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What became of the five full scores the Wagners gave to Hitler?

The Germanische Nationalmuseum Nürnberg – yes, that’s what is called – is putting the original score of Meistersinger on show from this Thursday.



What they’d really like to know is the whereabouts of five fair-copy scores – Die Feen, Rienzi, Das Liebesverbot, Rheingold and Walküre - that the Wagner family gave as birthday presents to ‘Uncle Wolf’ in the days when Bayreuth was Nazi heaven. Sven Friedrich, head of the Richard Museum at Bayreuth, thinks they may have got incinerated in the Führer bunker, taken to Russia or stolen by some freelance 1945-er.

gmn Wagner_Home_340x300_01

If they did turn up who would they belong to? The Hitler estate? The German state? Heirs of the light-fingered opportunist? Lawyers’ delight.

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  1. Yes, the score to RIENZI would be a huge find, as that fair copy contained EVERY BAR of music Wagner intended to have in RIENZI, prior to his cutting of it. This represents 45-50 minutes more music, supposedly. Someone find it!

  2. Peter Freeman says:

    Can there really be a Hitler estate or is that a joke?

    • Peter, apparently so, even if they would prefer not to be reminded of it, and here it says they want no financial part of it, quite a fascinating article. I recall seeing a tv programme about this some years ago:

    • Of course there is a Hitler estate. That’s a very odd question. Even though to most people Hitler was simply The Devil, he was also a real person who lived in a real world with real legal frameworks, nationally and internationally. He was very wealthy and some legal arrangements had to be found for his wealth and the copyright for his book Mein Kampf. But the Patrick Hitler side of the family wasn’t entitled to any of that anyway, even if they had tried to claim rights to it.

      See here:

      Hitler was also a tax dodger. He was constantly fighting with the tax authorities in Munich to avoid paying taxes on his income, the royalties he received from his book, generous donations he had received from supporters. The funny thing is that in 1934, over a year after he had become Reichskanzler (before that, his occupation was listed as “author”), a tax inspector in Munich, apparently completely oblivious to the realities of the new regime, pulled up his file and sent him an invoice for over 400,000 Reichsmark (an enormous sum at the time) and asked him to kindly pay up his debt. After all, in Germany, everything has to be doe by the book! Contrary to what you might think though, that man did not simply “disappear” – his superior found a “legal” solution so Hitler’s tax debt could be forgiven and a new, tax-exempt status was created for his office.

      You can see the tax document here:

      • Peter Freeman says:

        I guess I just assumed that since he had brought his country to economic ruin, he would be in the same boat, or that if he did leave money it would have been confiscated by the new state as proceeds of war crimes. Fascinating! Thanks

  3. whats wrong with ‘Germanisch’?

    Is it not more likely they were somewhere round Berchtesgaden, Obersalzberg, and then taken back to the US as was so much that was found around there by free roaming american troops.

  4. Yes, that is what it is called, for good reasons. The term “Germanistik” was coined by linguists around the Brothers Grimm for the study of the groups of languages of which one developed into what is now called Deutsch and its many dialects in the Middle Ages to provide a wider historical context for the study of the development of those languages and the cultures of their speakers. “Germanisch” is the adjective for that which as such has nothing sinister about it at all – English also is a Germanic language. The museum was founded a few years after the failed revolution of 1848 and called “National” because its aim was to document and demonstrate to the fragmented states of what in English is incorrectly called Germany what their common cultural heritage is. An enormously rich and complex cultural heritage not just in the field of music, BTW. That the Nazis abused that for their political motives doesn’t change anything about the richness and complexity of that cultural heritage.

    German history isn’t just from 1933-45.

    • Thank You!

      • The name is still somewhat strange. There is indeed nothing particulaly wrong with “germanisch” as long as you refer it to the prehistoric germanic tribes or to the germanic languages. But there is certainly no germanic nation nor has ever been.

        • It’s only strange if you don’t really understand the complex meaning of the term “germanisch” as defined and used by the Grimm Brothers and other linguists/ethnologists/literature/culture historians of the time and still today. And, yes, I know it is difficult to understand for English speakers because of the – actually completely wrong – way the words “German” and “Germany” for “deutsch” and “Deutschland” are used in English. But it really shouldn’t be because it is also connected to English language and history.
          Deutschland (“Germany”) in fact is, in the wider sense, *a* Germanic nation, although not the *only* Germanic nation, in the sense that it developed from Germanic origins. There is no clear separation line between “Germanic” and “deutsch” and that is why the Grimms wisely decided to study the “German” language (“deutsch”) and its history in the wider, “Germanic” context. And there is nothing strange or sinister about that if you know a little more about “German”, “Germanic” and European history in general than from what you may have learned from war moves or sensationalist documentaries. Like I said, “German” history is not just 1933-45. It is also a fundamental mistake to view all of “German” history through the lens of that period. And what the Grimms did was pioneering work from which the linguistic studies of many languages massively benefited. They were among the first scholars to apply a scientific approach to the study of their own linguistic and cultural history to their own native language rather than just Latin and Greek.
          So what this museum was intended to do is paint a picture of the national culture of “Germany” in the wider “Germanic” context and that has very little to do just with the Nazis and extremist German *nationalism*. It’s a great museum. You should go if you happen to be in the area. You will be amazed to how much more there is to “German” and “Germanic” culture than just the Nazis.

          I hope I hadn’t confused you too much now!

          • Nothing of this is new to me, but thank you anyway. (I am German, and I took my PhD on a topic related to nations and nationalism.)

            There is of course a German (“deutsch”) Nation, but some thing like a Germanic (“germanisch”) Nation never existed. There is a number of different nations speaking Germanic languages, like the Norwegians, the Dutch, the Germans etc., but not one Germanic nation.

          • That’s exactly what I said!

            “Deutschland (“Germany”) in fact is, in the wider sense, *a* Germanic nation, although not the *only* Germanic nation, in the sense that it developed from Germanic origins. There is no clear separation line between “Germanic” and “deutsch” and that is why the Grimms wisely decided to study the “German” language (“deutsch”) and its history in the wider, “Germanic” context.” Etcetc…

            “So what this museum was intended to do is paint a picture of the national culture of “Germany” in the wider “Germanic” context” Etcetc…


          • Please curb the personal attacks.

  5. Assuming the scores were legally the personal property of Adolf Hitler, the question whom they now belong to is simple: to the government of Bavaria, which is his sole heir. Hitler died without any legal inheritors, and according to German law in such cases the estate belongs to the government of the state where the deceased had his last official residence. And Hitler had always kept his official residence in Munich.

    This, by the way, is the reason why reprints of “Mein Kampf” are illegal in continental Europe: The Bavarian government is the copyright holder and denies any licence to reprint or translate the work. However, copyright will expire on 31 December 2015.

    Nevrtheless, Norman, are you sure the scores were given to Hitler by the Wagner family? I have no source for this at hand, but I seem to recall that I red about this before, and that it was put differently: That a group of leading German industrialists bought the scores and gave the to Hitler as a present for his 50th birthday in 1939.

    • Bill Benson says:

      Simon says – Hitler dictated his Last Will and Testament on April 29, 1945. In it he left small bequests to various relatives and friends and his (stolen) art collection to his home town of Linz. As to the rest of his estate…

      ” What I possess belongs – in so far as it has any value – to the Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary.”

      I’m not aware that the Will was ever accepted and probated by any competent German court. I’m also not aware of exactly when the NSDAP was formally dissolved by the Allies or the post-war German government and who claimed its assets.

      Curiously it might be argued that the German state itself ceased to exist prior to the dissolution of the Nazi Party. On June 5, 1945, following the surrender of the German military, Allied representatives signed the “Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers”, under which the Four Powers assumed direct and absolute control of the administration of Germany. Thus while the German “nation” continued it could no longer claim to exist as a “state” in the international sense. By this same token, the former political entities comprising Germany , such as Bavaria, simultaneously ceased to exist. What claims to Hitler’s estate the reconstituted post-war German state or substates would have on the missing Wagner manuscripts would make a great court case.

      • IANAL, but AFAIK according to a ruling of the German constitutional court, Germany as a state never ceased to exist. Its armed forces surrendered unconditionally, but this doesn’t eliminate the state – and occupation is not annexation. The same applies for the state of Bavaria. And the case of Hitler’s estate is juridically resolved as well, cf. the “Mein Kampf” copyright. It is held by the Bavarian government as well. Ther were some legal claims against this, but they were all unsuccessful.

        So the ownership question wouldn’t be very tricky as long as the scores appeared in Germany or some EU state. On the other hand, if they appeared in Russia, the Kremlin would probably claim ownership as part of the reparations, as it did with several works of art like the so called Priam’s Treasure.

        • Bill Benson says:

          Simon says – The self-serving ruling of a German court aside, in general there are a number of criteria which a political and geographic entity must meet in order to be considered a sovereign “state”. These include a centralized government with supreme authority over a defined geographic area, a permanent population, the ability to enter into agreements with other states, and an existence independent of the actions of another state or states (excluding war).

          Under the terms of the 1945, “Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers “, Germany no longer met any of these criteria other than possessing a permanent population. Interestingly enough, it was not until “The Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany” was signed on Sept. 12, 1990 by the Federal Republic of Germany , the German Democratic Republic, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the , United States that the WWII Allied Powers finally renounced all rights they held in Germany, allowing a reunified Germany to become fully sovereign the following year.

          As to Hilter’s estate, it appears that the Bavarian government seized all of Hitler’s assets after the war and then retroactively legalized this action by having a Munich court declare Hitler’s will to be void because no death certificate had been issued. Opens the question of the Wagner manuscripts having been left at Berchtesgarten and if so whether the Bavarians now have them on ice.

          As to Mein Kampf, Hitler’s sister and other relatives later tried to obtain control of his estate, including the copyright to Mein Kampf but were unsuccessful except for subsequently being awarded the royalties to the sequel, Zweites Buch, in 1962.

          • It is generally acknowledged in international law that military defeat and subsequent occupation by foreign powers doesn’t mean this state ceases to exist. Just take a look at Irak in 2003: complete military defeat, and all powers of government assumed by the allied powers. Still, nobody claims Irak had ceased to exist as a state in 2003.

            A previously sovereign state only ceases to exist if it is formally annexed by another, like the Kingdom of Hanover by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. This, however, never happened (and was never intended) in case of post-1945 Germany.

            The West German government form in 1949 claimed legal succesorship for the German Reich, and this was internationally accepted, at least in the Western world. On this basis, the Federal Republic of Germany assumed all the assets of the Reich – and became the addressee for all claims concerning pre-45 Germany.

          • Bill Benson says:

            Simon says – A good point. Except that the situation of Germany following the capitulation of May 8, 1945 constitutes a special case.

            First, as pointed out, the Allies formally assumed total military, political and social control over the Reich with the issuance of the “Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers” which, if we assume that Germany continued to exist as a “state” meant that it was a state with absolutely no speck of self-government. A rare bird indeed.

            Secondly, after having large chunks of territory chopped off and annexed by other countries, the entity formerly known as Germany was then further subdivided in 1949 by the Allies into the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany, both recognized as separate “states” by numerous countries and subsequently accepted as individual UN members in 1973, a defacto (if belated) recognition by the world community that the pre-war German state no longer existed.

            Thirdly, when the East and West German states reconstituted themselves into a single state in 1990 the act was accomplished via a treaty between sovereign states.

          • If the Federal Republic of Germany was not the legal successor of the German Reich, how could it be held liable for the crimes committed by the latter?

          • Bill Benson says:

            Simon says – I don’t recall stating that either the Federal Repubic or the German Democratic Republic were not the legal successors to the Reich. But the fact that the Allies imposed various obligations and responsibilities on these two states is no indication that either was considered to be simply pre-war Germany with a new name as opposed to a completely new legal entity. It was simply more proof that te Alies had the power to do what thay wanted with what used to be the Reich and could hold the new countries responsible for the actions of the old.

  6. Rob van der Hilst says:

    In a television-broadcast in 1989 of 1990 (on German television) some very damaged pagefragments of the Wagner-autographes were shown, in a former church in Moscow (used as a store), as parts of a extended collection of the inventory of Hitlers former quarters in Berlin. This was the first and last time I saw some traces of them.

  7. Winifred gave the scores to Hitler (Hamann:2002), she did ask for them to be placed in some museum. it is not known if he agreed, they probably went up in the bunker.

    • Hamann is in error: Winifried Wagner never had the scores to give to Hitler; these were presented by the composer to King Ludwig II. According to the “Wagner Werk Verzeichnis” edited by Martin Geck, John Deathridge, and Egon Voss (Schott, 1986), 21: “The most notable examples [of the missing scores] of ‘Feen’, ‘Liebesverbot’, ‘Rienzi’, ‘Rheingold’ and ‘Walküre’ which have been lost since 1945. Wagner presented them on various occasions in the 1860s to King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and it was from his estate that they came into the possession of the Wittelsbacher Ausgleichfonds. They were given to Adolf Hitler in 1939 on his fiftieth birthday as a gift from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.”
      Towards the end of the war, Wieland and Wolfgang Wagner journeyed to Berlin to ask for the return of the scores for safekeeping, but their request was refused. Robert F. Bailey, the late and preeminent authority on Wagner’s music, related to me of his conversation with Hans Knapperbusch, who after the war claimed to have seen and handled the original scores somewhere in Germany. Knappersbusch, however, declined to reveal further details.

      • I am unable to attest Hamann’s accuracy on this matter except to quote the reference to her work (Hamann: 2002, pp.301). citations are also given (letter Winifred to A Speer 17.9.1973 and compilation by Otto Strobel 1.10.1951. N. Wagner’s copy). On the matter of the where-abouts. Hamann concludes that they “have never been traced”. (pp396). Which leaves the point that Knappertsbusch could not have been deceived about seeing the originals after the war.

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