Historians to research Wagner’s Nazi past


BERLIN (JTA) — Descendants of German composer Richard Wagner announced plans to have independent historians research the family archives.

Katharina Wagner, a great-granddaughter of Hitler’s beloved composer, and now head of the annual Bayreuth Wagner Festival together with her older sister, Eva, told the Welt Online newspaper on June 18 that it was important to lay bare the family’s Nazi past.

Included in the family archives are nearly 300 letters from Hitler.

"An independent and complete documentation of the history of Bayreuth will be prepared without any influence from us," Katharina Wagner told the Welt Online edition.

The research will focus on the private archive of the festival and of her father, Wolfgang Wagner, born in 1919, who retired last year as director.

"I don’t know the extent to which other family members will get involved in this project," Wagner, 31, said in the interview. "But I want to emphasize that Eva and I will make everything available that we possibly can."

Rumors of a romantic involvement between Hitler and Katharina Wagner’s grandmother, Winifred Marjorie Williams, fueled in part by a 2008 novel by A.N. Wilson titled "Winnie and Wolf," have never quite died.

Katharina Wagner said she did not know if there would be any surprises in the archives.

"The subject has been handled before but not thoroughly," she said, "otherwise there wouldn’t be questions hanging in the air anymore."

An informal ban on the public performance of Wagner’s music in Israel has been in place since the founding of the Jewish state. 

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