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 "Hitler and Richard Wagner- in which he argues that "this warped genius- [Wagner] was "perhaps the most important single fountainhead of Nazi ideology-'#. Rohan d'O. Butler, Edmond Vermeil and William Shirer have also written essays on how Wagner featured. prominently among a kind of antipantheon of German racists, militarists and totalitarian philosophers who allegedly made Hitler possible'#. 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 Wagner'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 wasn'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 zealous Wagnerites who accepted Wagner's claim to be a great social thinker as well as a great musician'#. Many of these zealous Wagnerites' could be found in central Europe, most often at Germany and Austria's leading university's including Berlin, Leipzig, Munich and Vienna. These Wagnerites formed so-called academic Wagner societies' which committed themselves to furthering the Master's program of spiritual and social reform'#. Wagner's legacy, however, was highly varied in the number of political and philsophical ideals he embraced. Wagner's autodidactic learning meant that he had read an indiscriminately large amount, which resulted in sometimes contradicting intellectual schools of thought.