Vandals attack grave of Nazi composer

Vandals attack grave of Nazi composer


norman lebrecht

October 25, 2013

Unknown vandals have desecrated the grave of the Austrian composer Cesar Bresgen in Großgmain, days before what would have been his 100th birthday. A headboard and flowers were removed. The police are investigating.

Bresgen, who died in 1988, became a professor at the Mozarteum in Salzburg after the War and a respected member of the Austrian musical establishment. Between 1936 and 1945, he composed and arranged hundreds of songs for Nazi organisations, including the SS.


bresi.5195275 bresgen

Video report here.


  • Edward A Murphy says:

    What defines a Nazi? Why is this man being labelled a Nazi composer when he ‘arranged’ songs?

    I am not quite understanding the headline….?

    • Michael says:

      Because “Vandals attack grave of Nazi composer” gets much more attention than “Vandals attack grave of Austrian composer”.

    • kamioner says:

      In the great style of Gertrude Stein….a nazi, is a nazi, is a nazi. Also if it looks like a duck it is a duck,

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        That’s a dangerous way to think. The Nazis also thought they could tell if someone was a Jew from the way he looked. We shouldn’t stereotype and classify people by what they look like.

  • ruben greenberg says:

    A Nazi composer is a Nazi who composes; not very hard to understand. A Nazi in the era of Herr Bresgen was a card-carrying member of the Nazi party; equally easy to understand.

    • There’s a difference between being a card-carrying Nazi because you’re for their cause, and being a member so you don’t become yet another victim. This is the easiest of things to understand.

      • There are composers like Karl Amadeus Hartmann who went into what he termed “internal exile” and did not collaborate during the Reich. Collaboration, especially to Bresgen’s extent, was voluntary.

  • The musicologist Erich Valentin wrote about Cesar Bresgen in the Zeitschrift für Musik in 1938 Vol. 108, pg. 841. His comments reflect the racist Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil) concepts that characterized Nazi thought. Valentin, who was clearly not the best of writers, tells us that Bresgen’s musical gifts were:

    “determined by his Rhenish and Austrian blood. His descent from peasants, peasants down to the grandfather who moved to the Krupp City Essen — with a dash of Flemish connections, characteristic also of the genealogy of Beethoven — accounts for the background so deeply rooted in the soil, of the Dürer-like German creative impulses of Bresgen who inherited from his father, the painter and sculptor August Bresgen, his aesthetic inclination and the capacity to shape materials. The healthy stream that flows through the blood of peasants toughened by the volcanic nature of the Eifel soil is joined to a happy earthiness derived from the Austrian roots of his ancestors on the mother’s side that lightens the steady rhythmic motion of his blood. Upper Austria, where the cradle of Bruckner stood as well — though his ancestors were, of course, Nether Austrians — like those of Haydn — is the home of Bresgen,’s mother a pianist and pupil of August Göllerich. From this side, then, is joined to the artistic personality of his Rhenish origins the specific musicality derived from the nearby Danube.”

    Bresgen commented at the time that the Reich gave him a wealth of plans about the “good fortune to be permitted to muster one’s abilities fully and entirely at the service of the collective entity.”

    Imagine mentalities like these at the Mozarteum after the war. In the mid 90s the Mozarteum made some mild efforts to recruit my wife as the new trombone professor at the Mozarteum. She told them she wasn’t interested, even there are many positive things about the school and the city, and even though that might be considered a dream job by many Americans. After our experiences living in Munich for 13 years, we simply could not take that part of Europe any more.

    • On the other hand, I believe in forgiveness, and moving forward. People who dessicate graves should be thrown in jail.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      william osborne says:

      October 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      “Imagine mentalities like these at the Mozarteum after the war. In the mid 90s the Mozarteum made some mild efforts to recruit my wife as the new trombone professor at the Mozarteum. She told them she wasn’t interested, even there are many positive things about the school and the city, and even though that might be considered a dream job by many Americans. After our experiences living in Munich for 13 years, we simply could not take that part of Europe any more.”

      What, and the rural Schwabenländle where you ended up was so much more progressive and old-Nazi-free? How does the Mozarteum offering a professorship to a female foreigner fit with your usual “Austrians are all misogynist Nazis” narrative? Sounds to me like the mid-90s there weren’t quite as “after the war” as you want us to believe. And what old Nazi eventually took that professorship?

      • Baden-Württemberg is far more progressive than Salzburg. In fact, it is now governed by the Green Party which is about as far left as it goes for ruling parties in Europe. As usual, Mr. Schaffer insinuates that I and others have said things we haven’t, and accuses us of beliefs we don’t have. Forgive me if I ignore further comments from him.

        • In 1999, the rightwing extremist Freedom Party won 29.8 percent of the vote in Salzburg. In the cities of Salzburg, Innsbruck and Graz the Freedom Party took first place in front of the SPO. In the state capital of Klagenfurt, Haider’s party was able to win 40 percent of the vote.

          The party remains strong. In the last elections it received 26% of the vote in Vienna.

          Before his death in an automobile accident, the party’s founder, Jörg Haider referred to the concentration camps as punishment camps, praised the economic policies of Hitler, and referred to members of the SS as heroes. We are happy we no longer live in that part of Europe.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            If I don’t read the sources wrong, it looks to me like in 1999, the FPÖ got more like 19.58% of the vote overall in the state of Salzburg and 21.5% in the city.

            I agree, that is not good, but it seems like your numbers are quite a bit off there.

            But that was in 1999. This is 2013. Now, they are down to 17.3%/15.3%. Still too much, I think we both agree on that, too, but a positive trend. How come you haven’t told us about that?

            But more significantly, in the same period, the Greens have steeply risen from a very meager 5.39%/8.17% in 1999 to an impressive 20.18% in the state and even 26.33% in the city of Salzburg – they were the party who got the most votes of *any* party.

            How come you haven’t told us about *that*?

            And why 1999? Why do you compare Salzburg 1999 to Baden-Württemberg 2013? When you moved to B-W in the early 1990s, the Greens just had 9.5% of the vote and they were not a significant political power. Baden-Württemberg used to be a bastion of the conservative CDU for decades until the last election in which they still got by far the most votes but not quite enough to stay in power, so they had to yield to a Greens/SPD coalition.

            The numbers and developments then and now look strikingly similar between Salzburg and B-W. I suspect those shifts in the political spectra in both places have something to do with people finally being fed up with all the scandals like the Stuttgart 21 train station mess and the speculation scandal in Salzburg which apparently lost the state hundreds of millions of Euro.

            In any case, the rise of the Greens in Baden-Württemberg is a very recent development (2001: 7.7%; 2006: 11.7%; 2011: 24.2%).

            So that doesn’t fit your narrative of how you fled the brown swamps of the Munich/Salzburg region for Greener pastures (pun intended!).

            Those are all numbers and facts, William, not “ad hominem attacks”. So please don’t play the victim card again. To paraphrase you, please forgive me when I ignore your passive-aggressive evasion manoeuvrings and just focus on facts.

            See, the problem is, you have a lot of interesting stuff to say about this and some other important subjects, but the arguments you make and the numbers you pull out of your sleeve are just way too obviously selective and they seem to be more geared towards presenting a glorified image of yourself as a tireless and courageous activist for this or that cause than to really educate people about the subject at hand.

            I did enjoy the hair-raising blood-and-soil nonsense Erich Valentin wrote about Cesar Bresgen though, so thanks for finding that quote.

          • When a radical right group like the Freedom Party has 26% of the vote in Stuttgart, as it currently has in Vienna, we’ll talk. That is just one illustration of the differences between B-W and the Austro-Bavarian mindset.

  • Mark says:

    The Austrians (among numerous other nationalities), seem to have had little difficulty in overlooking the earlier Nazi affiliation of such people. (e.g. Kurt Waldheim) It is merely an inconvenient fact to be brushed off — one can’t even say “forgiven” since, for many there, there is nothing to forgive.

  • KenD. says:

    I love stuff like this. None of the reactions have anything to do with his music. Was he any good (I have no idea)? Do evil people make good art? Were there good Nazis? Are Republicans people? Where is Hannah Arendt when we need her?

    • Figuratively speaking, Arendt is in Hell where she belongs. We have Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Wolpe instead. Hanna Arendt was bored with evil, as evidenced by the title of her “book” The mundanes of Evil. Who cares if he was a good or bad musician…..I am a Jew and a bad musician, von Karajan, Fuertwangler and Orff were good mucisians and blood sucking nazis. Not to mention Wagner and Winifred ( a music lover). They were great but they supported the “ausrottiing” of the Jewish Race, would not and do not back the existence of Israel, and stood by while their fellow Jewish artists collectively and their children were gassed. And if they who replaced their Jewish colleagues, knowing their fate, were good musicians who cares. The Jews didn’t gas Nazi’s….the Nazi’s destroyed European Jewery. A musician is a profession, and a nazi is a nazi is a nazi.

      • Helen, I think Arendt made the important point that we can lose our sense of evil though a blind acceptance of the status quo — an important lesson for Americans today, and one that might temper our judgement of others since we suffer similar problems.

      • squirrel says:

        “Arendt is in hell where she belongs”? “Jews didn’t gas Nazis”? You are truly unhinged, and any serious arguments you make are diminished by this madcap stuff.

        • kamioner says:

          I see the entire holocaust issue from the point of view of a daughter of survivors who never knew her14 Aunts and Uncles,countless cousins, 4 Grandparents. This is truly madcap and unhinged.

  • robcat2075 says:

    The German Wikipedia article details significant involvement with Nazi organizations like the Hitler Youth but it’s not clear if he was an actual “card-carrying” member.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      The article is very specific about that:

      “Bresgen war kein NSDAP-Mitglied, da er nicht den geforderten „Ariernachweis“ erbrachte. Nach einem Selbstzeugnis war er aber eifriger Nationalsozialist.”

      Bresgen was not an NSDAP member as he failed to submit the required “Aryan Certificate”. However, according to his own testimony, he was fervent National Socialist”.

  • ruben greenberg says:

    The man’s grave should never have been desecrated and may he rest in peace, but I can’t understand people indignantly taking his defense.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I don’t see anyone taking his defense on this page, let alone “indignantly”. It looks to me like no one, apart from Mr Osborne, even knew who Bresgen was before this thread started (I didn’t either).

  • Martin says:

    May I dare to ay that he’s composed a Totentanz?