â€˜The herald of National Socialismâ€™. One of the common misconceptions of Wagner is the idea that he was a spiritual precursor of Hitler. The poet Peter Viereck wrote an essay in 1939 entitled â€œHitler and Richard Wagnerâ€ in which he argues that â€˜â€œthis warped geniusâ€ [Wagner] was â€œperhaps the most important single fountainhead of Nazi ideologyâ€â€™#. Rohan dâ€™O. Butler, Edmond Vermeil and William Shirer have also written essays on how Wagner â€˜featured. prominently among a kind of antipantheon of German racists, militarists and totalitarian philosophers who allegedly made Hitler possibleâ€™#. In this essay I shall attempt to shed light on this misconception, showing how Wagner compiled his vast varying legacy and how this legacy was abused by his disciples for their own work. I shall then show how his work made its way into Nazi ideology through these disciples and how Wagnerâ€™s music and the Bayreuth Festival became part of Nazi propaganda. I will also be examining the relationship between Winifred Wagner and Hitler.
Richard Wagner had many followers during his lifetime and after his death, but it wasnâ€™t the vast majority of these who used his legacy and his work and in the process have done damage to him. It is rather the smaller group of â€˜zealous Wagnerites who accepted Wagnerâ€™s claim to be a great social thinker as well as a great musicianâ€™#. Many of these â€˜zealous Wagneritesâ€™ could be found in central Europe, most often at Germany and Austriaâ€™s leading universityâ€™s including Berlin, Leipzig, Munich and Vienna. These Wagnerites formed â€˜so-called academic Wagner societiesâ€™ which â€˜committed themselves to furthering the Masterâ€™s program of spiritual and social reformâ€™#. Wagnerâ€™s legacy, however, was highly varied in the number of political and philsophical ideals he embraced.