Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds
Chicago psychotherapist Dr Gerald Stein once put the question to the Italian maestro. Click here to read his dignified response.
Norman, thank you for posting this. The article raises issues for all of us today- especially in this world of conflict and war, and what we may accept of our leaders and what we must oppose.
A good many conductors today would do well to develop a similar dignity and integrity. Maestro Giulini’s centenary falls next year. Let us hope it receives due homage.
For me, the most important part of this profoundly wise statement is the defense of one fundamental thing: the historical perspective. We are ever so eager to take the high moral ground and to judge the past according to current moral standards which are, of course, the highest, deepest and generally most perfect in human history. For three thousand years humanity was blind, fortunately – “Today” came, and there was Light.
They will say the same of us “Tomorrow”.
Giullini was not only a eminent conductor and musician, but a great humanitarian. It is easy to draw conclusions about conduct people had during times of great tragedies such as WWII, but I until one personally goes through an experience like Giullini went through, can one understand the gravity of the situation they have been put in. I hope that Furtwängler did not participate in Nazi propaganda and atrocities with the full knowledge of the sheer evilness of the regime. In his answer to the question, the great Italian Maestro remained the consummate and dignified man of distinction he always seemed to be.
Considering the atrocities of the Nuremburg Laws, the sociopathy of the National Socialist regime was clear to the entire world. Furtwängler everyone else, including the entire international community had good reason not to collaborate. An important lesson for today.
I’m sorry, but this is anti-historical nonsense of the exact kind Giulini is rightly condemning.
I’m confused. Are you saying the Nuremburg Laws did not happen? If you object to the word “sociopathy” could you provide a better one? Are you saying that no one in Germany knew of these laws? My history books are clear that these actions were common knowledge. If you have different sources, I would like to examine them.
I’m sorry, but “asked and answered”. It’s rather naive to think that, since the Nuremberg laws were “common knowledge”, people really wanted to know what it meant and act on this knowledge. They rarely do before it’s too late. Read my quotation from Simone Weil, who, directly concerned by them, didn’t want to. As previously stated: it’s easy to judge ex post and to give oneself good conscience fighting a war fought and won 70 years ago.
william osborne says:
September 8, 2013 at 1:20 am
“Considering the atrocities of the Nuremburg Laws, the sociopathy of the National Socialist regime was clear to the entire world. Furtwängler everyone else, including the entire international community had good reason not to collaborate. An important lesson for today.”
Indeed, and not just today. Remember you grew up at a time when the country you grew up in had very similar laws on the books for the black citizens in many of its states – long after Hitler had put the pistol in his mouth.
So, what heroic action did you and your parents’ generation take to fight that injustice?
Both of them were heroes of different causes.
I was privileged to have worked with this man………..
Hard to imagine a more sane and intelligent response.
Wise man, indeed.
Guilini’s idea isn’t exactly new. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
In the article, we are told we can’t know why Furtwangler was a collaborator. In fact, we dare not use that word. This is expanded to the idea that nothing can be judged because context is everything.
Or are there times when moral stances are justified? It might have prevented the National Socialists from coming to power and thus saved 50 million lives. Guilini’s non-committal philosophy and the article’s relativist stance might be too facile.
Mr. Giulini expressed his stance quite clearly by stating: “I was not a fascist, and at the moment I had to make a strong decision, and also a dangerous decision, I took it. But I am not in a position to do any criticism of another person.” Of course, such a “non-committal philosophy” is far “too facile” to be honourable. Thank you for dishing out the well deserved blame so readily.
Better to be like the millions of people who witnessed the atrocities of the Nuremburg laws and said nothing? And like all the people who still demand that we remain silent?
Dear Mr Osborne, who asks you today to remain silent? All I’m asking you to do – and, if I understand well, so do some of the other participants here – is not to judge the past according to your current knowledge and ex post certainties. As for the Nuremberg Laws, they have been adopted in 1935. And you are right to say that “millions of people said nothing”. A few years earlier however the communists didn’t stop to vote a law: they actually, deliberately, starved several millions to death. Even then “millions of people said nothing”. People know what they choose to know, ignore what they choose to ignore, and then it’s too late. In 1941, after what happened in Ukraine in the early thirties, many Ukrainians greeted Hitler as a saviour. History is full of tricks.
True, the great Soviet famine, caused by totalitarian policies, was an outrage and people should have stopped it. You example is excellent. Many Ukrainians greeted Hitler as a savior in spite of barbarism like the Nuremburg laws — until the figured out that it was his intention to also exterminate the Slavic people and colonize their lands. Then they decided to speak up, but it was a bit late. Around 27 million people in the Soviet Union died in a war that could have been stopped — especially in the mid 30s if the West had not allowed Hitler to re-militarize the Ruhrgebiet.
And now let’s see what happens as the USA gears up to rain cruise missiles on Syria and continue the conditions for the bloody civil war it helped to instigate. Will the American people speak up and stop it?
As I have tried to tell you before, the WW II could have been stopped even later, had not Stalin provided Hitler with all the best opportunities, including massive strategic and logistic help. As for the millions of dead in his own country, they might have all stayed alive, had he not blindly trusted Hitler until the very end and had he prepared the country for the attack, rather than to disorganize the army and behead its command.
As for the Syria problem you brought up, maybe some logic and coherence woulnd’t be amiss: do you want bloody tyrants to be stopped or don’t you? The problem is they have to be stopped today, not 80 years ago. That ship has sailed.
This is all off topic, but Stalin never trusted Hitler, hence the massive Soviet armaments program begun in the 30s. Mein Kampf left the Soviets with little doubt about what Hitler had in mind.
Is Assad the tyrant, or is our own government being the aggressor? And to the topic, will people speak their minds?
Unfortunately, you don’t seem to know your history very well. Stalin trusted Hitler to the last. The testimonies to that are many: he obstinately refused to believe all the informations (check “Richard Sorge”) concerning the attack, considering them as “British propaganda”. “In the 30s” Stalin was more occupied to massacre his nation by the million, and your “armament program” (it would be nice to have some details on that) didn’t have Hitler’s name on it. Anyway, it couldn’t have been very efficent, otherwise Stalin wouldn’t have needed the 11 billion dollars (120 billion of today) from the lend-lease act. American money saved him.
Your last two phrases are, I admit, quite amazing. You ask: “will people speak their minds?”. But absolutely, it is indeed the right question, but who should let them speak? The United States, or Mr Assad?
And are you absolutely sure you would like the answer? Because that’s the trouble with real democracy: you never know what comes out of it. Even with a fake one you can have nasty surprises, look what happened in Moscow yesterday.
But maybe the most interesting aspect of your speech is elsewhere. You ask “why didn’t anyone do anything to stop Hitler in the 30s?”. But for the same reasons you wouldn’t do anything today. It’s easy to make a choice concerning Hitler and to fight a war that has been fought and won 70 years ago. It’s a little harder to make it today. With Hitler, you take no risks and you couldn’t go wrong. You know the winning lottery numbers beforehand. Easy peasy. Try to decide what you do today without knowing what happens tomorrow.
I’ll give you some interesting quotations to chew upon (sorry for the clumsy translation). They’re from 1938.
“Injustice for injustice, since we’re bound to have one, let’s choose one less likely to bring about a war. Small countries are made to fall under the domination of big ones. If we try to oppose that, war is almost inevitable. It’s too risky to resist Hitler. The cause of law, right and humanity won’t be betrayed by the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia. On the contrary, Czechoslovakia’s real interests would be preserved. The occupation of the Sudetenland is a lesser evil that a war to oppose it.”
You know who wrote this? A woman, considered by many as a moral beacon, almost a saint: Simone Weil.
There you are.
“Unfortunately, you don’t seem to know your history very well. Stalin trusted Hitler to the last. The testimonies to that are many: he obstinately refused to believe all the informations (check “Richard Sorge”) concerning the attack, considering them as “British propaganda”. “In the 30s” Stalin was more occupied to massacre his nation by the million, and your “armament program” (it would be nice to have some details on that) didn’t have Hitler’s name on it. Anyway, it couldn’t have been very efficent, otherwise Stalin wouldn’t have needed the 11 billion dollars (120 billion of today) from the lend-lease act. American money saved him.”
Sorry, but this is a myth thoroughly debunked and destroyed by Deutcher and Radzinsky none of whom are sympathetic to Stalin.
Isaac Deutscher “not sympathetic to Stalin”? His biography was published in 1949 and is, notoriously, the most sympathetic to Stalin (“the great modernizer”…) one could expect from a faithful trotskyite. His reputation among the Left in the 70s was based, precisely, on his extremely “understanding” treatment of the “Soviet experiment” and of Stalin in particular. As for Radzinsky (1997), he’s dismissed by serious historians as “having added nothing” but some factual details to the general knowledge about the man.
2 live incidents with Furtwängler documented on film:
1. Hitler attended a concert and Furtwängler was told he had to salute and stretch his right hand in the way the Nazis saluted Hitler. He refused to do this; he went to the stage, lokked into the audience with a minute bow, turned towards the orchestra and started to conduct.
2. After another concert, Goebels went to the front to shake hadns with Furtwängler, who could not refuse the hand . However, after the hand shake he “cleaned” his hand with his handkerchief.
Judge for yourselves how he stood politically !!!!!!!
Not quite as clear as Hindemith, for just one example, who left the country.
The movie “Taking Sides” is a pretty good dramatization of the Furtwangler debate.
Well yes, but it IS a dramatisation, and however well it exposes the issues, it is essentially Hollywood and not cinema-verite. I found it a pretty infuriating watch, actually, mainly because of the bullying philistinism of the Harvey Keitel character. The “victors’ justice” after WWII has always been problematical. The movie’s thesis seemed to be that Furtwangler should have left the country, and did not. That, it seems, was about all the Americans had on him, but they decided to treat him like dirt anyway, because they could. Just as an aside, we are still in a position where international law is whatever America says it is. And so we go on.
“Taking Sides” is not “Hollywood”. It’s a play by a British author, Ronald Harwood, the movie being an European production (French, British, German, Austrian) directed by a Hungarian, Istvan Szabo… Someone could say that the movie is indeed “taking sides”, and that the part played by Harvei Keitel is a anti-american caricature.
“Somehow it’s always our fault”, isn’t it?
I saw the movie’s thesis as that both sides have very flawed justifications for their actions.
OK, I was using “Hollywood” as a generic term. It’s fiction, not fact, and so to bring it into the argument is likely to cloud matters rather than illuminate. That was all. But one is still entitled to suspect that in “real-life” Furtwangler was picked on as a “token” figure. I feel that was unpleasant, but in the context of the awful times, not altogether surprising. I’m not in the blame game here.
In real-life Furtwaengler wasn’t “picked”, not by the denazifiers in any case (by Harwood certainly, for obvious reasons). There’s barely a single great and medium name in German music which hasn’t been scrutinized. The whole process was doomed from day one, satisfied no one (too severe for some, too soft for others), some of the more compromised (Karl Böhm whose name is never mentioned in this context…) slipped through unharmed, where others (Furtwaengler, Karajan, Schwarzkopf) got all the blame.
Maybe it’s moral relatvism of the worst kind, but I think it’s either much too hard (if you really try), or much to easy (if all you care about is your moral comfort) to judge people put in extreme situations. Heroism isn’t a moral category. The real culprits are those who put people into impossible situations.
Böhm was banned from performing in public for about 2 years after the war, same as Furtwängler or Karajan, so he didn’t really “slip through”. I don’t think Schwarzkopf faced similar banishment after the war, but she wasn’t such a big deal at that time anyway. A fairly well known singer, yes, even a party member (whether voluntarily or involuntarily, or simply opportunistically, we willl never really know), but not really a big name worth much attention.
Schwarzkopf was 18 in 1933, that explains a lot – but I wasn’t talking about the actual, artistic and institutional position and degree of culpability of these people THEN, but only about their reputation post-factum. When the subject “great musicians under Hitler” comes around, as it regularly does, the names of Furt, Karajan, Schwarzkopf, are mentioned systematically, as are occasionally R Strauss and Clemens Krauss. Böhm hardly ever, probably thanks to his un-flamboyant public persona (which has, of course, nothing to do with his talent) This is what I meant by “slipping through” – in the long term. As Richard III should know, sexy legend always wins with fact.
“Furtwängler has never been a National Socialist. Nor has he ever made any bones about it. Which Jews and emigrants thought was sufficient to consider him as one of them, a key representative of so-called ‘inner emigration’. Furtwängler['s] stance towards us has not changed in the least.”
Dr. Joseph Goebbels
Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, 1933-45
Source: personal diary entry, April 1944
What a lovely and gentle man. I had the privilege of meeting him when he came to conduct the MO long ago.
Giulini was one of my favorite conductors, and from everything I have read a very gracious and thoughtful man. However, I find the whole “not fighting” story disgraceful. I can’t believe they would be so dishonorable. They had a choice to either refuse to serve and face the consequences, or to serve and do their duty including combat against enemy troops. It’s one think to refuse to partake in attacks on civilians, massacres of surrendered enemies, ethic cleansing etc. It’s another to stand by your fellow soldiers and betray them.
And what do you reckon would have been the consequences one had to face for refusing to serve during a war under a fascist regime?
How easy it is for some to make rigorous, moral choices – for others, 70 years after the facts.
Says the hero hiding behind a pseudonym…
Let me remind you that I’m still waiting for you answer in the same thread : September 9, 2013 at 10:04 am.
Sorry, I seldom waste time attempting discussion with those hiding behind Pseudonymity. When you have the courage to use a real and verifiable name, lets talk.
I’m surprised : it hasn’t bothered you before, during our long exchanges here and in other threads, There can be honest, legitimate reasons to hide behind pseudonyms, having nothing to do with courage, or lack thereof. But, of course, you are absolutely free to talk or not talk with whomever you please.
Ah, the rich ironies of the SD comments. This fellow tells us we shouldn’t condemn how people in Germany and just about everywhere else overlooked the barbarism of the Nuremburg Laws, which were there for all to see. Certainly wouldn’t want to take a stand using his real name, would he. Don’t stick your neck out, now “Mr. Backson”…
Dear Mr Osborne: I gave you a detailed and argumented answer on that purpose. It’s there “for all to see”, Instead of answering my arguments, you prefer to insult me, pretending I have said something else. If it suits you.
Enough. End of conversation.
First, my apologies for not listing my family name, as I have before. I thought I had done that but must have been interrupted and overlooked it.
Gerhard, I reckon the consequences would not have been pleasant. Regardless, I stand by my comment. Giulini, as an officer, would have had options at his disposal. Foremost would have been to request dismissal from his position of leadership to join the conscripted. As a Lieutenant Giulini was in a position of leadership with responsibility for his subordinates. The image of a superior, an officer, shooting ABOVE the enemy’s head when HIS men were being attacked is a disgrace. If he had been a grunt answering to everybody and responsible for nobody I would be more understanding.
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