How Furtwängler got rich on Nazi gold

How Furtwängler got rich on Nazi gold


norman lebrecht

October 30, 2019

The last of my DG videocasts on Wilhelm Furtwängler – ‘he was phenomenally well paid’.

‘He spent the last nine years of his life justifying himself with a tissue of myths and lies.’



  • AngloGerman says:

    Quite the lack of respect for what was probably the greatest conductor to ever live.

    • Whatdisrespect says:

      What lack of respect? We can respect his music-making but it is fact that he benefited, profitied and represented the Nazi Reich. Speaking about this is how we will never forget. Wagnerites have long forgotten the virulent antisemitism of the composer. Wagner does not deserve respect as a human being but can be respected for his compositions. The same goes for Furtwängler.

      • Patrick Gillot says:

        Yeah only one problem, this website is supposed to be on music not on politics. Of course Furtwangler may have been to cosy but we now only hear noise about this.

        • Calvin says:

          Look a bit more closely at this website — it is all about everything surrounding the music, comings, goings, announcements, back-stories and intrigue. Curious how this minor issue Nazism strikes a nerve with you as being out-of-bounds.

          When Lebrecht does address Furtwangler’s music per se in his CD reviews (which by the way on not even on this site but elsewhere), he has without exception in the all the examples I can recall been extremely positive.

      • Tamino says:

        He benefited, profited from and represented the 3rd Reich?
        Isn’t it more the other way around? And THAT should have made him reconsider his professional activities in Germany during those horrible 12 years.
        Furtwängler was indivisibly attached to the German classical music life and he hoped the Nazis were just a temporary nuisance.
        After the fact everybody was smarter.
        What should he have done differently?
        Sure he could have conducted elsewhere, but his soul was deeply planted in Germany.
        He would have felt miserable in America.
        Fritz Busch for instance, someone who left early after the Nazis rose to power, did not leave out of conviction. He left because he had no other choice.

        • HugoPreuss says:

          I am sorry, but Fritz Busch (and Adolf Busch) are bad examples. They were neither Jewish nor politically aligned with any left wing party. There were problems in Dresden, but non of these were insurmountable. So, the Busch brothers DID leave out of conviction, and all the more to their credit. Adolf Busch famously sent letters unanswered back to Germany if they were signed with “Heil Hitler”…

          Better examples would be Bruno Walter or Otto Klemperer or numerous others.

          Having said that: Furtwängler stayed in Germany and profited from it, but he was never a Nazi (unlike Clemens Krauss or Karajan). Where do we draw the line? Shall we ban the music of Strauss and Orff and Egk forever? Heisenberg benefited from the Nazis. Shall we disregard his research? What about Wernher von Braun? Retroactively take away his role in the space race?

          How about non-Germans who willingly collaborated? How about Mengelberg? Knut Hamsun?

          The list is endless. Why can’t we at least concentrate on those who actually were Nazis instead of mere fellow travelers.

        • Mathias Broucek says:

          The other big job in Berlin was head of the Opera and Erich Kleiber walked out because of the Nazis. When they asked him to return, he offered an all-Mendelssohn programme….

          He also later quit La Scala saying, “I hear that access to the Scala is denied to Jews. …both as a Christian and an artist, I can no longer co-operate”

          Instead of enjoying the best orchestras and fees in the Reich, he went around S America showing the BEST of Austro-German culture. In fact, I have a recording of him doing the Argentinian PREMIERE of the St John Passion (it’s a bad performance in dreadful sound, but that’s beside the point)

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          It bears out the evidence of late; that the educated, middle class, aristocrats and elite were the people who admired the Nazis and facilitated their rise to power. There are parallels today with the authoritarian Left.

          • Steven Holloway says:

            You’ve said this before. Take a bit of advice from an historian: Read come effing History, and not just the bits that feed your warped view of current affairs.

          • Mick the Knife says:

            But thats what historians do; reinterpret the past (picking and choosing tidbits) through todays pet social movements. Thus the villainization of Columbus.

          • V.Lind says:

            Kindly enumerate which “authoritarian Left figures” are in power and some of the “educated, middle class, aristocrats and elite” who admire them and facilitate their rise to this power. I am curious.

          • Amos says:

            Try re-watching one of your favorite Riefenstahl home movies; those are NOT elites or aristocrats or the non-existent 1930’s middle class cheering wildly as the house painter is traveling the country but the masses. Last, stop trying to equate modern-day politicians whose egalitarian views you find abhorrent with mass murderers.

          • Clueless Sue says:

            This is vile. Which planet are you from Sue?

          • Edgar says:

            Oh darling, why do you need to publicize your uneducated bigotry in such shameless, odious manner?

            Get a grip and see your clinician.

          • Pete8d says:

            Sue, you are so correct…

        • Simon Behrman says:

          ‘He would have felt miserable in America’ – this canard is often used in defence of Furtwangler. But this ignores two things. First, he was angling for chief of the Chicago Symphony after the war and only pulled out because of local opposition to his wartime activities. Second, the fact that he might have felt discomfort in the US or elsewhere would have been pure self-indulgence on his part. Many people who were forced to leave felt more than a little miserable – both Klemperer and Jascha Horenstein suffered greatly during the war years in exile.

          As Norman says quite justly, Furtwangler had a cushy life in Nazi Germany, and he failed to take full responsibility for his choices (and they were choices!) after the war.

      • Lord Bus Stop says:

        I fully agree. It is hard to justify or to forget large, high profile incomes during the Nazi government.

      • John Borstlap says:

        There is still much misunderstanding around RW.

    • M McAlpine says:

      Lack of respect? We can respect a man’s music making but not some of the decisions he made. As Toscanini said of Strauss: “To Strauss the musician I take my hat off; to Strauss the man I put it back on again.” We could equally apply that to Furtwangler and quite a few others. Unfortunately some of his biographers have done history a disservice by constantly trying to justify his deacons rather than just presenting them.

  • sam says:

    I think it’s axiomatic that anyone who thrives in a dictatorship necessarily collaborates with it.

    There is no such thing as a happy coincidence of moral neutrality and career and financial success in a dictatorial system. There is at the very least, wilful moral blindness.

    And of course we must judge. Just because we did not live through those times, or just because we probably would’ve done the same thing, doesn’t make it moral. If, by our judging, one person will learn to do better than us, an advance will have been made.

    Furtwängler was evil.

    • Patrick Gillot says:

      Easy said in the confort of the early 20th century.

    • Novagerio says:

      Furtwängler evil? Well, he was strongly opposed to Hitler’s nomination as chancellor, he managed to get Nazi-Germany’s leading orchestra to stay together and avoid that any of its members were drafted to war service, and he tried to protect jewish or unwanted musicians from Gestapo persecution for as long as he could through his contact with Goering, a not too strange privilege being his country’s leading conductor. He avoided Nazi propaganda when he could (difficult being – I repeat, his country’s leading conductor!) and he was never a party-member, he avoided conducting the Horst Wessel-Song and he refused giving the Hitler salute.
      Politically, he was one of many old-fashioned naivists, although not entirely without courage.

      On April 10, 1933, Furtwängler wrote a public letter to Goebbels to denounce the new rulers’ antisemitism:
      Ultimately there is only one dividing line I recognize: that between good and bad art. However, while the dividing line between Jews and non-Jews is being drawn with a downright merciless theoretical precision, that other dividing line, the one which in the long run is so important for our music life, yes, the decisive dividing line between good and bad, seems to have far too little significance attributed to it (…) If concerts offer nothing then people will not attend; that is why the QUALITY is not just an idea: it is of vital importance. If the fight against Judaism concentrates on those artists who are themselves rootless and destructive and who seek to succeed in kitsch, sterile virtuosity and the like, then it is quite acceptable; the fight against these people and the attitude they embody (as, unfortunately, do many non-Jews) cannot be pursued thoroughly or systematically enough. If, however, this campaign is also directed at truly great artists, then it ceases to be in the interests of Germany’s cultural life (…) It must therefore be stated that men such as Walter, Klemperer, Reinhardt etc. must be allowed to exercise their talents in Germany in the future as well, in exactly the same way as Kreisler, Huberman, Schnabel and other great instrumentalists of the Jewish race. It is only just that we Germans should bear in mind that in the past we had Joseph Joachim one of the greatest violinists and teachers in the German classical tradition, and in Mendelssohn even a great German composer – for Mendelssohn is a part of Germany’s musical history”.
      In June 1933, for a text which was to be the basis for a discussion with Goebbels, Furtwängler went further, writing, “The Jewish question in musical spheres: a race of brilliant people!” He threatened that if boycotts against Jews were extended to artistic activities, he would resign all his posts immediately, concluding that “at any rate to continue giving concerts would be quite impossible without (the Jews) – to remove them would be an operation which would result in the death of the patient.

      Are you sure he was evil?

      At the same time, in the Soviet Union, Evgeny Mravinsky and a few other prominent “Stars of the soviet system” (David Oistrach and Leonid Kogan in particular) were notorious informers and “fifth columnists”, and in some cases, it would last until the very end of Communist Russia and post-stalinism.
      Please, shed some light on that too, at least for the sake of coherence.

      Surely we should not forget history, but still, in an age of constant “ass-kissing” as the current now, it becomes far too easy to judge the choices of the past.

    • Tamino says:

      If Furtwängler was evil, then every human being is evil.

      Your talk is cheap, out of a comfy armchair in the west in the early 21st century.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I don’t think that WF was ‘evil’, he was stupid, rather. For the rest I fully agree with your comment. But it is very hard to make decisions if you live in a dagnerous, totalitarian society: if you have a family to feed, and you don’t have the money and the contacts to emigrate? Or if you don’t have rich relatives who support you so that you can withdraw into the ‘inner emigration’ space, like Amadeus Hartmann? It is more likely that WF was blinded and opportunistic and idealistic and stupid and a great conductor, all in the same time.

  • Gustavo says:

    How the yellow label gets rich on gold editions…

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Let’s not forget Von Karajan who was a member of the Nazi party not once but twice. He was very rich too.

    • Gustavo says:

      And there’s a massive gold edition, too.

      “The largest box set in history”

    • Novagerio says:

      Elisabeth, Karajan was 25 when Hitler came to power. It’s a huge difference compared with the careerists and super-opportunists like for instance Karl Böhm, who profited from Fritz Bush’s dismissal in Dresden in 1934.
      On top of that, Böhm might have profited a lot from informing to his Nazi contacts, Hans Frank in particular.

      On the other hand, the Furtwängler’s and the Clemens Krauss’s (the one a genius, the other a gifted administrator and very good Kapellmeister) were paradoxically enough needed to protect artists from Gestapo persecution.
      And Heinz Tietjen, general Prussian theater manager, managed to protect two former Berlin coaches (Sandberg and Bendix) to escape to Stockholm via Riga, in order to join former Prussian General Music Director Leo Blech, long after Hitler’s raise to power.

      Now, imagine what today’s conductors would have done back then (!)

      You want to judge events from 85 years ago? Start with the former USSR and the plentiful of artistical “underdogs” who profited during the Stalinism, at least for the sake of coherence.

      And what the devil is the point doing an exclusive Witch Hunt almost a century later after all?

      • Novagerio says:

        Sorry about the apostrophes. A classic Wordlist issue.

      • Peter Phillips says:

        Don’t know how today’s conductors would behave but one recent one, Louis Frémaux, fought in the French resistance, was captured and interned by the Germans, escaped and rejoined the resistance.

    • M McAlpine says:

      Yes Karajan died very rich, but during the war he fell out of favour with the Nazis and was practically unemployed at the end of the war.

  • “… where he could record anything he wanted.”

    Except, I presume, Hindemith.

    I don’t know… were there regular releases of music on recording that weren’t allowed in public?

  • Why Furtwängler? says:

    Wilhelm Furtwängler’s political views and decision to stay in Germany during the Nazi era have been debated to death. It’s obvious he was no Nazi, but neither was he a conscientious objector. Read his letters to the Wagner family objecting to a non-German conductor at Bayreuth and you’ll know what a provincial character he was, and how he regarded himself as “indispensable”.

    But why, when the subject of musicians who elected to stay in Hitler’s Germany is raised, is Furtwängler usually the topic of discussion. Karl Böhm was an unrepentant Nazi yet he’s hardly ever mentioned – even as his recordings are reissued. Wilhelm Backhaus’ complete Decca and DG recordings are about to be reissued and there’s nary a peep of his Nazi sympathies despite an article he published supporting Hitler in 1936.

    • Tamino says:

      Because Furtwängler is an iconic giant, and if you want to pee at the foundation of a monument, you choose the biggest monument. That’s what dogs do anyway.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed. When I lived in London, my dogs didn’t want to relieve themselves close to the house, so I had to hire a dogwalker to get them to Nelson’s column on Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. (They were French dogs.)

      • Novagerio says:

        Bravo Tamino!

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        Drawing upon facts regarding Furtwaengler’s life is not peeing on a monument.

        • Tamino says:

          Accusing him being evil is not facts but the opposite, hyperbolic irrational nonsense.

          WF was delusional, he might have lived more in a bubble than others, and when those only six years one could have acted and changed one’s own paths (only six years, 33-39) were over it was too late and everybody dug himself in where he was during the war.
          Nobody says he was a saint. But the polarizing undifferentiated judgements, mostly from armchair freedom fighters, are ridiculous and do not help in shedding light on a great musician and a very complex personality.

    • Weexpectmorefromgiants says:

      Because he was truly a giant and everyone would have expected more from a giant.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      I have addressed the same issue of the likes of Bohm following previous posts about WF. Never does NL address it. I wish someone with the material and time would lay into Bohm in particular. I doubt if that would be NL. Furtwangler is sure-fire clickbait, tried and proven, a topic that brings in the punters and keeps ’em coming back, some multiple times a day to post yet more comments, and each time they return it counts as a discrete visit by a different reader. Hence those dodgy readership figures.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Bohm’s brilliant intensity in his performances may have been the result of his glowing faith in nazi ideologies, but fortunately music is non-conceptual so we only hear the how, not the what. But knowing of the man’s horrible past poisons listening. It is the totalitarian impulse going underground and being disguised by a veneer of humanism and subtle aesthetics, like a criminal dressed in finery, something also quite common in postwar modernism (Xenakis, Stockhausen, Boulez, et al).

  • Aaron Herschel says:

    Furtwaengler was a German and like most Germans he was a Nazi who supported the regime.
    A ban of his work should be in place, the same goes for many other artists ( Bach, Wagner, Strauss to name a few) from this country.

    • John Borstlap says:


    • Eric says:

      It’s stupid racist comments that should be banned.

    • Alexander Tarak says:


      • Tamino says:

        because he ised scripture as libretti, and in scripture Jews are blamed for killing Jesus. So to pee further on the momument that is called German music tradition, now Bach is also a target. It is an orchestrated cultural vendetta.

      • Aaron Herschel says:

        Yes Bach. A typical died in the wool antisemite, who used his music as a tool against Jewish people, especially in his passions ( which ought to be banned really.)

        • John Borstlap says:

          I think ALL of that Bach should be banned! I’m always stiff bored by that pretentious freewheeling forced down your throat as high art, it doesn’t leave you any space for breathing or thinking or having any pleasant association as I have with Eclat Multiples or Olga’s Vampyre piece.


    • Gustavo says:


    • Mick the Knife says:

      Ban Newton and his law of gravity too. And Kepler, Boltzmann, Schrodinger, Pauli…Actually, just boycott all of the stars of of classical music and science; they are almost all Austro-German. No country has made a bigger contribution to Western Civilization since Ancient Greece. But ban them all now!

  • nimitta says:

    Bravo, Norman!

  • John Borstlap says:

    I find Norman’s explanation and description entirely convincing, WF’s staying in the country is inexcusable especially when he got so wealthy of it – that is a quite disgusting detail undermining any redeeming feature of the man. Allowing yourself be paid by barbarians for protecting the German spirit is an impossible, surrealist intellectual crime.

    Talking about German traditions: there are quite a few, but the main one and the only truly admirable one, and – ironically – the most European one, is the intellectual and artistic tradition as informed by the Englightenment (Weimarer Klassik, Goethe, Schiller, Kant), early romantic poetry and literature (Novalis, Holderlin, Heine), Beethoven’s idealism, and the cultivation of Bildung of the upcoming middle classes. In the first half of the 19th century, middle classes and high society were educated on a generous fare of classical education at the gymnasia. The so-called ‘conservatism’ which is often noticed from abroad, is not simply ‘fear of change’ but the longing for order and stability, garanteeing freedom and development, after ages of a fragile territory which was splintered, backward, full of contradictions and problems – and open to devastating invasions of which the French one was a fresh memory. The abberations which gradually occurred later in the 19th and then, 20th century, were not part of this tradition, which has produced some of the greatest contributions to humanity in all fields except painting.

    It seems clear that WF had not sufficiently understood what ‘the German spirit’ was supposed to be and hence, his mistakes. The real German spirit would have forced him to either leave the country – he had enough money to get out and begin a new life elsewhere – or to openly resist (which would have cost him his job and possibly his life), or to withdraw into anonimity only to reappear unblemished after the war. So, ironically, he did NOT embody the German spirit, and could not possibly use it as an excuse. His options were not difficult at all to choose from, as seen from a simple moral perspective.

    • SoCal Peter says:

      Certainly the musical German tradition predates the pre-Romantic and early Romantic tradition you hold as exemplary, and a convincing presentation has to make room for Bach (and his musical roots).

      I would then not except painting from the contributions of such an extended German tradition: Albrecht Dürer alone produced “some of the greatest contributions to humanity” in that field. Of course, his father was a Hungarian immigrant to Nuremberg, so perhaps that rules him out of the “German tradition”… hmmm, Dürer as the Hungarian Mesut Özil of his time… 😉

      • John Borstlap says:

        True, that tradition goes back much farther, but I think with the Engligthenment it got on another level. In feudal times, it was one of the European cultures, with the late 18C it became important for the whole of Europe.

    • Tamino says:

      Your ideas of a ‘German spirit’ are your ideas and nothing else. Typical simplified nonsense in “best” imperialistic tradition looking from an island…

      • John Borstlap says:

        It is wholeheartedly recommended to read a bit about it, instead of merely repeating wide-shared prejudices. The ‘German spirit’ was a real thing and not some private opinion. It was born from ages of misery and frustration, and wanted to express the exemplary and aspiring of the human mind in times when social and political circumstances were deplorable, so it expressed itself in intellectual and artistic forms.

        Yes, such ideas were once taken seriously.

        • Tamino says:

          The ‘German spirit’ was, if anything, an intersubjective idea. Ideas are not synonymous with real people. Real people are full of many ideas.
          Your explanations are so terribly limited and oversimplistic.

          • John Borstlap says:

            That may seem so without knowing enough about the phenomenon, which inspired and stimulated so many artistic and intellectual people at the time, and when degenerated into chauvinism led to aggression. It put people into action in the reality of the world. One of the sources (wholeheartedly recommended) which show how these kind of processes develop, is Safranski’s book on German romanticism:


            Here, the intertwinement of the German spirit with German nationalism is explored – for better or for worse:


            An interesting, extensive review of this book:


            And this is an inquiry into the perversion of the German spirit by the Prussians, who always were quite different from the western territories:


            The German way of processing universal intellectual and artistic material has a special flavor which is a European contribution, not a narrowly nationalistic one, but it was easily misused when frustration and misery came into play.

            Instead of venting one’s ignorance in primitive reactions, it is always better to first get to know something about a subject.

          • John Borstlap says:


            Other examples of ‘spirit’: the adoptation of French fashion, manners, interior decoration, conversation styles (in French!), architecture, and eventually philosophical ideas (Les Lumières) in 18C Europe, even as far as in Russia. And, in the last century, the intrusion everywhere in the world of Americana: pop, movies, TV soaps, commercialism, hairdos, jeans & T-shirts, etc. etc. all imitated as far as in India, S-Korea, even China – these are fashions and collectively embraced ‘ways of life’ that can be described as ‘spirit’. It’s a big chunk of reality.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Indeed, and it only goes to perpetuate the myth of the “Deutsche Seele” as opposed to anyone else’s spirit or soul. “Tendency” or “habit” would be more accurate.

      • John Borstlap says:

        In music, there definitely is something like ‘the German spirit’. It reigns in – among other composers – Bach, Beethoven and Brahms (the clearest examples; in Wagner this spirit is often quite blurred and confused). It represents an accentuation of certain aesthetic and psychological elements which are universal, but which give a particular taste to its products. The postwar self-hatred of this spirit, because it had been besmeared by dangerous idiots, can be found in Lachenmann, who – by the way – offers no single reason for humour. Furtwangler would not have understood it at all, but it might have jolted him out of his distorted idea of ‘Germanness’.

      • Gustavo says:

        “deutsch” (diutisc) actually means “of the people” as opposed to the unfamiliar / foreign (welsch)

        Music can bring balance to these forces, which are not mutually exclusive.

        See finale of Meisters.

        There is no exclusive German music style – see Elgar.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Indeed. But a lot of German music, i.e. music written by Germans or in Germany, stresses certain traits. Dvorak for instance is quite German in spite of his Bohemian background, as is Cesar Franck who was a Belgian.

          • Tamino says:

            Blurry esoteric pseudo-intellectual nonsense.

            You could talk about regional traditions of instrument making, of singing, of performance practice. But cooking a funny soup of “spirit” out of it is unfounded in reality, it’s “Phantasterei”.

          • John Borstlap says:

            If glasses are not quite clean enough, the world looks very blurry indeed.

    • Mick the Knife says:

      Even well said BS is BS. He embodied the German spirit, which is a bit more contradictory than you are willing to acknowledge.

  • Rob says:

    While millions of innocent people were being murdered, many gassed, unable to breathe in their last moments, he was serving up Bruckner on a plate to his masters.

  • Charles Dreyfus says:

    What is the source for the remuneration amounts that you assert WF received?

  • When judging Furtwangler’s actions one simply can’t bring in Horenstein, Klemperer or Walter as points of comparison. They may have suffered in America during the war years, but there was no alternative for them. They simply had to leave Europe for their own survival. Furtwangler had choice.

  • Po says:

    He worths that salary, when American at the time paid quite handsome money to some inferior musicians because they couldn‘t get the best.

  • Nathaniel Rosen says:

    Thank you for making sense, Norman. Your spoken thoughts are eminently reasonable and resonate in the soul of a fellow Furtwangler admirer.

  • Sharon says:

    Bruno Kittel, (born around 1912) the SS butcher of Vilna, who was a professional musician and actor before WWII was known for his cynical cruelty surpassing even many in the SS, for ex. played piano while shooting a child with his gun and and ordered people to be burnt alive in a building.

    He played music on Vilna radio at a time when he was ordering deportations and killings outside of the city.

    He just seems to have disappeared after the war (suicide perhaps?).

    There was also a Bruno Kittel born in the 1870s who was a relatively famous (although admittedly not like Furtwangler) choral arranger and conductor before and during the WWII era and who performed for Hitler and was well liked by the Nazi government. He died around 1948.

    It seems likely that the younger Bruno was the son of the older Bruno Kittel. Has anyone ever explored the connection or even tried to locate the younger Kittel through his father?

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Furtwaengler’s high remuneration in Reichsmark could be spent in Germany only and during the war. It is like being ’te’ major conductor in Venezuela and geting paid billions and billions of… Bolivars!

  • Bill Ecker says:

    I highly recommend anyone who is really interested in this topic to find the book “Trial of Strength, Wilhelm Furtwaengler and the Third Reich” by Fred K. Prieberg. (Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1994; it was also published by Quartet Books in London in 1991). There is also another, “The Devil’s Music Master” by Sam H. Shirakawa (1992) I think Prieberg is the more scholarly book and better researched.

    Here is the deal, the Nazi’s went all in on Richard Strauss, he was going to be their face of music. After all, at the time he was world famous and the dean of German composers whose music fit the mold. They appointed him to the head of the Reichsmusikammer even though he refused to join the Nazi Party. He disappointed them. Furtwaengler at the time was wildly popular. He had spent a good part of the years 1925-1927 conducting the New York Philharmonic and the board had asked him to consider staying and becoming their Music Director. He refused, not because he hated America, in fact that was not the case, but he felt the orchestra he had built in Germany, the Berlin Philharmonic was superior. As Strauss had disappointed them, Nazi, or not, Furtwaengler became the face of classical music in Nazi Germany. They scheduled events around his concerts there and he was accepting. He never gave a Nazi salute in public, he did help Jewish members of his orchestras and others who were his friends escape, but he was a German high art idealist, the sort that Wagner discusses in the final act of Die Meistersinger. There were others like Oswald V. Kabasta who were all in Nazi party member conductors and in his case as a musician left some really fine late Romantic Bruckner and Brahms recordings, but unlike Furtwaengler, he was convicted at his trial and could not find work and ended up hanging himself. There were the Gunther Ramin’s of the World, the Thomaskantor of Leipzig, a fine organist and harpsichordist, choir director and orchestral conductor. He led the Berlin Philharmonic chorus under Furtwaengler. Another card carrying Nazi, he played the specially made organ at the Nuremburg Rally and allowed the Thomaskirchke Boys Choir to be turned into members of Hitler youth. He was another bad one politically, but managed to survive the War, kept his job and led the boys choir on a tour of South America with an German-Jewish/Argentine tour manager arranging their jaunt. Furtwaengler was none of these politically, but as Norman said in his lecture, he was enriched for his work. He became the face of Nazi Music and though he was acquitted in 1947 of collaborating such as it were, if one were to spend a little time with his post-War concert chronology, one sees how his decision to remain at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic impacted the rest of his life. In January 1945 he conducted 6 total concerts, 2 in Germany, 3 in Vienna. 1946, April 4 concerts in Italy, 5 concerts in May in Berlin, 6 concerts in Berlin/Potsdam/Hamburg in June, 2 concerts in Salzburg in August and 3 in Lucerne the same month. He did not conduct again until after his acquittal in September 1947. At that point he conducted regularly in Germany, Europe and Scandinavia, three tours in South America (2 Argentina, 1 Venezuela) and two tours in London, though one on his own and the other with the Vienna Philharmonic which also brought him to North Africa. He was poison in North America. Think of what happened to Flagstad when she returned to the U.S. Someone mentioned Chicago and it surely was discussed, but no one wanted the stench of his involvement with the Nazi’s in North America. During those years Toscanini was thriving here though near his end, same with Bruno Walter, but we had Klemperer, Reiner, Szell, Steinberg, Koussevitzky, Monteux, Mitropoulos, Rodzkinski and Stokowski and Munch leading orchestras here, none controversial politically and all legendary at this point, was he really needed? At that point he would have been delighted to have a contract to perform in the U.S., but it was never to be forthcoming. The public at the time would not have allowed it. Would he have been able to bridge the gap between politics and music to earn the public’s acclaim, perhaps, but many of the nations orchestras would have refused to play under him for being a part of the Third Reich and so ended his opportunities in the U.S. and Canada for that matter. Now some say history has treated him unkindly, I say not. In fact his assistance to Jewish musicians did not really become well known until Prieberg’s book was published. His decision to remain will always tie him into the Nazi’s, the footage is there to prove that he agreed to participate. As several have pointed out, there were conscientious non-Jewish conductors like Busch and Kleiber who refused to participate and they were made to feel persona non grata so they left. It took them a season to fill Busch’s shoes at the Staatskapelle Dresden and when they did, it was card carrying Nazi, Karl Boehm. One person on the boards here said Busch was pushed out, hardly, he refused to conduct Nazi events, refused to participate in any of their activities in Dresden, it was only after that, that his situation was made untenable. Anyhow, I have now spent more than enough time on this.

  • Tamino says:

    I‘m not sure the numbers NL tells are adding up.
    4000 RM plus 1000 RM for broadcasting rights is not today’s equivalent of 65.000 EUR.
    It’s around 20.000 EUR today.
    That’s a mediocre concert fee by today’s standards. Top conductors regularly get substantially higher fees.

    The 65.000 EUR equivalent was for a singular exceptional fee he once got, 17.000 RM.

    So while NL’s insinuation WF might have been lulled in by the Nazis, who wanted him to stay, with relative comfort, has some merit, it is nevertheless unsubstantiated to claim that WF enriched himself extraordinarily in these years.
    WF also was wealthy before the Nazis rose to power. Last but not least due to his inherited family fortune and real estate.

    What all the outside judges to the mythical-esoteric ‘German soul’ fail to acknowledge is, how the class of ‘Bildungsbürger’ -including WF – despised the Nazis as below them, in a delusional way they thought that unraveling of the lowest supremacist and racist instincts would only be a temporary nuisance in the distinguished cultural tradition.

    But things happened quickly. Only six years until 1939. Then the shit really hit the proverbial fan.
    Only in hindsight it is easy to say, everyone could have seen it as a linear unavoidable progression to war and genocide of previously unparalleled dimensions.