Eye-opener: Wolfgang Wagner’s Hitler film is found in Bayreuth

Eye-opener: Wolfgang Wagner’s Hitler film is found in Bayreuth


norman lebrecht

July 28, 2016

Home movies of Adolf Hitler with the Wagner family in the summer of 1936 have been rediscovered at Bayreuth.

The films were shot by the previous Bayreuth director Wolfgang Wagner as a 16 year-old boy and show the Nazi leader in a series of informal settings with the Wagner family.

According to local press reports the Agfa film, which was stored in rusting cans in a Festspielhaus cellar, is presently being digitised and will eventually be made available for ‘authorised research’.

Archivists say the unguarded close-ups are especially revealing, not just of Hitler but of various Bayreuth artists. There is no sound on film.

Wolfgang Wagner with Wieland Wagner and Adolf Hitler
Hitler in posed portrait with Wieland (l.) and Wolfgang (r.) Wagner



  • David Osborne says:

    Were they lost? I’m pretty sure Wolfgang’s son Gottfried writes about these in his book.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Aren’t they the rolls Gottfried found in a motorcar sidecar in the garage? There’s something about it in his book.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The archives at Bayreuth have as yet not been examined entirely, because of apparently sensitive material being buried there; eager musicologists, historians, Slipped Disc, and the international scandal press have to be very patient.

      It is, in itself, a very odd thing that the heritage of a composer which in this case includes a theatre, is run by his offspring, as if they would be the best possible executives. The same problem as with monarchy and as crazy.

      • DESR says:

        Oh stop being so insufferably Americano-pomposo!

        You with your Bush and Clinton dynasties have no high ground on monarchical or oligarchic power.

        Bayreuth is basically still a family business, and the Wagners are the closest the Germans have to royalty, at least in its modern celebrity sense. They are just quite clever in that they have got the lander and federal govts to pony up.

        Part of this gradual perestroika is therefore familial politesse and nil nisi bonum… Patience, as you say!

        • Jaybuyer says:

          “I’d like that translated, if I may.” (Harold Macmillan)

        • Peter says:

          Germans DO have royalty. They are called Windsor and are the sovereigns of Britannia. They had to change their name of ‘von Sachen-Coburg und Gotha’ to Windsor due to anti German sentiments during WWI

          • Jaybuyer says:

            And they even call the Queen ‘die Queen’ (all other bicycling European royalty ‘Königin’).

        • John Borstlap says:

          Wagner had envisaged his work and his theatre as a ‘gift to the nation’, but ‘the nation’ (the recently united German empire, in 1870), was not interested. Before the unification, the King of Bavaria wanted to accept the gift for Bavaria (which was then an independent country) and had a very big theatre designed for Munich. But the general opposition was so great, that Wagner abandoned the ‘gift’ idea and made it an entirely private enterprise in opposition to ‘the surrounding culture’, a place of musical pelgrimage for Wagnerians. The building of the theatre and the first festival was continuously burdened by money shortage and cash flow crises. So, it became a family business as a ‘plan B’, because W’s work was not as generally established as it is today. But in postwar Germany, Bayreuth could have become a national theatre, like other theatres. And today, were any opera house that wants to fill the hall only has to programme Wagner, there is no reason at all to have this theatre run by the family. And the reference to ‘royalty’ is ridiculous and embarrassing.

          (And I have never set a foot in America – just for the record.)

  • Mick says:

    A bunch of nazis. I wonder what their take on muslim immigration is

    • John Borstlap says:

      You really have to try to find your encyclopedia again.

    • Dirk Fischer says:

      I just spent a few days in Bayreuth and walked up the hill to have a look at the marvellous Festspielhaus. I was surprised to find a very honest and candid exhibition about the family’s history of anti-jewish sentiments in the surrounding parks, alongside an homage to many of the jewish (or supposedly so) artists who performed at the Festspiele and suffered a tragic fate. I was not aware of the fact that the Wagner’s seemingly deal with their history in such a remarkably responsible way.