations? I only wish Mel Brooks had had a Nazi orchestra conductor in “Springtime for Hitler”.

  11. NotAJournalist says:

    Too complex of an analysis IMO. Isn’t it possible he joined the Nazi Party because it suited his interests, collaborated with Jews because it suited his interests, and never examined his heritage, because it didn’t?

  12. Martin Bookspan says:

    He was not certain that his Nazi Party membership from Salzburg was fully operative, so a year later he joined the Nazi Party again, this time in Germany, just to make sure his membership was secure and unquestioned.

  13. According to the Wikipedia site for Karajan, membership in the Nazi party was not outlawed until June, 1933. But Karajan joined in April: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_von_Karajan

    • But he was dismissed from his post in Ulm nonetheless, despite his membership. How do you explain that?

      • Either he wasn’t Arisch enough, or maybe there were other issues?

        Who cares???

        • I can’t reply to your reply to my comment above, so I’ll have to do it here.

          I think that your comment smacks of moral relativism. Exactly what so many artists in nazi Germany were guilty of.

          Does being existentially threatened give you the right to engage in any action whatsoever? Hitler’s Germany was existentially threatened in 1944 when he started to send V1s and V2s to London. Does this fact make it ethical to blow up innocent civilans?

          • I think that individuals can — and should — take moral stands when necessary. Can a country take a moral stand, though? Should it? Of course, the leaders of a country (political, religious, celebrities etc.) can because they are individuals.

            As to the V1 and V2 rockets, let’s not forget who started that war! If the Nazis were existentially threatened in 1944, it was entirely their own fault.

  14. Clarissa Smid says:

    So sad that he was more concerned with his reputation than being an apologist. Had he just admitted what he’d signed up to perhaps we wouldn’t be reading about him in these terms. Then again such litigious refutation does confirm an absence of conscience in these matters…

    http://www.musiccollegesurvivor.WordPress.com

    I have always struggled with this sort of dichotomy. From a predominantly Jewish family, how to I process music played, conducted or generated by people who subscribe to political and moral beliefs that are so at odds with my belief in the unifying powers of music? Karajan was a great musician. I can only think that the power of the music and musicians he worked with allowed performance to transcend his basically racist world view. ..

    • It's That Steve Again (ITSA) says:

      Lack of conscience? Or just plain fear, and his way of dealing with that fear? I’ve not read anything on this fellow, but some of the behaviours described here have the overall look of fear-based motivation.

  15. Christophe says:

    There is also quite reliable information that Richard Wagner’s stepfather, Ludwig Geyer, was Jewish. Thus, Wagner’s anti-semitic and racist writings and the Nazi appropriation of his music, are another question of reconciliation of two halves of his identity. There is an unsubstantiated story of when the SS arrived in Prague at the Rudolfinium, they declared all statues of composers with Jewish roots to be destroyed. When the Director of the Rudolfinium pointed to Wagner, the SS captain declared Wagner as a Teutonic Hero. The Director asked if he meant Richard Geyer? The SS Captain was flummoxed. His response: the nose of Wagner’s statue was cut-off, but the rest was left in place. Indeed, how mysterious the human psyche is.

    • It's That Steve Again (ITSA) says:

      I am told by a post-war German who spent decades examining her background, who read voluminously, and spent some time checking archives in Austria and Germany, that Wagner denounced Hitler. How true this is I don’t know, but her comment on this was pretty matter-of-fact, as in that of someone who has checked it out and hasn’t heard anything new on this.

  16. Oh my goodness… Karajan lied about his membership… he wrote ugly things when he was a teenager… now I must ritually burn my huge collection with some of the greatest operatic and symphonic recordings of the 20th Century… I cannot bear it anymore!

  17. pray, do tell me -

    what racial stereotypes does a person have to fulfill so that s/he looks like a Jew or a Greek to you?

  18. Nazi or not, it’s as if Karajan had no political position at all. I can’t recall an instance of him conducting FOR any cause or event. Though he had died the previous summer, can you imagine him conducting for the fall of the Berlin Wall? Politics through music was a Bernstein position. Karajan appears disinterested in any issue that would be bigger than his own participation. His is such an engineered career, everything so calculated. I’ve always viewed his Nazi membership(s) – however many there were – as early tools of a opportunistic career builder. As were his revisionist legal challenges decades later.

    And so I am less troubled by his party affiliations than I am with, say, Oswald Kabasta (about whom I am more interested than enamored) or Karl Bohm (and I am conflicted by my respect for his spectacular work.) As Christoph von Dohnanyi said, Karajan was not a German conductor. I think his term was “international flower.”

    It’s been 23 years since his death, and still I find the Karajan sound breathtaking. Not always convincing or communicating the full spirit of a piece. But the control, the tonal effect still one of the greatest, though I understand why it would not be to everyone’s taste.

    • Karajan’s baton made no sound. The Berlin players, however, had a terrific sound.

      • which was partly a result of their conductor, and is a testament to his greatness.
        Note, how much more rough hewn they sound in Bernstein’s account of Mahler 9.
        Doubtlessley,Kubelik managed to stamp his personality on the BPO as well.

  19. Orin O'Brien says:

    Has anyone ever inquired why neither Georg Solti nor Leonard Bernstein was invited to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic while Karajan was alive? If I am not mistaken, both Solti and Bernstein were Jewish.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      According to the Leonard Bernstein website, he first conducted the Berlin Phil in 1979. Yes, Lenny was Jewish, and to my knowledge, Herbie was still alive at that time.

    • Bernstein and Karajan were actually reported to have gotten along very well, but they were the two big cheeses of the time, and they were also played against each other by agents and record companies, especially DG, so they mostly stayed away from each other’s turf. Bernstein actually invited Karajan to conduct the NYP, either during the late 50s or early 60s, and Karajan did come to NY. He also invited Bernstein to come to Berlin but he apparently couldn’t fit it into his calendar at the time. Later, the relationship apparently became a little more distant. He did conduct the BP on one occasion though, in 1979, in Mahler 9.

      Solti conducted the BP regularly, both during and after Karajan’s lifetime, as did many other Jewish conductors, such as Barenboim, Maazel, Levine, to name just a few I can think of off the top of my head.

      So there is nothing to “inquire” there.

      • The information in this post is almost entirely untrue. I won’t dismember it point by point, but to say that Solti conducted the Berlin Phil regularly during HvK’s lifetime is absurd. He did not.

        • “The information in this post is almost entirely untrue. I won’t dismember it point by point, but to say that Solti conducted the Berlin Phil regularly during HvK’s lifetime is absurd. He did not.”

          Sure he did. I saw him myself in concert a few times. The others I named I saw many times, and other Jewish conductors as well, e.g. David Shallon or Eliahu Inbal, Gary Bertini, Erich Leinsdorf, too, although only once as he died soon afterwards. Probably more, but I can’t spontaneously think of all that I saw because it never played a role for me whether they were Jewish or not. Nor did it apparently for anyone in the orchestra and management, or Karajan. Because if it had mattered, they wouldn’t have been invited numerous times. So there is really nothing to “investigate” there.

          The stuff about Karajan’s and Bernstein’s relationship is based on what I read in Osborne’s and Burton’s biographies.

          • For instance, I clearly remember I saw Solti conduct the BP at some point in 1988, the year before Karajan died, in a program of Beethoven and Bartók. Unfortunately, the BP archive website is a total mess, so precise research can not be conducted there.

            In any case, there is absolutely no basis at all to say that conductors of Jewish background were unwelcome in Berlin during Karajan’s time there. Nor were Jewish soloists nor prominent orchestra members. Two of his concertmasters – Spierer and Schwalbe – were Jewish, too.

          • Yes Addison says:

            The archives may be a mess as you say, Michael, but I still was able to confirm some of the information in your post in about two minutes. Good recall.

            http://www.berliner-philharmoniker.de/en/konzerte/calendar/from/1988-08/

          • Apologies to Michael- infact , your original post was entirely accurate. Sorry about this.

        • Daniel Farber says:

          Norman: you should catch up with Michael’s earlier post equating the racism of the US with that of Nazi Germany!

          • Daniel – racism is very hard to quantify therefore nearly impossible to “compare” or even “equate”. However, the reality is that after the Nazis came to power, the Jewish population which suffered from new racial legislation was less than 1% of the population while at the same time, black people in many states of the US suffered from similar treatment – and that was about 11-12% of the population. Plus, many ethnicities were excluded from becoming US citizens – for instance Chinese couldn’t become citizens until the 40s, Japanese not until the 50s. And I am sure you know what happened to those who were in the US during the war. Plus, the US did nothing to make immigration for persecuted Jews easier – they simply didn’t care. Plus, many highly prominent Americans were outspoken supporters of Hitler, for instance Charles Lindbergh, Joe Kennedy or Henry Ford. The latter’s extensive anti-Semitic writings were a major influence on Hitler.

            So I think it is safe to say that at least until things got really nasty in Germany in the late 30s (more exactly in late 1938), things weren’t all that worse at all then they were in the US at the time, or in colonial empires like the British or French.

            Those were nasty times and the latter excesses of the Nazis make many forget that – unconsciously or perhaps consciously because it is so convenient…

            So some small light like Karajan was in 1933 signing a party application so that he could keep or get a job is no big deal at all. He didn’t really know what he signed up for nor did he have much of a choice.

            If you want to understand the history of the period, you should concentrate on the real movers and perpetrators of the time. Not some musician who bece world famous later. Not because, but despite his dark past.

          • Daniel Farber says:

            “Excesses” of the Nazis. I rest my case.

          • @Michael:
            You said: “So I think it is safe to say that at least until things got really nasty in Germany in the late 30s (more exactly in late 1938), things weren’t all that worse at all then they were in the US at the time, or in colonial empires like the British or French.”

            What about the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 (the “Nürnberger Gesetze”) where all the horrible things which happened on a daily basis in Germany (to Jews and other ethnic groups such as gypsy Roma as well as ethnic cleansing of the elderly, mentally disturbed, physically handicapped and homosexuals) were codified as German law?

            When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, things were bad enough already. The Nazi party, founded in 1919 and back in those days ridiculed by most intelligent people as a gang of drunken thugs and disgruntled policemen, then became the legal government of Germany.

            You continue to try to equate the USA with Germany and other countries. To refresh your knowledge of history, I might remind you that it was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves in the USA back in 1865 (the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, but it took two more years before the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by both houses of Congress). It is tragic that many of the southern states continued to resist giving African-Americans their due freedoms until the late 1960′s, more than 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. And there have been many books written about the shameful history of how Native Americans have been treated up till very recent times.

            I am a U.S. citizen, an expat living abroad, and I am not proud of all of my country’s history. But the USA has never been a dictatorship, and lawful democratic process has up to now always won out in the end. To even think of equating Nazi Germany with any U.S. governmental regime is outlandish and a cowardly attempt at justification of what is certainly the darkest period in German history.

          • Daniel Farber says:

            I didn’t think “Michael” deserved a response so considered and thorough, but if I had felt otherwise I could not have done as well as you have, Robert. Someone called “realist” is also taking the moral equivalence route on Norman’s blog. I’ve really been taken aback by this. I was (all-too) familiar with this line with regard to the US v. Stalin’s USSR, but I had never found it invoked regarding the US and Nazi Germany. In this context, your moral clarity was truly heartening.

          • Robert said:

            “What about the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 (the “Nürnberger Gesetze”) where all the horrible things which happened on a daily basis in Germany (to Jews and other ethnic groups such as gypsy Roma as well as ethnic cleansing of the elderly, mentally disturbed, physically handicapped and homosexuals) were codified as German law?”

            Oh wow, you didn’t know that the Nazis’ eugenics laws were actually based on existing American laws, in the case of forced sterilization, the laws of the State of California?
            Well – most people don’t know that. But I am sure you do know that forced sterilization continued in the US for decades after Hitler put the pistol in his mouth.

            “I might remind you that it was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves in the USA back in 1865 (the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, but it took two more years before the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by both houses of Congress). It is tragic that many of the southern states continued to resist giving African-Americans their due freedoms until the late 1960′s, more than 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.”

            Indeed, and, again, for decades after Hitler put the pistol in his mouth. That’s not just “tragic”. It is extremely shameful and something that was going on *during your own lifetime*. You didn’t do anything against that, did you? Did your parents?
            And yes, I know, Lincoln is such a mythical figure in American history. Just invoking his name makes everything good, doesn’t it? It seems to me that your understanding of your own history is largely mythological in nature though.

            “To even think of equating Nazi Germany with any U.S. governmental regime is outlandish and a cowardly attempt at justification of what is certainly the darkest period in German history.”

            I think I addressed the question of whether it makes sense or not to “compare” or “equate” such things above, and I stated that I find it very difficult to think in those kinds of terms when it comes to such complex subjects of history. Yet you come back to that, you need to “equate” those things just so you can indignantly reject them. I understand that need, since, like I said, your understanding of your own history seems to be largely mythological (“Lincoln – the great Messianic figure – too bad half the country effectively repealed what he had achieved instantly, and clung to that for over a century, for decades after the Nazis left the stage of history”).
            But just look at the facts I gave you. Just look at the facts. Just the facts, not your mythology, not your need to feel good and patriotic about your own history. Just the facts, please. Truth hurts sometimes.

          • @ Robert Hairgrove:
            “But the USA has never been a dictatorship, and lawful democratic process has up to now always won out in the end. To even think of equating Nazi Germany with any U.S. governmental regime is outlandish and a cowardly attempt at justification of what is certainly the darkest period in German history.”

            Well, the Nazis rose to power – unfortunately – by “lawful democratic process” as you call it. And the US killed 100s of thousands of innocent civilians in wars in Vietnam and Iraq and elsewhere based on the same “lawful democratic process”. It’s a slippery slope and those claiming the moral high ground might want to make absolutely sure they are morally pure as a baby’s bottom. Tyranny of the masses or tyranny of a few, where is the difference if you are on the receiving end of a deadly weapon or even weapons of mass destruction?

          • ““Excesses” of the Nazis. I rest my case.”

            But Daniel – you haven’t made any “case” for anything here yet. You haven’t refuted any of my fact based points. Do you think that the excesses to which the Nazis eventually took their persecution of minorities such as the Jews excuses any of the rampant racism that was going on in the US at the same time? Do you think that because they went that far, all the victims of racism in the US at the same time really have no reason to complain? Along the lines of “yeah, they were all treated like shit, but at least they weren’t gassed, so they should count themselves lucky”?

          • “In 1971, my birthday (Feb. 7, 1952) was drawn from a hat by the U.S. military, and it was number 305 in the list. So I didn’t have to go to Vietnam. Of course, I didn’t volunteer for that war, either. I was admittedly much more concerned with completing my musical studies back then. So are you going to call me a “Trittbrettfahrer” with all the other anti-Vietnam demonstrators? Or do you wish to accuse me of being an opportunist?”

            No, I don’t wish to accuse you of anything. I am not into pointing fingers self-righteously at people who were born into difficult situations they couldn’t really influence. Like you. Or like Karajan. It is not your fault that you were born into a place at a time when racism was rampant (Texas, in your case, I gather from your website). Nor do I wish to fault you for not standing up to that but for wanting to continue your musical path instead – just like Karajan when he was about your age.
            I am glad you were lucky enough not to be sent off to help kill off millions (yes, about 3 million people died in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos as a result of your little post-colonial war there) or to get killed yourself. You were luckier than many people in the 20th century. Maybe you should consider that and be a little less ready to point fingers yourself?
            I am not a Christian, but I do kind of like the “whoever is without sin cast the first stone” thing.

          • “Someone called “realist” is also taking the moral equivalence route on Norman’s blog.”

            No, he isn’t, and nor did I, and I was very specific about that. You have said that three or four times now, just in order to avoid addressing the actual points made. You haven’t provided any sort of counterargument nor refuted any of the quoted facts.
            But, thanks for snapping to attention and confirming time and time again that the kind of blind patriotism which was very common in the 1920 and 30s is still very alive in some parts of the western world, with all the attached side effects.

        • Gentlemen, keep this Jewish self fulfilling separatism please out of this.
          There are numerous conductors, Jewish or not Jewish, who were not – or only once – invited to conduct in Karajan’s territory, such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Pierre Boulez, Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein, Sergiu Celibdache etc. It’s an issue of the ego, not of the religion/culture.

          • Well, in the case of Kleiber – he was invited repeatedly, but it was himself who decided not to come, to find an excuse to cancel at short notice on several occasions, that had nothing to do with Karajan.
            But your point still stands, of course.

        • “The information in this post is almost entirely untrue.”

          Almost???
          Is there ANY truth in it at all???

        • While the information is mostly untrue, Michael is correct in saying “there’s nothing to enquire”. Jewish conductors weren’t excluded from conducting the BPO during Karajan’s (far too long) reign.

        • NIgel SImeone says:

          Just to be clear, he was an occasional visitor during the Karajan years. Certainly not a regular, but not a rarity either. Here are the concerts I found (listed in the Berlin PO’s concert calendar) that he gave with the Berlin Philharmonic between 1955 and 1989:

          14 and 15 January 1956, incl. Debussy: La Mer
          26 and 27 April 1962, incl Mahler: Symphony 4
          17 and 18 May 1963, incl Bartók: Miraculous Mandarin; Schumann: Rhenish Symphony
          3 and 4 June 1966, incl Schumann: Symphony 2; Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel
          6 Oct 1967, Schoenberg: Erwartung; Stravinsky: Jeu de Cartes, Symphony in 3 movts
          3 and 4 March 1979, Mahler: Symphony 2
          6 and 7 March 1981, Brahms: Symphony 4; Bartok Concerto for Orchestra
          14 and 15 September 1988, Bartok: Music for Strings, Perc, and Celesta; Beethoven: Eroica Symphony

      • This is certainly untrue. Solti did feel he was frozen out by Karajan yet recounts in his memoirs that he was surprised to receive an invitation to conduct from HvK just before the latter’s death.

        • Just to clear somethings up I have just been looking at Solti’s autobiography. In the early 1960s HvK asked him to conduct an opera at Salzburg but Solti declined as the work in question was by a contemporary composer who he didn’t care for. There was no meaningful contact between them for over 20 years but then in 1986 Solti was invited to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic at the 1988 Salzburg Easter Festival. He says the invitation came from Karajan himself. In 1989 Solti was in Salzburg conducting a Berlin Phil concert and HvK asked him to conduct Strauss Die Frau in Salzburg in 1992. Of course Karajan died shortly afterwards.

        • I remember reading that as well.
          At the start of that excellent Dornhelm documentary on Karajan, Solti speaks in glowing terms about Karajan (“Greatest conductor of the 20th Century”) so the feelings couldn’t have been too bad.

    • Bear in mind that the leader of Karajan’s BPO, Michel Schwalbe, was Jewish. In Schwalbe’s obituary the Telegraph said: ‘That the Jewish violinist and the former Nazi conductor worked together so successfully and for so long baffled many observers, but both considered their relationship to be a personal and public act of post-war reconciliation.’

      • Or:

        ‘That the Jewish violinist and the former Nazi conductor worked together so successfully and for so long baffled many observers, but both considered their relationship to be a personal and public act of mutually profitable business, which renders people impervious to personal or moral qualms.”

        It kind of reminds me of a famous American opera conductor who really, really likes young children. But tut tut, we mustn’t speak about that since he’s such a genius musician.

        Classical musicians are more fortunate in being less famous and visible than their pop counterparts. Michael Jackson got dragged into court for similar (possibly lesser) offences. But indicting Jackson had more money making potential for the media and others than an opera conductor’s trial ever would.

        Karajan should have gotten the same treatment as Furtwangler post-WW II.

        • “It kind of reminds me of a famous American opera conductor who really, really likes young children. But tut tut, we mustn’t speak about that since he’s such a genius musician.”

          That’s a completely nonsensical comparison and one that is actually very insulting to Schwalbé. He wasn’t a helpless victim there, he was a willing and highly regarded artistic partner to Karajan, out of his own choice.

          And here he explains why. Not only because he felt going to Berlin was a gesture of reconciliation, but also because he felt that he and Karajan were musically very much on the same wavelength.

          Which kind of completely contradicts what our Norman here wrote in one of his books about Karajan, namely that his esthetic of music making in itself was a reflection of his lifelong Nazi conviction (I hope I am not describing that completely wrong here, but that’s roughly how I remember it). I find it hard to see that as something like that when someone who lost his whole family in the Holocaust says that he was completely on the same wavelength with Karajan – musically.

          http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/michel-schwalbe-des-meisters-erste-geige/1622130.html

          “Karajan should have gotten the same treatment as Furtwangler post-WW II.”

          He did. Both went through de-Nazification and both were not allowed to work for extensive periods of time. So they both had their punishment.

  20. A few words in defense of ambition:

    Gustav Mahler was so intent of getting the conductor’s job at the hofoper in Vienna, which excluded Jews form that job, that he actually gave up his Judaism and converted to Catholicism in order to qualify for it; a job which he eventually secured to the delight of Viennese opera goers, and which secured him enough financially to be able to compose in the summers. That’s ambition! And what would humanity be like if he had not secured that job? Might he have been, possibly like von Karajan, relegated to some backwater opera house in Bavaria or Austria, only to die without giving us 10 incredible symphonies?

    Some of you chaps are taking HvK to task for possibly joining the Nazis only to further his career. Let me say up front, I don’t know much about the details of his career path. Frankly, I’ve never liked the guy. He always came across as a bit of “putz” in interviews I’ve seen or read of him. I don’t know whether or not this guy was a virulent anti-Semite during Hitler, or whether he mighty have been somewhat passive about Jews in general.

    But it’s certainly a fact the antisemitism was rife in all of Europe for 500 hundred years prior to the Nazis. Moreover, the whole subject of German/Austrian antisemitism is far more complex than it is coming across in this little colloquy here.

    Even though Jews were fully assimilated into life in the German speaking countries prior to the Nazis, there is very good evidence that behind closed doors Jews were looked down on by non-Jews in Germany and certainly in Austria. (Obviously, Hitler traded on widespread latent antisemitism.) Alma Schindler, a Catholic who in her salad days was the toast of Viennese society, married two Jews in three marriages: Gustav Mahler and Franz Werfel. Her letters are rife with put-downs of both husbands for their “Jewishness.,” especially of Werfel, with whom she escaped from Austria to emigrate to America. Yet she married two well know Jews.

    Ambition is good! I’m not excusing von Karajan by any means but I think it might be good to try to understand what he was possibly trying to accomplish in joining the Nazis.

    Did he lie? Probably.

  21. Just how often did Solti invite Bernstein to conduct in Chicago?
    And Bernstein Solti to conduct in NY?
    How many “big name” conductors did Levine ask to stand on the Met’s rostrum? etc. etc. etc.
    Like it or not, most of the “older” or (long) deceased generation of conductors had THEIR orchestras – they did not just use them as a stop-over between well-paid gigs, a development this blog (and its blogger) has been criticising for years (and quite rightly so).

  22. Greg Hlatky says:

    “Perhaps the better question is — who is more morally complicit, Karajan, or Americans who voted for “W” and Obama a second time?”

    Holodomor: 1.8 – 7.5 million deaths
    The Great Terror: 1 – 1.2 million executions
    The Great Leap Forward: 18 – 32.5 million deaths
    The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: 1 – 3 million deaths
    The Killing Fields: 1.7 – 2.5 million deaths

    Perhaps the better question is – who is more morally complicit, an ambitious careerist like Karajan or the ideologically-sympathetic “humanists”, “public intellectuals”, journalists and academics who were apologists for if not supporters of the Soviets, the Chinese communists and the Khmer Rouge.

    • So you do quantify morality in body counts. Interesting concept.
      How many dead bodies are the threshold between bad morals and very bad morals?
      Btw, you forgot about 20-30 million deaths by US led wars after WWII. The US had their own “Great Leap Forward”. Of course the killing of foreign civilians was done in the name of freedom, and justified by “lawful democratic process”, so nothing to worry about. These millions of mostly brown and yellow people were killed with good morales.

      • Exactly a comparison used earlier in this thread, I recall.

        I would counter that there is a difference between:
        (a) the killing, execution, persecution of ‘your own people’
        (b) wanton killing of others (e.g. groups of terrorists looking for mass destruction)
        (c) deaths as a result of a war designed to PREVENT casualties.
        (by which I mean – international involvement in the Balkans clearly involved deaths; but I hope far fewer deaths as a result of halting the genocidal ethnic cleansing taking place amongst the Serbs et al)

        • Dear Vienna Professor,
          Unless you would care to detail your 20-30 million alleged deaths in the supposed American “great leap forward,” your words on that allegation merit only the remark that they are insane.
          America came out fairly well of WWII because there was very little physical warfighting here. There were sacrifices here however, and while we seem to have made it out of WWII looking rosy, it had alot to do with Rosie the Riveter, and I note that American society has never been able to return to the days when middle class women did not work conventional jobs. So there are important things we now take for granted that were defining historical changes for the worse, not as severe as other places perhaps, but parallel to those other changes. The American family and culture is still seriously challenged by the “winning” of WWII.
          America came out well from WWII in a manner similar to the way Britain came out well after the Seven Years War. But these things do not last forever, and now America is faced with the economic difficulties of its middle class and the permanent undesirable changes in its social structure that merit serious attention. I believe you might do well to consider that the era of the major wars is not in fact over, and that serious economic warfare is being engaged in a number of ways around the world. If this is so then please consider that America is using its citizens as an economic army, of which millions have lost their homes. This is not to excuse the US, merely to point out that some serious sacrifice is going on here compared to the perception you seem to allow. This being so, it seems Austria is not doing too badly. At least you really still have a middle class.

    • Thank you for mentioning this.

  23. I think the more interesting area to consider which I haven’t seen much detail on is how karajans sexuality influenced his behaviour. Karajan the unrepentant nazi doesn’t seem to stack up with his marriage during the war, and post war with his work with Jewish, gay and black artists.

    As a bisexual or gay person in nazi germany I would have thought he would be in potentially a very diffucult situation

    I would be interested to hear more on what is only touched on in Osbournes biography.

  24. The American-German music critic Paul Moor told me around 1985 that von Karajan had joined the Nazi Party twice. So this has been known for awhile.

  25. Keep in mind H. G. Wells’ hatred of the Catholic Church’s allowance of anti-Semitism; but the quote he’s known for here is not in Germany.

    He said he wouldn’t drive in France, because of his temptation to run over a priest.

  26. Then again, if we disapprove of everybody remotely reprehensible- for whatever reasons- and dismiss them accordingly, we are sure to end up very much alone and isolated. Is this a positive way to communicate and improve the world? And are WE so perfect that others won’t judge us later, out of context, for who-knows-what?
    We are dealing with great musicians here and not vile criminals, in any case.

    • I think, Mr. Hess, that is the central point. I can pick a slew of artists (in all media) whose politics I do not like. I’ll still watch and listen to them. Others can do as they choose. I think the great majority would agree with you on this.

  27. Schwartzkopf is an interesting case. Her father lost his university job becuase he didn’t join the Nazi party. May’ve *partly* motivated her decision. Very easy to slam people with the benefit of hindsight.

  28. Petros Linardos says:

    Norman, I think you overestimate Karajan’s Greek connection. His last ancestor to be born in Greece appears to be Georg Johann Karajoannes (1743-1813), according to http://www.karajan.co.uk/family.html. Georg’s son, and Herbert’s great grandfather, Theodor Georg Ritter von Karajan (1810-1873) was a very prominent Viennese. What makes you think that Herbert von Karajan had any sense of Greek identity?

  29. Do you have a reliable source for that highly dramatic story? You do know that she was married to a Jewish man after the war, do you?

  30. “It was told to me by a cast member who was personally present. I don’t wish to name the source, however.”

    Why not? Because it is made up? It certainly sounds like the beginning of an urban legend. Schwarzkopf seems to have been a haughty person, but this story is so over the top, it is simply not credible – no matter what her private views may really have been or not. It is the kind of story someone would make up who only knows about “the Nazis” from old movies – someone who would post that on the internet under a made up name.

  31. And she was shouting that in English or German? It sounds extremely unlikely that this incident could be true.

  32. Walter Legge was not Jewish.

  33. I couldn’t resist posting this link in that context:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aokRKiFTNkWY&refer=culture

  34. The rumor that Legge was Jewish seems to have been started by none other than Rudolf Bing. Quoted by Allan Jefferson in his biography of Schwarzkopf, he said:

    “Years later, Bing bitterly recalled his misgivings over Schwarzkopf, whom he did not invite to sing at the Met until 1964: ‘I can forgive her for having worn a Nazi uniform and for taking an American colonel as a boyfriend right after the war, but I cannot swallow the fact that she then married a Jew.’”

    But Glenn McNatt, in this review of August 18, 1996 in the “Baltimore Sun”, states:

    “On the last point Bing almost certainly was mistaken — there is no evidence that Legge was Jewish — but the remark nevertheless suggests the depth of animosity many refugees from Nazi terror harbored toward those alleged to have collaborated with the Third Reich.”
    http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1996-08-18/news/1996231155_1_nazi-party-schwarzkopf-sopranos

    Unfortunately, the rumor was then taken up by others such as Michael H Kater in an article in “The Guardian” which appeared on 24 August 2006 and reiterated without quoting any additional source for that information:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2006/aug/24/classicalmusicandopera.secondworldwar

  35. “Norman Lebrecht says:
    December 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Walter Legge was not Jewish.”

    I thought I had read that from a number of sources (M.Kater comes to mind) – which doesn’t mean it’s true, of course. I never paid much attention to that because it doesn’t really matter to me.

    I think you may be right though because I just remembered that Legge produced the Zauberflöte in Berlin in 1937, with the BP and Beecham, and that might have been difficult if he had actually been Jewish. I don’t know though how strictly they controlled that with foreign nationals. On the other hand, they wanted Kipnis and Tauber for the cast but those artists were not “permissible”. But they went ahead with the recording anyway, with an “Aryan” cast – in Berlin, in 1937, when things were well under way there and there were few doubts what the Nazis were really up to.

    I guess that makes Legge and Beecham “Nazi collaborators”, too…

  36. It’s completely unfounded. I researched Legge’s antecedents for my book, The Life and Death of Classical Music, and found nothing to suggest Jewish ancestry. Why do people keep peddling such nonsense?

  37. thank you.

  38. ” – someone who would post that on the internet under a made up name…”

    …such as “Michael”, perhaps?

  39. Michael,
    Very astute about the made-up name. There is also a strange circuitousness about its derivation from Parsifal, and real and imagined significances thereof, including of its toerisch user, who is not so “rein;” the pseudonym can however be loosely understood as “Pure Foolishness,” and perhaps that is where the matter best lies.

  40. … particularly considering, that S. Jerusalem isn’t even jewish, or is he?

  41. “Realist says:
    December 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    … particularly considering, that S. Jerusalem isn’t even jewish, or is he?”

    Dunno, but it is rather unlikely (though not impossible) because he was born in Germany in 1940. The last name “Jerusalem” is not that entirely uncommon among non-Jewish Germans. It may go back to the time of the crusades when people who had taken part in that funfest adopted the name to indicate they had taken part in a crusade.

    We can also invent a story about Schwarzkopf coming in and shrieking: “Fagot! Fagot! Fagot!” since Jerusalem plyed the bassoon (“Fagott” in German) professionally before beginning his singing career.

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