Roots of anti-Semitism explored in new book on composers banned by Nazis

Posted on: July 9, 2014

The July 4 issue of New Republic includes a lengthy review by James Loeffler, associate professor of history at the University of Virginia, of a new book from Yale University Press, Michael Haas’s Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis. With regard to Nazi ideology and its historical roots in an anti-Semitism famously associated with Richard Wagner, Leoffler writes, “We know by now not to read history backward. A nineteenth-century composer who died in 1883 cannot logically be accused of personal complicity in a twentieth-century genocide. Yet that does not mean that the broader question of his responsibility for the spread of modern anti-Semitism can be simply ignored.… The real legacy of Wagner, one with which we are still living today, is nothing less than the sweeping imprint of racial ideology across the length and breadth of modern classical music. Michael Haas makes this case powerfully in his important book.… Haas’s title suggests a specific moment when the Holocaust stripped classical music of its Jewish voices, but his evidence proves that the purge had been happening all along. The Nazis invented a new kind of political terror, but the racial script that the public followed had been written long before.” 

Posted July 9, 2014