Wagner’s Bayreuth and Hitler’s Munich Professor David Clay Large
Germany’s history between national unification in 1871 and the Third Reich can be read in part as a tale of two Bavarian cities, Bayreuth and Munich, which were linked culturally and politically by the protean heritage of Richard Wagner, among other ties. The toxic socio-political ideology associated with Wagner’s circle of disciples at Bayreuth found echoes and perpetuators among the proponents of extreme nationalism and racism who went on to make Munich their principal center of operations during the First World War and immediate post-war era. The chief beneficiary of this fateful embrace was Adolf Hitler, who exploited support from Bayreuth to gain cultural credibility and political influence in Munich—and whose henchmen then deployed ideas derived from Wagnerian theater and Bayreuth-Circle social theory to transform Munich into the “Capital of the Nazi Movement.” My lecture investigates the use—and misuse—of a complex cultural legacy in the evolution of Germany’s greatest catastrophe.
David Clay Large is Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and Professor of History at the Fromm Institute, University of San Francisco. He has taught at Smith College, Montana State University, and Yale University, where he was also Dean of Pierson College. Large is the author or editor of some twelve books, including Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics; Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road to the Third Reich; Berlin: Biography of a City; Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936; and, most recently, The Grand Spas of Central Europe: A History of Intrigue, Politics, Art, and Healing.
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