Abstract - Mina Marsow

This paper examines the appropriation of Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche by National Socialism. It explores why Wagner and Nietzsche were suitable candidates for Nazi appropriation and how the Third Reich manipulated Nietzsche’s and Wagner’s widespread appeal and prominence as German cultural icons towards their cause. By representing these two important figures as constituents of their regime, the National Socialists gained respectability and validity that in turn influenced the German public to favorably receive National Socialism. Nietzsche’s and Wagner’s incorporation into the Third Reich’s ideology, policies and propaganda and the role that third parties such as family and supporters of Wagner and Nietzsche played in redefining their images in correlation to National Socialism. National Socialism used prominent concepts of both Wagner and Nietzsche as propaganda tools towards inspiring party loyalty and garnering public support. The Bayreuth Festival and the film Triumph of the Will are used as two case study examples in order to illustrate the extent of Wagner’s and Nietzsche’s use as propaganda tools in order to promote the Nazi cause and influence the German public. The response of German artists to the policies of the Reichkulterkammer, the success of the Bayreuth Festival, and the film Triumph of the Will demonstrate the favorable German response to the propagandized images of Wagner and Nietzsche as National Socialist emblems. The paper analyzes how Wagner’s and Nietzsche’s incorporation into National Socialism influenced thinkers to justify their participation in the Nazi regime, artists to produce art despite anti-Semitic measures, and the German people to respond positively to Nazi propaganda. Concepts that encompass this analysis and that are discussed in this paper include the Volk Movement, the concepts of übermensch and will to power, Hitler’s personal attachment to Wagnerian opera and how Hitler incorporated musical theater into politics. The analysis demonstrates the dangers inherent in appropriating art for politics.


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