Götterdämmerung: Suicide Music and the National Self as Enemy
by Panayiotis Demopoulos
A Note from the Editors at Library of Social Science:
Valhalla - In Norse mythology, the Hall of the Slain. Chosen by Odin, half of those who die in combat travel to Valhalla led by the Valkyries, while the other half go to the goddess Freyja’s field Fólkvangr. The term has become synonymous with a hall of the chosen dead.
Yggdrasil – In North mythology, the tree of life, an eternal, gigantic, holy Ash tree. Supported by three roots, its branches reach the heavens.
Rienzi - The opera set in Rome is based on the life of Cola di Rienzi (1313–1354), a late medieval Italian populist figure who succeeds in outwitting and defeating the nobles and their followers, and in raising the power of the people. Magnanimous at first, he is forced to crush the nobles’ rebellion against the people’s power. But popular opinion changes. In the end, the populace burns the Capitol in which Rienzi and a few adherents have made a last stand.
What role did music play in the death-throes of the Reich? What did the orchestras of the Reich perform in the latter stages of the war? Examining dialogues from the bunker in the expiring days of the Reich, one finds oneself in the rhetoric of Wagner, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The leitmotif of this prolonged “heroic” exit is a wild case of “noblesse;” and some thousands obliged indeed. This essay will illuminate the use of music as means to support the darker and more sinister ideogram of self-punishment and purification.
…May the town be accursed and destroyed!
Disintegrate and wither, Rome!
Your degenerate people wish it so….
(Rienzi, final act, original libretto)
In an effort to explain a series of events as remarkable and astonishing as what occurred between 1938 and 1945 across the world, it is crucial to remind oneself that one needs to look back to the beginnings of European histories and locate the quintessential causes—that led to a near absence of reason for more than a decade—in a region of the world where some of the finest and most profound music, philosophy and literature came to be in the preceding centuries. In the next few pages, I may be making a deliberately wrong use of the word ‘German’ to refer to what National Socialism represented during that time.
This is not a sign of disrespect for the millions of German people who did not and would not fight for the Nazi cause, but an indirect way to punctuate the relative inevitability of fighting for Hitler if in Germany at that time. Successful totalitarian rule is precisely that because it allows little variation in its subjects’ intentions—and the Nazi regime was a totalitarian regime par excellence. When Hitler spoke of the German ‘Volk’ he did not make a suggestion, but a demand: “if a German, you are a Nazi or a traitor”.
On the other hand, collaborating with the regime was not truly inevitable, nor were German subjects forced to be members of the Party or sympathizers of the Führer’s cause. We ought to remind ourselves of resistance groups of a limited capacity within Germany, such as die Weisse Rose, as well as the concerted effort made to be rid of Hitler in July of 1944. Nonetheless, plotters, political adversaries and disagreeable others were easily brushed aside from the very day Hitler was made Chancellor to the very hour he committed suicide.
The Nazi mechanism and its military expressions excelled at fighting beer hall fights with communists as well as mechanized wars with other countries’ armies, but had no equal in exterminating dissidents. Ronald Freisler, one of the most notorious judges of the regime, remains even to this day one of the most iconic figures of political intolerance, and it is in his legal utterances and Nazifying of the Law that we can detect Nazi absurdity at its most peculiar. In a culture such as the Germans’—where the Law and its regulations are not an approximate, artificial framework of conduct but a famously respected cornerstone of organized social life—Freisler’s notions of legal/illegal racial purity/defilement(1) are a strong indication of the beginnings of a mass social suicide.
It is crudely general to suggest collective responsibility for the German populace. It is, however, fair to suggest that those who continued to defend the idea of Germanhood publicly as the war went on—when this had become synonymous with barbarity—were in fact renouncing their humanity for the sake of individual survival and peace of mind. In doing so they were also moving as far as possible from the European prototype of the Hero. Mass hysteria it was not. Patriotism it was not. It was fear, perhaps, of the unknown territory of being defeated and left in the hands of the Red Army; it was also a compromised sense of justice, all at the expense of others. I will turn to the discussion of cowardice and faux-hero psychology at this point, as a matter of a useful parenthesis.
There are certain keywords in National Socialist rhetoric (and indeed the common German vocabulary of the day) which ought to be examined in a twofold manner, i.e. in the way that the National Socialists meant them, and in the way mankind has meant them over the years. The word ‘hero’ is present in Homer, but also appears in the mythology of most European cultures. In Europe, the Hero is first formalized as a complete, individual character in the Greek tragedies: Prometheus is bound and then unbound (of which part of the story we know little) for being a Hero. For the punishing Gods, Prometheus is a thief and a traitor, but for the reader he is clearly a Hero. This is not an antinomy, but an anthropocentric view of the world and this is precisely what the tragedies aim to do: give birth to the Hero, in order for mankind to become Heroic. A didactic process as it were, gives rise to specific notions.
Across Roman and medieval times, this kaleidoscopic perspective tends to inform the meaning of this and other words. Moreover, our rhetoric, literature and philosophy have been aware of that capacity for multiple readings; perhaps even so when it comes to the more rigid world of theology. Sacrifice then, is part of the Hero’s makeup, albeit sacrifice is something which entails doing something without desiring it. Christianity, a Truth for many, a mixture of Hebrew and Greek philosophies for others, portrays the Hero as a Martyr and devolves him from the world of active violence altogether.
Which is precisely why the notion of sacrifice still held value at all in European post-Enlightenment Democracies. Therefore, we detect no fetish in what Prometheus did; he did not choose eternal punishment for the sake of ideological fulfilment. On the contrary, there is something of the teenager bedroom fantasy in what Goebbels writes or tells his audiences; the delusion of taking part in a historiography, or perhaps the relegation of life into a tool for acquiring historical value. The whole affair reeks of the most insipid, Biedermeier-salon self-indulgence. Sadly, with some success.
Certainly, there are many occasions in European history where the massive loss of life is seen as a prerequisite of heroism. Take the three hundred of Leonidas, or the Light Brigade six hundred, take any war and there are those anonymous few or many who fall for an ideal, for a people, for a civilization. The difference in the case of National Socialism is that those who fell often had no expressed appetite for heroics, whereas many of those who were deeply engrossed in the romance of National Socialism chose to abstain from violence to the very last moment. And even then, it was not battle to the glorious death and defending one’s people, but an armchair and a cyanide capsule in a rather comfortable Valhalla, whilst the masses were butchered in the vicinity.
The aforementioned blunt and wrong categorization of all Germans as inherent Nazis or potential Nazis still occurs in certain parts of Europe, and still means something simple: to remain a human being in Germany between 1933 and 1945, one would have to modulate one’s national identity, as some did, by fleeing the country or ending up at the scaffold, or in prison. Those who remained patriotic Germans became, indirectly, Nazis whether they were well aware of it or not. By remaining loyal to Germany, to their community, their family’s well-being or the safety of their loved ones, they had tragically abandonded the human race. This is an absurd thought, alas, it is an accurate description of what took place. To rephrase Pericles: “Just because they did not take an interest in the world, did not mean that the world would not take an interest in them”.
In all of this, music could be an alibi in dealing with awful ethical dilemmas between making a stand or laying low. In the next section, I will attempt to demonstrate how the distortion of Romantic Idealism and the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk gave the necessary excuse to deflect the issue of moral intoxication into the sphere of constructivist coherence. Which would have been a forgivable act, had the axiomatic beginnings of this mien not been ‘total war’ or more accurately ‘death by all means to as many people as possible’.
There will be many objections to this absolute, harsh and seemingly irrational equation, but there will be some room for its evaluation and a musical simile at the end of this text. None of the above seeks to demonize an entire nation – not even any one human being, Hitler included, for that matter – especially seven decades on from the end of World War II. Simply put, History teaches us that the national self cannot be, and was not in its Swastika guise, a flexible collection of pluralities.
Instead of this, there transpired a single, obsessive and specific ideology based on a conviction of supremacy and the birthright to eradicate disagreeing nations, opponents and undesirables—almost as a consequence of an elevated sense of duty towards the world. Evils draw men together. The words were plain and foolish, and the acts were atrocious and unnecessary. Ironically, the accompanying music was always – with the exception of marching anthems – truly wonderful.
After all, the original manuscript of Rienzi was given to Adolf Hitler as a present, which he cherished and kept in the bunker. If we forget the ‘minor detail’ of a few million dead, this makes for a noble and pretty picture of an enlightened leader.
…I know that I hung on a windy tree nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin, sacrificing myself to myself
on that tree, which no man knows, from where its roots run…
(Hávamál, stanza 137, Poetic Edda, 11th c.)
A number of complete and authoritative diatribes published in recent years negotiate the role of music in Nazi Germany.(2) These studies give an exhaustive account of the relationship between music and National Socialist or official German policies. Biographers of the figure-heads of German music of the time, whether they be traditionalists, like Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Hans Pfitzner or modernists like Paul Hindemith and Carl Orff, have also provide an account of the political atmosphere of that time with intricate detail.
What will be attempted here is a psychological estimation of what music meant for Hitler, his close companions and the public towards the end of their reign. The conclusions drawn below are more the fruit of political instinct and an intimate knowledge of the effect of music on audiences, rather than scientific research and study. They may, regardless of their scientific value, prove to be a starting point for further research on the topic, if this has not, indeed, been conducted already and entirely.
On April 11th 1945, as the Red Army fast-approached Berlin, the Berlin Philharmonic gave what might have been its last concert before the end of the war. Albert Speer, who had intervened to save members of the Orchestra from their senseless drafting into the Volksturm, organized a final concert, entitled Konzert für Minister Speer(3)in the Berlin Beethoven Haal, still curiously standing amidst the city’s rubble.
The programme for the concert commenced with the final scene from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung:
…Grane my steed. I greet you.
Do you know my friend where I shall lead you?
In that radiant fire lies your master, Siegfried, my blessed hero.
Are you neighing happily because you are following your friend?
Are you drawn to him in the laughing flames?
Hence, Valhalla, home of the Gods was consumed in fire. The metaphorical question is obvious: were the German people ‘neighing happily’ in those ‘radiant fires’? This author uses his very limited life experience to conclude that they were not. Still, as Michael Geyer describes very astutely “…sacrifice in order to maintain community was a self-evident virtue in catastrophe…”(4) And ‘the war’, or to be more accurate the destruction of Berlin and its people, went on.
According to most sources as well as popular myth, Speer engineered a move for the musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic to the relative peace of Bayreuth, but they chose to remain with their Berliner audiences until the end of the war. The Orchestra’s final concerts were given in candlelight, under bombing and with Hitler Jugend children offering the exiting members of the audience cyanide capsules for private use, adding to the tragic and conclusive atmosphere of the whole affair. One cannot help but feel that if present in those concerts, any German Romanticism aficionado might find the confusing air of cynicism and resignation contagious if not seductive – a prescribed death is often both the bringer of despair and of irresistible primordial and sensual tensions.
It is, nonetheless difficult to ascertain the audience’s experience, especially the military officers’ emotional response to the music. After all, the people of Berlin, suffering greatly as they were in those last months of the war, might have found the lush Wagnerian orchestral landscape extremely poignant in the face of defeat and the accompanying humiliation, pillaging and rape which they feared it would bring. But for the officer ranks, Wagner’s infamous anti-Semitic exclamations(5) and subsequent moral upbringing on National Socialist anti-Semitism, might have meant a rather grotesque tone of stubborn, bitter remorselessness uttered in the ancestral tone of Germanic ‘destiny’. In short, perhaps Brunhilde’s voice was an anaesthetic before the self-execution. Or the swan-song in the lives of a few hundred officers who held sacred the fantasy of military honour in not surrendering; thus ensuring that tens of thousands more civilians lost their loved ones, were injured, perished.
The Orchestra went on to give two more concerts, in which the main works were – fittingly – the Deutsches Requiem by J. Brahms and Tod und Verklarung by J. Strauss.(6) It becomes quite clear from the choice of repertoire that the Orchestra was now playing a funeral march for the entire nation. This neurosis of being unable to see an alternative future in which the German nation might exist outside of final victory, is best reflected at the infanticide that took place in the bunker by Magda Goebbels.
And there was music there too, perhaps the only music that might stop the senseless killing. According to Traudl Junge(7) the Goebbels’ children sang for Hitler, who was very pleased to hear their song. This innocent choir of young voices was soon murdered by its very mother, in the bunker, just before the mother herself committed suicide. There is no academic phrasing suitable enough to describe the incomprehensibility of how mankind can achieve this nonsense, especially at this high level of leadership.
This particular event has been immortalized in the film Untergang (2004), but its significance cannot be understood outside the emotional horror-chamber it occurred in. We can only imagine that any sane people present surely heard this as a remarkable music after weeks of constant near-death stress and bombardment. Furthermore, to hear young children sing in the flesh must have aroused some hope even in the most cynical and sinister audience. And yet, no surrender could be offered to save – if no-one else – the children of Magda Goebbels. The pleasure of hearing them sing must have been metaphysical, it appears.
It could also be that Hitler, who had attended numerous performances of Wagner’s Operas in his youth, was only interested in the ritualistic decorum of concert, rather than the more abstract content of humanity. The same could be said of party policy at large – for instance, Paul Hindemith was dismissed as a composer ‘playing games with notes’ by Goebbels, which is the strangest form of criticism towards a composer. Were he to have written very loud, impressive music to be accompanied by a similarly powerful metaphorical image or spectacle, his career might have been a little more successful at that time.
Still, Hitler’s own record collection is known to have included Russian music and some Entartete Musik(8)or records by Jewish artists, so he cannot have been altogether uninterested in music other than Wagnerian Opera, as some writers suggest. All the same, we may care to distinguish between Olivier Messiaen’s interest in music, when he wrote the Quartet for the end of Time in a German concentration camp, and Adolf Hitler’s interest in music when he ordered that the execution of the July plot leaders be implemented with piano strings and meat hooks.
It is fair to conclude that even though as a leader Hitler might have been obsessed with Wagner and Bruckner—and might have considered himself an arts connoisseur (he was a fairly good painter in his youth)—his understanding of music was that of a propaganda tool predominantly. In 1933, he ordered that each Nuremberg Rally open with the Overture from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and demanded that 1,000 party officials attend the concert.
Moreover, according to Speer’s account, Hitler’s country house, the Berghof at Obersalzbert, was furnished with a sideboard ten feet high and eighteen feet long for phonograph record storage. On another wall stood a large bronze bust of Richard Wagner.(9) Fittingly – and this may be more insightful than appears to the naked eye with regards to Hitler’s fascination – Wagner wrote for big, en-masse orchestral forces almost exclusively – there is little chamber and almost no solo music in his worklist. One cannot imagine Hitler adoring Schubert.
Subsequently, Hitler’s predilection with promoting Wagner was not an artistic cause of an enlightened leader, but a hybrid of a personal expression and a sloppy political attempt to coerce a uniform, brown-shirted and uneducated crowd into uniform high-brow thinking with philosophical pretences. The result was a misunderstanding of German high culture by the SS. This may help explain my position in the third section: that Hitler was so exasperated with his own people’s inability to fall in line with him— and came to hate them so profoundly and unmistakably—that he sought a single final identification of himself and his followers in death.
After Adolf Hitler committed suicide, his death was announced on German radio. The music played before the announcement signified an ideological point. At 9.43, in the evening of May 1st 1945, excerpts from Wagner’s Rheingold were broadcast and at 9.57 the announcer added that the Adagio from Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony was to be heard. This was the symbolic preamble: Bruckner wrote the movement in memory of Wagner’s death. He was also a favorite of Hitler’s, and his Seventh Symphony one of Hitler’s favorite works. The same movement was played when Hitler consecrated a bust of the composer at Regensburg’s Valhalla temple before the war.
Thus the Hamburg Radio was doing its best to mythologize the passing of the Führer and to link it to a historical legacy via solemn and powerful music. Could it or would it have done otherwise? Perhaps it could if a few more lives were to be spared in giving up the fight sooner. Perhaps it could have made the announcement without the ‘inflammatory’ music in tragic support. But even then, with the only political obstacle to peace gone, the Nazi machinery opted for the splendid Serh feierlich manner(ceremonious, as reads the tempo marking in Bruckner’s score) of an empty Romantic theatre stage, rather than reason.
Hearing this movement today, we must remind ourselves to make no reference to the eternal Germanic pyre that motivated Hitler’s fantasy, but to pay tribute to the destitute children in the streets of Berlin, the raped young women on both sides of the Eastern Front, and the dying prisoners in concentration camps. We can be sure that Bruckner and Wagner too would have withdrawn every single note they ever wrote had they known that their work might be appropriated and used by the Nazis as it was. This truth or any truth can sometimes only be unsubstantiated opinion; ‘es muss sein’ as Beethoven – Bruckner’s own hero – put it, making amends with Fate and History. To end with a moral imperative: no musician should think otherwise.
3. Zyklon B
…Freedom awakens your rage against everything that is not you; egoism calls you to joy over yourselves…
(Max Stirner, the Ego and its Own, 1844)
In Norse mythology the end of the Gods is inevitable. Ragnarök, a literary ‘prophecy’ referring to a cataclysmic disaster, includes the death of the Gods—with the hope of rebirth allowed for the time after their utter annihilation and the destruction of Earth and Heaven by ‘frost giants’ (jötnar). No offense is meant in simplifying or misrepresenting Norse theology/mythology here.
But its transfer onto post-industrial, war-time Germany reflects something of the grotesque and ridiculous—when contemplating the number of victims required for this re-enactment of an ancient ontological fable. Today, Europe can boast having relegated such frightful superstition to the realm of bloodless entertainment, i.e. ‘Lord of the Rings’ sub-cultures. And this was the mythological basis of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung and clearly the basis of much that inspired the Nazis’ disregard for life:
…It is harsh in the world…
…No man will have mercy on another…
(Ragnarök, stanza 43, Poetic Edda, 11th c.)
A theological basis for cruelty – however conscious or subconscious – is behind the famous anthropological, post-Darwinian nonsense of Dr. Mengele’s medical research, Himmler’s attempts at the occult, and every other expression of brutality or unreason that contemporary Germans came to view as normal, usual and acceptable. I shall not delve into half-presenting or misrepresenting a history of Theology in the Teutonic or Protestant world at this point, but I will propose that the beginnings of suicide must lay in the formal and ancestral belief that divinity, i.e. the unknown, is suicidal itself (NB: not sacrificial or mortal but fatalistically suicidal).
Men mirror their Gods(10) and Hitler, however confused as to his human or divine nature, was mirroring Odin, and thought it necessary for mere mortals to mirror his fate in their turn. Add to this the Nietzschean deicide that required the presence of Übermenschen—and a great number of Schutzstaffel volunteers came in support of this national mass suicide in the name of a glorious Fate.
The story of Hitler’s teenage friend, August Kubizek(11)– who claimed that Hitler had predestined himself to be a leader of the German people and to simulate the end of Wagner’s Rienzi as early as 1905—is not proven and could not be proven. Kubizek also makes a fair amount of very flattering (and possibly true) comments about Hitler’s general conduct and demeanour. Nevertheless, the account of an ecstatic young Hitler imagining a future for his people on the basis of a night at the Opera, cannot be read with surprise or dismissively, mainly because a Night at the Opera is what Hitler did every night in Vienna during that early time in his life.
The two friends parted ways in 1912, and Kubizek met Hitler again a few times after he was Chancellor. If both men were honest, Kubizek in his book and Hitler in the words he spoke, then as late as 1940 Hitler was wishing to build a new Germany and not to fight any wars. In the next 5 years, this turned into wishing only to fight a war in order to destroy Germany: the will to victory became the will to die.
A short parenthesis: we ought not to write from a moral high ground. A lot of the more sinister ideals that the Nazi cause stood for were enthusiastically projected into our post-war commercial folklore. When Hitler said to a bemused Speer that “Those who survive this war are the inferior, our best have already fallen”, he was speaking in the spirit of Nietzsche, but also in the slang of popular culture from the 1980s and 1990s.
Some indicative song titles and lyric excerpts that have become known across the globe, much more so than Wagner’s Immolation scene at any rate, are ‘Blaze of glory’ (…I am a devil on the run, a six gun lover, a candle in the wind…), ‘Only the good die young’ (…sooner or later it comes down to fate, I might as well be the one, you know that only the good die young…), ‘Fade to black’ (Life it seems will fade away, drifting further every day, getting lost within myself, nothing matters, no-one else…need the end to set me free).(12)
Somewhere in the labyrinths of Marcus Aurelius’ stoicism, teenage angst and melancholy, the charm of withdrawal and obsessive introspection, general suicidal narcissism and the egocentric, consumerist culture industry of recent decades—there is an element of Nazi ideology lurking in the dark. One of the attractive things about suicide is the glory it appears to bear. This stems from the ‘heroic’ deed and the expression of loss of interest in life per se, i.e. the tendency to glorify the Übermenschen as a prototype of progress in overcoming conventional theories pertaining to the value of life. This is not as far-fetched as it seems: neo-Nazi movements are on the rise across the globe, mainly where mainstream, industrial culture has established its commercial dominance.
To return to the main topic, in the last 4 months of the war, more than 1,500,000 Germans, including hundreds of thousands of civilians, lost their lives in an increasingly vain war effort. Music was a tool in encouraging the German people to continue fighting. Charles Whiting is also convinced that musical fantasies had taken over Hitler’s psyche when he describes why this national suicide occurred:
When the end came for Hitler, he staged his own Götterdämmerung in his Berlin bunker. He refused to surrender, preferring to take of his own life over an unheroic end. By his absolute refusal to even consider capitulation, he ensured vast, horrible destruction of lives and property long after these losses could have had any possible affect upon the outcome of the war. Hitler lived out his fantasy to the end; to the fullest; precipitating the realization of his favourite operatic scene, the final destruction of the gods and Valhalla.(13)
One would have to add the pleasure of punishment to this emotional struggle. Hitler first spoke of ‘traitors’ and ‘weaklings’ in Mein Kampf. His Generals adopted this leitmotif and preached it to the end: “…For us there is no higher law and no more sacred duty than to fight to the last breath for the freedom of our people, that we want to rid ourselves of everything soft and disloyal.” said Alfred Jodl on November 7th, 1942 to the Volksturm.
In this light, the last few days of the Russian advance were a sort of execution of the weaker, more treacherous elements of German society. By that point, this might not be merely acceptable, but desirable. Otherwise put, Hitler himself dreamed and wished for his people that what they had failed to become—an army of suicidal faithful—would one day come to be. He explained in his Political Testament:
May it become, at some future time, part of the code of honor of the German officer, as it is already in our Navy, that the surrender of a district or of a town is impossible, and that the leaders here above all must march ahead as shining examples, faithfully fulfilling their duty unto death.
Duty, being the operative word. There were two oaths for the military and the civil service of which the former read: "I swear by God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath.”.
Therefore, it is not conjecture, but a blatant reality that for Hitler duty and death were the same thing by this stage of the war, which applied for all men between the ages of 16 and 60 (Volksturm). In this final act, not even the Tristan chord might confer some magical turn of events. The role of music was plainly that of a muffled, funeral drum that led to the guillotine.
Its affektenlehre function was to provoke emotions of solemnity, dignity, pride. To muffle the content, and keep appearances and theatrics to the end. Music, with the particular semantic weight it carried especially after Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner, was not only a propaganda tool, but a psychological barometer for the German people. In this case it coerced them into the subdued mood of a ‘Morituri Te Salutant’ mantra.
To conclude, this triptych section has been a spasmodic attempt to describe an incredible, otherworldly achievement of a group of people who defiled themselves by considering everything else around them defiled. The language has been crude and non-academic, the utterances absolute and the trains of thought regularly derailed. Then again, so was the subject matter in its historical time, so a Germanic sense of cohesion has been observed, in a loose sense.
It seems the greatest irony of all the nonsense of the third Reich—and more particularly of the way it ended—is that even though it was firmly rooted in a new culture of hatred, intolerance, brutality and senseless aggression, still it was preceded by one of the most enlightened periods of culture and music making in the history of Western Civilization. Wagner wrote about Gods falling, taking with them the world. What motivated him is unknown, even though his musical talents were not equalled by an expressed solidarity for his fellow human beings; indeed, far from it.
Beethoven, on the other hand, wrote about the brotherhood of mankind, not its demise. In the last vocal line of his Ninth Symphony he chooses the word Götterfunken(14), i.e. the spark of the Gods:
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced, this kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods!
This will always be the finest response to the Fall of the Gods, or to our appetite for war and self-violation. The following words are attributed to Adolf Hitler: “…one can serve God only in the garb of the hero”.(15) In doing so he was best describing his victims. For every Nazi officer who committed suicide at the end of the Second World War, a great number of prisoners, Jewish and others, who were brought within an inch of their lives, survived in hope of liberation.
They were the true Heroes of their time.
Beevor, A. Berlin, the Downfall-1945. Viking Press, Penguin Books, 2002.
Bessel, R. Nazism and War. The Modern Library, 2004.
Fest, J. C. Hitler. Vintage Books, 1975.
Geyer, M. ‘There is a Land where everything is pure: its name is Land of Death’: Some observations on Catastrophic Nationalism’ in Sacrifice and National Belonging in Twentieth Century Germany. Texas A&M University Press, 2002.
Levi, E. Music in the Third Reich. St. Martin’s Press, 1996.
Read, A. & Fisher, D. The Fall of Berlin. Da Capo Press, 1995.
Speer, A. Inside the Third Reich – Memoirs. Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Whiting, Ch. The Home Front: Germany. World War II series, vol. 32. Time-life Books, 1982.
(1) See Geerling, Wayne. "Protecting the National Community From Juvenile Delinquency: Nazification of Juvenile Criminal Law in the Third Reich", Melbourne University, 2001.
(2) Erik Levi’s Music in the Third Reich (St. Martin’s Press, 1996) being, perhaps, the best known.
(3)The dates and programme information are based on “Einhundert Jahre Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester, v.3” by P. Muck. (1982). Peter Much was a viola player and member of the orchestra and wrote its first history. Helge Grünewald and Ewa Boron edited the updated publication which is to be published for the Foundation Berliner Philarmoniker. Their archive was kindly offered for the research of this article by Franziska Gulde-Druet.
(4) Geyer (129)
(5) see “Das Judenthum in der Musik“, in Sämtliche Schriften und Dichtungen, vol. V, pp.66-85 (1850)
(6) 14th and 16th of April at the Beethoven Saal, under the baton of Robert Heger.
(7) Hitler’s secretary who has given numerous interviews and a full account of the events taking place in the bunker during the last few days of Hitler’s life.
(8) ‘Degenerate music’, a term that referred to modernist and certain types of popular music.
(9) Speer, 128-135
(10) Or vice versa!
(11) see Kubizek, A. Young Hitler, the Story of Our Friendship (1954)
(12) These belong – respectively – to the popular music groups/artists Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Metallica. There are dozens if not hundreds more that are very similar.
(13) Whiting, 184-5
(14) The original text is by the poet Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), but the choice of using Götterfunken as the final word is by Beethoven.
(15) Fest, 499