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June 19, 2011

Was Richard Wagner an anti-Semite?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:24 am

I got into a discussion recently with a young student who is a music major.  It started with Stravinsky and ended with Richard Wagner.  After the student told me that one of his college professors said that Wagner was anti-Semitic, I decided to end the conversation because this is not something that should be discussed in polite society.

If I could go back in time and continue this discussion, I would say to the student:  “Define anti-Semitic.”  In Wagner’s day, the term anti-Semite had a different meaning than it has today.  Back then, an anti-Semite was a person who wanted the Jews to assimilate into German society, rather than have their own “state-within-a-state.”  It was all tied up with the “Jewish Question.”  

The “Jewish Question” was “Should the Jews have their own state within the country where they lived or should they assimilate?”

The term anti-Semite was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr who was anti-Semitic because he wanted the Jews to give up their Jewish ways and be just like the Germans.  Wagner felt the same way: he wanted to Jews to compose music just like the Germans; he didn’t approve of Jewish music.

Wagner wanted the Jews to completely assimilate into German society, so that made him a “rabid anti-Semite” in his day. He thought that the music of Jewish composers was “un-German.” That doesn’t mean that he hated Jews.  Some of his best friends were Jews.  He just wanted German music to be German, not Jewish.  So for Wagner, assimilation meant that the Jews should give up their separate identity, including their Jewish music, which he did not approve of.

A Semite is a person who belongs to the Semitic language group; a person who belongs to the Indo-European language group is an Aryan.  Remember when Helen Thomas said that she was not an anti-Semite because she is a Semite herself.  Actually, she is an anti-Semite because she is against the Jews having their own state; she wants the Jews to go back to Germany and assimilate.

The Jewish Virtual Library web site has an article which explains Wagner’s opinions on Jewish music:

In a tractate, Das Judenthum in der Musik, first published in 1850 under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Wagner wrote that Jewish music is bereft of all expression, characterized by coldness and indifference, triviality and nonsense. The Jew, he claimed, has no true passion to impel him to artistic creation. The Jewish composer, according to Wagner, makes a confused heap of the forms and styles of all ages and masters. To admit a Jew into the world of art results in pernicious consequences. In Deutsche Kunst und Deutsche Politik, Wagner spoke of the “harmful influence of Jewry on the morality of the nation,” adding that the subversive power of Jewry stands in contrast to the German psyche.

Wagner was a German nationalist, which we now know is not a good thing because German nationalism led to the Holocaust.  Hitler was a big fan of Wagner, and he was the epitome of a nationalist.  If you look up nationalist in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Hitler.

Today when German students go on their obligatory trip to Dachau, they see a large gray sign with black letters.  You can see a photo of the sign on this blog.  The text on the sign is in both German and English; I am quoting the English version below:

The modernization of society (in the Weimar Republic) was regarded as a crisis, and evoked fears and resentment.  These emotions found expression in distorted ideas of “gutter literature,” “nigger jazz,” “degenerate art,” “Jewish bolshevism,” and “Jewish capitalism.”  The opponents of modernism rejected the cultural diversity of an open society.  Instead they strove towards a “national community” of cultural uniformity achieved through authoritarian means. These ideas were interspersed with racist, and more often, antisemitic prejudices.

Did you catch that, kiddies?  “cultural diversity of an open society” is the right way for a country to be.  “A national community” is bad because it is “racist” and “antisemitic” and it leads to the horrors of Dachau.  The worst thing about “a national community” is that there is no place for the Jews.  The Jews now have their own “national community” but they still want the right to live in other countries.

To give you an idea of what Wagner thought German music should sound like, listen to Wagner’s “The ride of the Valkyries, from Die Walküre” on YouTube:

Contrast Wagner’s music with Jewish composer Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major, “Titan”: Mov. 3, “Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen.”


  1. I question your choice of music to illustrate your point. Neither of the pieces is really typical of the work of either composer

    Comment by Rupa — July 15, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

  2. […] Group invites you to sit back and roll your sleeves up … Mouse here for Related LinksWas Richard Wagner an anti-Semite?Posts Related to Richard Wagner's ValkyrieRichard Wagner’s The ValkyrieRichard Wagner's The […]

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  3. I can understand his feelings. I remember coining a song in a Jukebox one day. The song didn’t appeal to someone and they unplugged the machine. It was just a dollar so it wasn’t worth fighting over. However, if it did cost more and I didn’t just walk away don’t be surprised if I got angry. I believe Richard was proud to be German. If he stopped others from making their own music then that would have been bad. Not sure if this is a well know fact so, he may have just voiced a personal opinion. What actions did he do in society to further this view?

    Comment by SherwinJTB — July 15, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  4. I still recommend that you both start spelling it “antisemite” and you will discover all the objections to that you will receive.

    Antisemitism is a concept that can be discussed and argued about. Anti-Semitism implies attack against individuals by lumping them into a large group wherein they act from group-think (which allegedly is not true). It is then more likely to be seen as bigotry rather than a sincerely held viewpoint.

    Comment by Skeptic — June 26, 2011 @ 6:13 am

  5. German doesn’t hyphenate that much but builds long compound words, so surely we are at different English/American translations of Marr’s term.

    In response to Gasan, it’s well worth consulting the Wiki article on Meyerbeer and the section on Meyerbeer and Wagner. I’d love to hear more Meyerbeer but he is very rarely performed. There is also Arnold Schoenberg who born and died as a Jew and along with Mahler carried Wagner’s harmonic developments to their logical conclusion.

    Comment by Ethelred — June 25, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  6. FG, you have spelled the word wrong. That is the source of the trouble. Wilhelm Marr insisted on spelling it antisemite. It is the Jews who insist on the spelling of anti-Semite, which is considered the “correct” spelling today — naturally, since we are a “culturally-diverse, open society,” not a nationalist society. Read Wilhelm Marr famous treatise to find out the difference between the spellings.

    It is very possible that some translations of his work that exist on the Internet have changed even his spelling to anti-Semiite. The Jews have appropriated the word, even though it was coined by a German antisemite, and given it their own meaning and spelling.

    The moral of the story is: In a culturally-diverse, open society, the Jews will always be in control, not some “diverse group of individuals.” Thus, cultural diversity is their invention.

    You missed a good opportunity to give the young student a different take on Wagner’s antisemitism; i can’t at all understand your excuse that it is “not something that should be discussed in polite society.” Really? It was brought up in his college class, wasn’t it.

    Comment by Skeptic — June 25, 2011 @ 11:48 am

    • I did look up Marr’s famous treatise before I posted this, and it was spelled anti-Semite in the version that I read online. The wordpress software has a built-in spell-checker, so I don’t misspell very many words in my posts.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 25, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

  7. An interesting pamphlet on the Judaization of German culture is The Victory of Judaism over Germanism: Viewed from a Nonreligious Point by William Marr written
    in 1879 Marr’s pamphlet is read aloud and discussed from the Christian Identity perspective here: The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in 20th Century Intellectual and Political Movements by Kevin MacDonald Ph.D is absolutely indispensable for anyone who wants to really understand 21st century America. For non-Jews it’s an unassailable and sad sad story.

    Comment by who+dares+wings — June 20, 2011 @ 11:51 am

  8. Off topic here, sorry, Holocaustians are using this document to prove the Nazis shrunk heads at Buchenwald:

    “It is brought to [your] attention that, effective i m m e d i a t e l y, the preparation of so-called gift articles (shrunken heads etc.) is to be stopped. A written report is to be made to the local SS physician for the SS Medical Academy in Graz on the 1st and 15th of every month concerning the status of current assignments.

    The medical treatment of internees falls outside the framework of pathology and is prohibited, effective i m m e d i a t e l y. This order is also to be made known to the internees involved with pathology.”

    More details here, at bottom of the page

    Ever heard of this, think it’s genuine?

    I asked on Axis History, got told off by the Forum Staff, but no real answer

    Comment by Black Rabbit — June 20, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  9. Is that Elie Wisel @ 00:35, conducting the Gustav Mahler’s Symphony ?

    Comment by Black Rabbit — June 20, 2011 @ 10:29 am

    • It is Leonard Bernstein conducting.
      You are funny, Black Rabbit!

      Comment by Gasan — June 20, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    • What a good comment! Yes, and we can imagine Elie Wiesel dramatising in just the same way as Bernstein, even though he is not conducting an orchestra, but just telling his “dramatic” stories to young people … or the press. The resemblance is striking, though Bernstein is quite a bit bigger than little Elie.

      Comment by Skeptic — June 25, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

  10. Although the term ‘anti-Semitic’ was coined by a non-Jew, – to replace ‘Judenhass’ or ‘Jew-Hate’ I believe – some Jews seem very happy to use it so that if question certain views of the Holocaust you can be branded as ‘racist’.

    Comment by Ethelred — June 20, 2011 @ 1:46 am

    • The term anti-Semitic originally meant “against the Jews” but not hatred of the Jews. To understand it, you should read the essay by Karl Marx, published in 1844 which explains the Jewish Question. The Jews wanted to live in Germany and to be separate in every way from the Germans. The Germans who were “anti-Semitic” did not want the Jews to be separate; they wanted them to assimilate and be Germans.

      Here is a quote from the essay by Karl Marx, which you can read at

      Begin Quote:
      “The German Jews desire emancipation. What kind of emancipation do they desire? Civic, political emancipation.

      Bruno Bauer replies to them: No one in Germany is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How are we to free you? You Jews are egoists if you demand a special emancipation for yourselves as Jews. As Germans, you ought to work for the political emancipation of Germany, and as human beings, for the emancipation of mankind, and you should feel the particular kind of your oppression and your shame not as an exception to the rule, but on the contrary as a confirmation of the rule.


      In wanting to be emancipated from the Christian state, the Jew is demanding that the Christian state should give up its religious prejudice. Does he, the Jew, give up his religious prejudice? Has he,
      then, the right to demand that someone else should renounce his religion?

      By its very nature, the Christian state is incapable of emancipating the Jew; but, adds Bauer, by his very nature the Jew cannot be emancipated. So long as the state is Christian and the Jew is Jewish, the one is as incapable of granting emancipation as the other is of receiving it.

      The Christian state can behave towards the Jew only in the way characteristic of the Christian state – that is, by granting privileges, by permitting the separation of the Jew from the other subjects, but making him feel the pressure of all the other separate spheres of society, and feel it all the more intensely because he is in religious opposition to the dominant religion. But the Jew, too, can behave towards the state only in a Jewish way – that is, by treating it as something alien to him, by counterposing his imaginary nationality to the real nationality, by counterposing his illusory law to the real law, by deeming himself justified in separating himself from mankind, by abstaining on principle from taking part in the historical movement, by putting his trust in a future which has nothing in common with the future of mankind in general, and by seeing himself as a member of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people as the chosen people.

      End Quote

      Karl Marx was born into a Jewish family, but he was assimilated and he was against the Jews having their own separate state within the country of Germany.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 20, 2011 @ 7:39 am

  11. Nice choice of Mahler’s music, Further Glory!
    This particular movement from the his 1st Symphony has some sort of jewish, so called “klezmer band” melodies. Quite a contrast from music of Wagner! When I first heard his Fourth Symphony, the second theme reminded me about Mozart’s second movement of “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”. The resemblance is striking! The word “plagiarism” came immediately to my mind. I have listened to all Mahler’s compositions and even have played few of them with the orchestra. Let’s be honest: it is not that bad and somewhat interesting. Was he a good composer? Definitely, yes! The problem is that his importance is blown out of proportion, based on the fact, he was jewish. Otherwise he has his own place in the pantheon of the composers.

    Comment by Gasan — June 19, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  12. Most famous jewish composer was Felix Mendelsohn-Bartholdy, who was baptized into Lutheran faith due to his inspiration by the music of J.S. Bach. It is not widely known, but I got a personal knowledge that his music is not welcomed at certain Jewish Community Centers and other venues, though, it is not officially forbidden in Israel. Another famous and quite overrated jewish composer was Gustav Mahler.
    You can read more about Mahler here:

    There were also few insignificant jewish composers such as Giacomo Meyerbeer (real name Jacob Liebmann Beer) from Germany, Emil Waldteufel of France, and three Americans, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Irving Berlin. Nobody else of importance is coming to my mind.
    Mendelsohn, Mahler and those, I just mentioned above have never been able to reach the level of magnitude and perfection that of Richard Wagner and Igor Stravinsky.
    As far as assimilation goes: It was Napoleon Bonaparte, who was first to questioned the loyalty of the Jews to French State. You can read it in a superior book by Douglas Reed “The Controversy of Zion”, Chapter 18.

    Comment by Gasan — June 19, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

    • Thanks for the link to an excellent article. I have put up a YouTube video with a sample of Mahler’s music.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 19, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

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