Munich is urged to cancel Richard Strauss due to Nazi past

Munich is urged to cancel Richard Strauss due to Nazi past


norman lebrecht

October 05, 2021

The Munich city archive has called for an ‘increased need for discussion’ about city streets which are named after persons with a Nazi past.

Munich has some 6,300 streets. Of these, 372 require ‘possible’ action, the archive says.

Near the top of the list is the composer Richard Strauss, who was briefly head of the Reichsmusikkammer until he was found corresponding with his exiled librettist Stefan Zweig.

Strauss was born in Munich, where his father was principal horn in the court orchestra. There is a Richard-Strauss-Strasse and a Richard-Strauss tunnel at the heart of the city. Munich also named its Arabellastrasse and the Arabellapark after one of his operas.

The city council will start to consider the cancellation proposal this Thursday.

Read on here.



  • Caecilius says:

    This is ridiculous. Soon there will be no national heritage left, we will have forgotten our distinguished and talented predecessors, and civilization will finally have managed to gorge itself out of existence.

    • Novagerio says:

      Caecilius: Just look at the three trolls who gave your comment a Thumbs-down…
      Some idiots support this madness.

  • RW2013 says:

    Can we just cancel cancelling?

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      Classical music is not woke. We are guilty

    • Karl says:

      When everything has been cancelled there will be nothing left to cancel but cancelling. Like a snake eating its tail it will disappear.

      • Jack says:

        It’s like the joke about Robespierre executing the executioner after all other Frenchmen have been executed.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          Only it isn’t funny because the cancelers are enabled by the modern out-of-control Left.

          Hey Lefties, do something about your authoritarian brutes. Or we’ll do it for you. (Still haven’t worked out yet why you got Donald Trump??)

          • Amos says:

            Are planning on contacting your colleagues who went into hiding for assistance in your “Or we’ll do it for you” threat? I’m afraid that while the will is not doubt still strong the flesh may be a tad weak. Better to re-watch Triumph Of The Will and bask in what might have been.

    • Bashh says:

      Oh for goodness sake. The headline is disingenuous clickbait. Nobody is talking about cancelling the music of Strauss or Shostakovich or Aaron Copland. They are talking about changing the names of streets.

      Strauss had a Jewish daughter in law and grandchildren so I have read and used his influence to protect them, although he could not help her parents. Whatever the case, you will still be able to hear his music in the concert hall and opera house. Another excuse for hysteria about “lefties.”

  • Dr. Birchley Poundbottom says:

    That fellow in the middle could have smiled a bit. After all, he was being photographed with Richard Strauss, evil composer.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      The Kleibers both need cancellation because of their connections to Strauss. Guilt by association. Off with their heads!!

  • mary says:

    All those with Nazi ties should’ve been cancelled half a century ago.

    I mean ALL.

    None of these familial exceptions for great-grand-daddy-who-didn’t-know-better-as-a-youth crap. Save the sob story for Jesus on Judgment Day.

    • Allen says:

      And those with communist ties?

      Sorry, I forgot. Communists murdered millions for noble reasons.

      • The View from America says:

        Yes, that Stalin was such a card. Roosevelt and Churchill found him almost as charming as Magda Goebbels.

        • V. Lind says:

          Umm…but one of the first things they did in Russia after the Soviet era was defeated was to change names…where are Leningrad and Stalingrad now? The Kirov?

          • Brettermeier says:

            “where are Leningrad and Stalingrad now? The Kirov?”

            Даже не спрашивай.™

          • M2N2K says:

            Sure they changed names – that is easy to do. Changing people’s mentality and “culture” is a far more difficult task.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            B-b-b-b-but what about the body bags? And the Soviet era won’t be defeated as long as Russia has Putin.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          He was a card in the sense that he needed to be dealt with!

      • Novagerio says:

        Allen: Exactly. Cancel Shostakovich for being a communist…

    • Tamino says:

      What about those who had ties with governments who murdered millions of native Americans? I guess we must cancel the whole past.

      • Amos says:

        Not the whole past merely those who perpetrated and/or abetted genocide of any variety. Regrettably when we fail to do so it results in pseudo-brownshirts marching through a college town chanting “Jews will not replace us” and the ex-president of the US pronouncing that there were “good people” in the group.

        • Tamino says:

          Really? Those are the only two options? How sad. And stupid.

          • Amos says:

            In the words of Toscanini, after RS opted gladly to step in when Walter was told he couldn’t conduct in Leipzig & Berlin, Strauss the composer yes Strauss the man never.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            Precisely because the intelligence to understand why they Trump in the first place is sadly lacking. He was a consequence, not not a cause. (I note the Left is still fearful of him, having learned – well – zero.)

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Millions? Tell.

    • J Barcelo says:

      The classical community would never let go of their cherished recordings from Karajan, Bohm, Knappertsbusch, Krauss, and several others.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Obviously, the diligent officials of the Munich city archive have not read my blog post:

    The cancel virus penetrates the minds of conformist people who have no resistance built-up through independent thinking.

    • Curvy Honk Glove says:

      Hey… HEY EVERYONE! John Borstlap wants to white-man-splain something for us. So listen up as he explains how you should feel about the world from his view atop his ivory tower.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Thank you… I can use some support here, nobody listens as carefully as I would wish. I’m much relieved.

      • 18mebrumaire says:

        I don’t think you understand what John is saying here. Read it again and read it carefully before you comment.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        “White man-splaining”. Another tired, conformist trope from the resentment-fuelled Left!! Please, find something ORIGINAL to say. Oh, wait….

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Ain’t THAT the truth. The numbing consequences of bien pensant conformity. The preferred trope: ‘yeah, that’.

  • Gary Freer says:

    so they will be cancelling Hugo Boss, who made uniforms for the Nazi elite, and Mercedes who made the cars they drove around in?

  • NO amount of street name changing is going to hide the Jewish blood spilled on those streets. More Stolpersteine.

  • sam says:

    Reality check: There is no God given right to have a street named after you, not even for God (there is no Jesu-strasse or Allah-allee or Budha-platz), so no, a mortal and immoral composer doesn’t get to keep his name on a street in perpetuity just because he wrote some nice tunes.

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      You don’t live in Europe, do you? There are many streets named after saints, virgins, and some even after Jesus here…
      We know you are definitely a musician, calling Strauss oeuvre “some nice TUNES”.

      US American?

      • Maria says:

        American – can’t you see it, and that beautiful city of Edinburgh in England!

      • anon says:

        Frau, without Americans, Germany would be a province of Russia today. Будем здоровы!

        • Henry williams says:

          True anon. If we did not have the americans fighting with us here in europe in the last war. Some of us would
          Not be around. I have great respect for
          The americans.

  • I’m sure that Munich won’t rename the Strauss-Strasse, but discussion would be useful. We can learn from his mistakes.

    One wonders why Strauss did not make clearer and more unequivocal statements after the war about the Nazis. He spoke against them, but his comments seem strangled muted.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Because his daughter-in-law was Jewish, and hence his grandsons.

      • Concertgebouw79 says:

        Yes. I recommend the documentary “Richard Strauss At the End of the Rainbow”

      • Robin Worth says:

        What’s more, Alicerl was his secretary and he was devoted to her.

        The threat to Jews, even if married to Christians, was very real during the later Nazi period. And if there was a divorce , the Jewish partner would soon be deported

        It is known that Goebbels personally put Strauss under pressure to support the Bewegung. Can one really criticise him for the little that he did?

      • Norman, my comment is about Strauss’ statements AFTER the war when his family would not have been in danger. Why were his comments after the war about the Nazis seemingly so muted?

        • Amos says:

          Supposedly when John De Lancie came to his house in uniform to request an oboe concerto Strauss thought he was going to be arrested. As a result of the financial losses, he incurred during the Depression his primary concern from then on was ensuring a steady stream of income from performances.

          • An emphatic statement against the Nazis would not have hindered his income. It would have helped it. So why didn’t he make one?

          • John Borstlap says:

            Strauss lost his ‘fortune’ twice: 1) after WW I because he had it parked at a London bank; 2) after WW II because all money was to begin from scratch. So, in the end most of his efforts to amass as much money as possible through conducting & royalties were pointless.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          I suspect, for much the same reason that the modern Left won’t stand up to its cancellation thugs.

  • Monsoon says:

    Strauss has a pretty messy, tangled history with the Nazis — this isn’t a subject of debate, its fact.

    Consider this one incident: In 1933 right after Hitler came to power, Goebbels personally warned the Berlin Philharmonic that if a concert with Bruno Walter were to go forward, he’d send in the brown shirts and there would be blood in the hall. Walter withdrew from the concert, of course, and Strauss took his place. Strauss knew what was going on, that Walter was being squeezed out because he was Jewish; nobody coerced him to take Walter’s place — he did so gladly.

    Yes, privately Strauss scorned the Nazis, but publicly, he was a willingly participant in its propaganda machine.

    I think we can keep playing Strauss’ music, but I don’t think we need streets named after him.

    • Sibyl Morris says:

      My understanding is that Strauss made a deal with the Nazis that he would remain quiet as long as his beloved daughter-in-law Alice and grandsons could remain safe. A number of Alice’s relatives died in the extermination camps.

      • Monsoon says:

        Strauss certainly attempted to curry favor to protect relatives, but there was no deal, and he publicly supported the regime years before his family members were arrested. And, the regime most needed Strauss’s prestige in those early years (he also replaced Toscanini at the Bayreuth Festival in 1933 when he resigned in protest to the Nazis).

        • Strauss also stepped in for Bruno Walter who was to conduct the Berlin Phil until the Nazis forbade Walter to do so.

          • John Borstlap says:

            All of Strauss’ efforts to sail through the thirties and fourties more or less safely, did not quite work, and in the end he saw his world completely ruined, and considered himself the last composer of a long tradition that now was definitely closed-off. Old, (relatively) poor again, gradually taking-in the scale of catastrophe and his own complicity, he withdrew into nostalgic reading: especially Goethe, to preserve some of his sanity. How must it feel to be at one time on top of society and culture, with great achievements and successes, and ending-up in very old age with empty hands? Somehow he redeemed himself with the atonement of the Four Last Songs, which completely ignored the dark present and the end of his world. That present has disappeared, and is only still rumbling around in the caverns of collective malaise, and these songs have survived everything, even ‘modernity’.


          • William Gross says:

            Don’t forget that Strauss used his ability to reach out to Hitler to keep the SS away from family members who were Jewish.

    • Felixx says:

      I feel like there is quite often some misunderstanding about living under fascism. We want these people to have spoken up, stood out, secretly harbored vulnerable people, showed heart, showed courage, etc. But they likely would have been incarcerated or might not have lived to tell the tale; the Nazis were ruthless, no matter how famous a person: this much we know. Morality under fascism is a complicated matter.

      • The View from America says:

        “Morality under fascism is a complicated matter …”

        … As it is under any authoritarian government. How much morality are we seeing these days in Venezuela? It’s more like, “Keep your head down and try to survive another day.”

      • Gary Freer says:

        And under Soviet Communism – as Shostakovich would attest.

      • Hilary says:

        A surprising misunderstanding given the voluminous amount of information on the subject!
        It doesn’t require too much a leap of the imagination but many of the contributions here attest otherwise.

  • SteveB says:

    There is, of course, a much nore famous Munich native they could be named after.
    Of course I mean Jeri Ryan.

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    No reason to change of anything with Richard Strauss’s name; We know that during the second war his behavior was not perfect. There’s no mistery about that. Everybody was not Toscanini. There were some Mengelberg and some Karajan also I know. But we can celebrate his music and be aware of the very very big mistacs he did to protect his artistic position. To my knowledge he was not antisemititic there were some books and documentaries. The one who talked very well of RS was Solti who met him before to die. the reality was that RS was a genius musician and a small man.

  • Sorry, that should be “strangely muted” in my above comment. I don’t think the archive is urging that the street name be changed, but that the topic of Strauss’ collaboration at least become a topic of wider public discussion.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Who couldn’t see this coming? Germans self-flagellating over a past for which they were not responsible.

  • MacroV says:

    Discussion of Strauss’ Nazi involvement is perfectly appropriate, and I wouldn’t lose sleep over re-naming streets and plazas. But leave the music alone; lots of dubious people produced great art.

  • Alviano says:

    Three points:
    — Doesn’t the Munich city government have anything better to worry about?
    — Yes, we should discuss and think about Strauss’s actions, but I find it difficult to judge things people did 75 to 90 years ago without fully understanding the world they lived in.
    — There are few saints, and most of them are martyred. How many reading here would freely jump on the bonfire?

  • wiener says:

    Richard Strauss war über 70 Jahre zur Zeit der Nazi. Er hat seine Position nach einem Jahr zurückgelegt. Bitte einmal das zu bedenken.

  • SMH says:

    Enough with the Hitler pics. Why this obsession? Strauss was no Nazi.

  • George says:

    I suggest we re-name the Richard Strauss Tunnel etc. after my lovely neighbour Kevin Kunze. Totally irrelevant, but a really nice guy.

    • John Borstlap says:

      No, the Richard Strauss Tunnel is just right, people going into it get into the dark but there’s light at the end.

  • George says:

    I’m always wondering that nobody has yet asked to rename the city of “Wolfsburg”, lol.

  • Some context. The EU has unveiled a program to combat anti-Semitism. According to Europe’s Fundamental Rights Agency, nine out of ten Jews consider that anti-Semitism has increased in their country and is a serious problem. More than one in three people have considered emigrating to escape the abuse.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Why in the world would anti-Semitism be on the increase in Europe with at least 1 million new Muslim inhabitants. What could possibly go wrong?

      • Amos says:

        You are never at a loss to find a minority community, especially one of color, to scapegoat for the world’s ills.

    • Hilary says:

      Strauss wasn’t anti-semitic.
      Had it been Ernst Ansermet Street, I’d pause for thought.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    One form of tyranny is easily replaced by another.

    • Amos says:

      Unfortunately for you, I suspect that no matter how monumental the challenges we face that we will never retreat to your golden age when women ruled 1 room of a domicile and clowns in uniforms marched in the streets to listen to societies failures try and exact revenge.

  • jackhayes says:

    Could someone explain to me why the political leanings or positions of a composer (or librettist, or performer, or any musician), should be determinative as to whether they should be heard?

  • About 200,000 Americans died to stop Hitler, 450,000 Brits, and 27 million Soviets, but even AFTER the war Strauss couldn’t make a clear and emphatic denunciation of the Nazis? Not even when he had nothing to lose, and it would have even helped him.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But if you read the evidence, it was too big a pizza to swallow in one go. Strauss considered ‘politics’ as something far-away, and in the end it had come at his doorstep (quite literally so, when MG’s wanted to claim his villa). He simply withdrew because it was all too awful. A reaction comparable with most people just after WW II: close-off your heart to the immediate past and focus on the future – a well-known psychological survival strategy. It is regrettable for us, looking back without nazis breathing in our neck, but it is also understandable.

      Something comparable was apparently going-on with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf who made a career under the nazis. There is an interview with her and her husband, formidable Walter Legge, and she comes across as a fanatical, rather hysterical woman, clinging to things, not a relaxed confident top performer.

  • M McAlpine says:

    And Shostakovich is cancelled because of his association with Stalin who was almost as bad as Hitler? And also purged the Jews!

  • Nathaniel Rosen says:

    Perhaps it needs to be repeated once again that Ricky Strauss was blackmailed by the Nazis to protect his Jewish daughter-in-law.

  • Novagerio says:

    Like cancelling the Viennese New Year’s Concert for the sake of “coherence”, since it was also created by the Nazis in 1939.
    Oh, and while you’re at it, all people who lived in Germany and Austria between 1918 and 1945 were crooks.
    Woke-imbeciles !!

  • David K. Nelson says:

    And these people from Munich who would “cancel” honors to Strauss over his clear failings to reject the regime — tell me, what did their fathers or grandfathers or uncles or great uncles do in the War. On whose side? Just following orders I assume.

    • Amos says:

      David, I recall watching a documentary in which German’s in their 20-40’s who bore the last name of several of those tried at Nuremberg discussed their decision not to change their last name but opted to work diligently to try and ensure that that history was never repeated. My sense, or perhaps my hope, is that the majority of their fellow citizens feel the same way. How then was the most revered musician living in Germany/Austria at the time unable during or after the rise of the nsdap to denounce it and should that limit his adoration to the playing of his music? I have no doubt that many of those involved in discussions to remove his name from street signs had relatives who were active participants in crimes against humanity but why should that taint rather than inform their work today? Whenever I listen to the performance of Death & Transfiguration given at the opening of the Blossom Center by GS/CO I can’t help but wonder how someone capable of creating a work of art so full of humanity was unable to tap into it when it really mattered.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Yes, that is a rather unpleasant ethical problem, like Wagner’s antisemitism. Artists often live in their very subjective emotional world, where part of their mind is not really here, and add to that the general capacity of humans to have values in separate boxes, then it becomes more understandable.

  • Springbeg says:

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  • Springbeg says:

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone

  • Edoardo says:

    First the name, then music. Wagner, your time is coming too. Hold tight your recordings, soon it will be illegal to own them.

  • Michael James says:

    Just rewrite history, and hey presto! It didn’t happen.

  • Hilary says:

    Where to draw the line? I’d say that E.Ansermet is beyond the pale but R.Strauss isn’t. With the significant caveat that i’m saying all this from armchair comfort/ benefit of hindsight.
    I’m glad Munich honours a composer via street names. Where’s the Michael Tippett street, or Benjamin Britten street in London?

    • John Borstlap says:

      There was a proposal by a group of music lovers for naming a little contraption over the Regent’s Canal in London the ‘Little Britten Bridge’ but it was not deemed acceptable.

  • William Gross says:

    The book “The Rest is Noise” goes into some detail about Richard Strauss and his continuing to reach out to Hitler because he needed to protect family members from the SS. They had this thing about Jews don’t ya know. Strauss was able to protect them. Is that an evil thing?

  • IP says:

    It is also necessary to cancel Stefan Zweig — he corresponded with Richard Strauss!