Bavarian State Opera opens Nazi-era archives

Bavarian State Opera opens Nazi-era archives


norman lebrecht

January 20, 2016

A team from Munich University has found that the city’s opera house was pretty much left alone by the Nazis. Once Jewish staff and artists had been evicted early in 1933, the theatre suffered less interference than most others. It was never obliged to fly a swastika flag on the roof, or to engage in other acts of propaganda.

Hitler did plan to replace the historic building with a more grandiose model.

hitler munich opera house


‘The best thing is, there is no scandal,’ said a relieved intendant, Nikolaus Bachler, on publication of the report. 

That may well be, but I can’t help remembering Georg Solti telling me that, in 1946 when he was appointed music director, the orchestra of Bavarian Opera was ‘full of Nazis, of the worst kind’.

Bayreuth has, meanwhile, refused to grant access to its Nazi-era archives.

UPDATE: A reader points out that every document issued by Bavarian State Opera from February 1933 bore this stamp:


bavarian state opera nazi


  • Daphne Badger says:

    Well of course every document issued by Bavarian State Opera from February 1933 bore that stamp: it was a State-maintained institution and the Nazi party was in power. Do grow up…

    • Peter says:

      Indeed. You thought the “state” moniker would give the obvious away, but maybe not.
      And Bayreuth: I would close my archives too, if those who want to look at it (e.g. the blog owner) are trying nothing but to piss on me today, and, were they given any meaning or power, would try to kill me, for something that the responsible for are dead for decades.

  • Frederick West says:

    Much as I admire Solti an anecdotal aside isn’t really evidence. Do grow up even more please. I’d have been surprised if he hadn’t made such a comment. Mind you, he seemed to have no problem meeting Richard Strauss.

    • Peter says:

      Well, Strauss was no Nazi in any way, so why not meet the old man who tried to help many, also Jews, to weather the Nazi tyranny.

      But it is bigot of Solti, not only – if true – to make such comment, but to build a whole career and record Wagner’s Ring in Germany and Austria, after the war, particularly using the opportunity of the post-war vacuum, when established conductors were not allowed to work, waiting for their “Denazification” trials. To say that there were Nazis in Munich in 1946 is stating the obvious. Munich is where the whole mess started after all. It devastated whole Europe.
      The worst loser of the Munich based Nazi activities was East Germany and Berlin after the war. Which doesn’t stop the ever shortsighted Bavarians today to complain that they have to transfer a bit of their surplus to those less fortunate regions of Germany. Bigots wherever you look.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Well well well…. Bavaria was an entirely independent state before unification in 1870 and has always cultivated something of its independence. Its protest against having to compensate for poorer regions elsewhere is comparable with the same complaints of Catalonia in Spain, also a quite independent cultural regio.

        The reason nazism seriously started in Munich, can be found in its beer cellars, where Hitler’s rhetoric successes began, while he was laughed out of court in Berlin, lacking such cellars. Somewhat dumbed by alcohol, vague resentments of local populations and peasants could be whipped-up more easily than in a more intellectually-infected climate of a northern. modern metropolis. Also, Bavaria – strongly rooted in an impressive country-side – was more conservative at the time. Nowadays Munich is a modern, open and elegant city with a lively culture, still cultivating some independence.

        • Frederick West says:

          Amazingly, I find myself in complete agreement here with JB. It is indeed a very fair and cultured city, full of greenery and a real tonic. That independence still really rings true and they hang on to their customs and history with fervour and pride, and they don’t seem to be that embarrassed about it. Whilst some churlishly point to their conservatism they did build a very informative and fascinating new facility on the site of the Braunehaus and this NZS documentation centre is well worth a visit. Elegant is an ideal description, it has that for sure.
          Culturally it is particularly well blessed with a number of very fine orchestras and a first rate music academy.
          It treads a fine line, bearing in mind it’s past, but it achieves this with humility and good grace.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Yes… an example for all other cities with a cultural heritage to cherish. Hopefully they will find a way to have a new, really good concert hall built. A problem, comparable to London’s new concert hall.

          • Peter says:

            I don’t want to rain on your delusional group masturbation Gentlemen, but guess what, *all* German provinces and substates were independent before 1871.
            And Bavaria was a poor, backward, rural, agricultural state even inside a German nation state, until… it was occupied by the US, the Soviet sector capital flight finding refuge here, and the Americans, unlike the Brits, seeing an economically strong Germany as the best option for a more peaceful future Europe.
            So the Bavarians basically caused the war, *and* won it. While the “Saupreissn” were occupied first by the brown pest from the south, and then by the red pest from the east, are are now bullied by the Lederhosen pest from the south again.
            Inbred Bastards in Lederhosen now think they did it themselves, what a Schmarrn. 😉

  • Frederick West says:

    Sounds like you don’t need any help at all in the self-pleasure zone. Enjoy

  • John Borstlap says:

    To Peter with his: “And Bavaria was a poor, backward, rural, agricultural state even inside a German nation state…”

    Munich was called, already at the beginning of the 19th century, the ‘Athens on the Isar’ (the little river), because it quickly became a hub of culture and trade. King Max’ impressive classicist building projects made it the most modern and culturally-alive city of Germany. Its Court Opera was famous for its quality of productions, and King Ludwig saved Wagner from bankruptcy and if there had not been such opposition to Wagner at the time in Munich, Ludwig would have built him a big theatre (for which Semper created the plans). Also after 1871 Munich played an important part in Germany’s cultural history. All this would not have been possible if Bavaria was merely backward and poor.

    • Peter says:

      John, it was what it was, not need to engage in revisionist day dreaming as you do. Munich was and is not Bavaria alone, and Munich up to WWII played among the German cultural centers a kind of principal second fiddle position. They were among the most uncultured folks in German countries. One art loving King alone saved them from being a cultural desert.
      Bavarians should consider themselves lucky that they – totally undeserved – were *the* major winners of WWII, and also not forget about the less fortunate fate of those who drew the shorter straws…

      • John Borstlap says:

        I won’t engage in debate where mentioning historical facts, which can be found in any hisorical book upon the subject, are called ‘revisionist day dreaming’.

  • Keir says:

    But the opera house was decked out in swastikas during the Tag der Deutschen Kunst- see the bottom of this page: