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Anti-Semitic Wagner letter auctioned in Israel

April 22, 2018

An anti-Semitic letter from Hitler's favorite composer is being auctioned in Israel."Wagner would roll over in his grave" if he knew that a bearded Jew in Jerusalem would profit from his letter, the auctioneer said.

Richard Wagner's anti-Semitic letter
Image: By the courtesy of Kedem Auction House Ltd

A letter written by 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner in which he rails against Jewish culture will go up for sale at an Israeli auction house on Tuesday.

The handwritten letter was sent to French author, philosopher and musicologist Edouard Schure. In the letter, Wagner details his anti-Semitic views on French and German Jews. He tries to explain the thoughts behind his notorious "Judaism in Music." Written under a pseudonym, the essay is an aggressive attack on Jews in general and on the Jewish composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular.

"We have not been confronted by controversy regarding this item," a representative of the auction house wrote in a statement responding to questions from DW. "An interesting facet of the auction of this letter is its attraction to collectors of anti-Semitic material on the one hand and to collectors of items related to Richard Wagner on the other hand," she added.

Read more: How much Hitler is there in Wagner?

Leipzig, Dresden & Bayreuth - Wagner Remembered

'True' Germans

In the letter Wagner argued that the assimilation of Jews into French society was preventing France from distinguishing the "corroding influence of the Jewish spirit on modern culture." 

He went on to discuss the differences between German Jews and "true" Germans and alleged that the national press was entirely in Jewish hands.

It is listed with a price guide of $8,000 to $12,000 (€6,500-9,800).

Read more: Nike Wagner opens up on her father's Nazi ties and a childhood overshadowed by the Bayreuth Festival

Richard Wagner's anti-Semitic letter
The letter has a price guide of $8,000 to $12,000Image: By the courtesy of Kedem Auction House Ltd

Roll over, Wagner

The owner of Kedem auction house, Meron Eren, told the AFP news agency that this was the first time he was dealing with a Wagner item.

"Wagner would roll over in his grave" if he knew that a bearded Jew in Jerusalem was going to profit from his letter, Eren said.

Ruth HaCohen, a musicology professor at Hebrew University, told AFP that the letter showed how Wagner wanted his anti-Semitic views to be accepted by the public.

He said its sale in Jerusalem, of all places, was an "irony." 

Read more: Richard Wagner and the Jews

A symbol of the Holocaust

Jonathan Livny, an attorney and head of the Israel Wagner Society, told the AFP that although Israelis embrace German products such as Volkswagen and Mercedes cars, they continue to boycott Wagner.

"Wagner has become a "symbol of the Holocaust," Livny said.

The works of Wagner, Hitler's favorite composer, are rarely performed in Israel due to public outcry and disturbances.

aw/mkg (AFP)