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Nationalism, Chauvinism and Racism as Reflected in European Musical Thought and in Compositions from the Interwar Period


Andrzej Tuchowski

This book concerns the ways in which many different types of nationalism, chauvinism and racism penetrated into musical thought in the interwar period, and how the leading artistic personalities of that period reacted to these ideologies. The concept of "nationalism" is understood broadly in this book and covers the entire spectrum of its positive and negative aspects. The topics listed in the book’s title have been discussed on the example of selected four countries, significant with respect to population and territory and representing different social-political systems: Germany (mostly after 1933), Italy, Poland (after 1926) and Great Britain. This selection is also representative of the main ethnic groups in Europe: Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Latin-Romance and Slavic.

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IV. Between Thought and Action: Nazi Racial Doctrines and the Consequences of Their Implementation in the Context of the Reactions of Europe’s Music Circles in the 1930s

IV. Between Thought and Action: Nazi Racial Doctrines and the Consequences of Their Implementation in the Context of the Reactions of Europe’s Music Circles in the 1930s

Racism as the foundation of academic doctrine and thought on music and as the ideological basis of Nazi cultural policies must certainly have had an impact on the situation in other European countries in the 1930s. The reactions and their emotional colouring were greatly varied, depending on the political-ideological profile of the given magazine, on its topical focus and – perhaps most importantly – on how complete freedom of speech was in the given country. No wonder, then, that among the countries of prewar Europe, German racist thought and practice at first had little influence in Italy, but this changed diametrically in the late 1930s, when the political situation enforced by signing an alliance with the Third Reich led to the passing of the so-called leggi razziali (racial laws), the Italian version of the famous Nuremberg Laws. They did not grow organically out of fascist ideology itself, but were rather a politically motivated ‘implant’ taken over from Italy’s powerful ally. Hence the considerable degree of indifference that the elite of the Italian fascists exhibited toward racism. Due to the deep assimilation of Italian Jews, anti-Semitism was not a social problem in that country, and Mussolini distanced himself from racism in many of his statements from the early 1930s, claiming (e.g. in an interview conducted by Emil Ludwig in 1932) that “race is more a sentiment than a reality.”235. Importantly, some of the high-ranking officials in Italy, as well as veterans of the fascist movement, were of Jewish origin, and the passing of the leggi razziali in 1938 became a personal and ideological tragedy for them. It was also in that period that Italian racist thought on music made its appearance. It was derivative of German writings, and in a sense complementary to them, as it attempted to create an ‘antidote’ for the glorification of the ‘Northern genius’ by reference to the great heritage of the ‘Mediterranean race’. The evolution of Italian ideology from the ‘national awakening’ to racism deserves a separate study and will be discussed in more detail further on in this book.

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1 Journalism and the Music Environment in Interwar Poland: “…Far-Reaching Caution Is Recommended”

Comparison of the reactions of the music circles in Poland and England demonstrates some differences. In England attitudes varied greatly, whereas in Poland the dominant stance was that of maintaining distance. Already in 1933, “Kwartalnik Muzyczny” printed Bronisława Wójcik-Kepreulian’s review of Eichenauer’s previously discussed book Musik und Rasse236. The reviewer maintains a matter-of-fact, balanced tone proper for a musicologist, presenting the book in the categories of scientific discourse. “When reading this book,” she writes, “however fascinating its subject may be, especially in present-day circumstances – far-reaching caution is recommended…” Wójcik-Kepreulian quotes Jan Czekanowski’s Outline of Anthropology237 and concludes that, despite the existence of a great number of publications describing “the mental qualities of the various racial components of humanity”, these are all merely the impressions of journalists who “do not control or test their propositions by means of objective contemporary research methodology.” Furthermore, “these presentations are sometimes not free of tendentious political colouring, which leads to diametrically opposed views. While militant German nationalism of the political-anthropological kind believes that the best psychic qualities are inherent in the Nordic race and attempts to demonstrate that race’s superhuman claims scientifically (emphasis as in the review), liberal Jewish writers go as far as to deny the existence of any racial differences and attributed all differences to the influence of the social environment.” This review is an attempt at an unbiased presentation of the premises of nationalism as an ideological directive that determined the academic paradigms at that time. The words quoted above – written in 1930, cited in 1933 – could not take into account the later situation, the Nazi authorities’ smooth passage from ideology to action, which elevated one of the previously described extremes to the status of official ideology, while the advocates of the opposite view were completely silenced and eliminated. Notably, the ‘far-reaching caution’ postulated by Bronisława Wójcik-Kepreulian (albeit in a slightly different context) became the key quality of the vast majority of articles and press reports printed in Poland and concerning the music life of Poland’s Western neighbour in later years, when the racial purges became a fact. In 1935, Zygmunt Grabowski reported: “The spectacle of transformations in German culture is something so ←104 | 105→extremely complicated and at the same time misleadingly simple and provoking simplistic generalisations that […] any judgments can only be passed with great caution in these circumstances.”238 On the other hand, though, the same author noted the progressive ‘nationalisation of art’, its subordination to the ideology of Blut und Boden, and the demand of racial purity, which provoked some anxiety. A reserved and moderate tone also dominates in the reports sent from Germany by Max Meissner. In 1934 he wrote for “Muzyka”:

“Following the recent political and social shake-up in Germany, Berlin’s music life has not regained its lost balance yet. As we know, many of the most eminent artists, who contributed very intensely and effectively to German culture and art, and were of merit to our music, had to leave Germany owing to the Reich government’s order. This has had a number of negative consequences for contemporary artistic life in Germany, as evident from the lowering of standards and the reduced intensity of music life in the state’s main music centres…”239

Meissner does not mention the fact that the main reason for so many excellent artists leaving Germany (a situation which he finds deplorable) was the widespread racial purge. It is hard to determine now why this information was omitted. Meissner evidently treated the perturbations described in his report as temporary and believed that they would undoubtedly be overcome once full social-political stability had been restored. Most Polish critics also shared this view.

Rafał Ciesielski observes that Polish music critics noted the special place of music in national-socialist cultural policies:

“Critics ascertained this on the basis of the external presence of music in culture and life, determined by the new ideology. Their critical commentaries sometimes show that they have found the (officially decreed) position of music in the new circumstances very attractive, and admired the scale of its social influence under the new ideology.”240

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And indeed, the statements of Grabowski, Prosnak, Różycki, and others (quoted by Ciesielski) stress the fact (also emphasised by Nazi propaganda) that music was an integral part of the nation’s life and therefore its presence in all aspects of the collective life of the national community was necessary. They also stressed the comprehensive programme of the society’s music education and of making artistic music available to a wide population.241 That these kind of state policies met with their approval (or even a kind of envy) is quite understandable. After all, many musicians expected this kind of support from the state, and this expectation was publicly expressed first and foremost by Karol Szymanowski242. Ciesielski believes that the generally ‘overly neutral’ attitude of Polish critics to the situation in Germany after 1933 resulted largely from their confidence in centuries-old German music culture and from the lack of any personal experience in this area. Those Polish musicians who had personal contact with musical life in the Third Reich explicitly signalled the major threats inherent in the new situation.

However, if we agree that no music critic works in a socio-political vacuum, one needs to ask – to what extent this ‘neutrality’ was part and parcel of the ←106 | 107→dominant views presented in the press by the main political powers of pre-war Poland? What we mean is, naturally, the attitudes of the most representative and influential political groups toward the Third Reich on the one hand, and toward Jews on the other. As we know, despite major differences between the ruling bloc (the Sanation) and the nationalist movement, both camps expressed a preference for a ‘strong-arm government’. This concerned both the idea of a ‘national revolution’ supported by Dmowski (the leader of the National Democrats) and carried out – as he wrote with approval in 1934 – only in Italy and in Germany, and the ‘strong state’ postulated by the ruling camp. However, while Dmowski was in favour of overthrowing the liberal order, he at the same time had distanced himself from the militarisation of political life that was typical of totalitarian states. He saw the introduction of military discipline in public life as a great threat because if everyone “thinks the same, it means that they think as they are commanded to, or in other words, they do not think at all.”243 This view was shared by many activists and journalists in nationalist circles. The 1930s press contains many opinions similar to that of Jan Korolec, who proudly affirmed in Prosto z mostu (1935) that – contrary to the principle of ‘herd obedience’ that dominated the social-political life of Germany and Italy – Poland, owing to its traditions looking back to Jagiellon times, was likely to strike the balance between a strong state and the freedom of thought and speech244. German economic progress was impressive, but the national press noted scrupulously and with growing apprehension the cases of Catholic Church persecution, ruthlessness and brutalisation of public life245. Critical voices also appeared in specialist and popular press – especially in historical magazines, which drew a parallel between the news of repression of dissident intellectuals as well as book burning ←107 | 108→in Germany and similar events taking place in ancient Rome246. Distrust for the Third Reich was also present (though well concealed) in the ruling camp. Despite officially good Polish-German relations, Marshall Piłsudski himself – if we can believe the accounts of his aides – had already foreseen in 1934 that this was a temporary harmony and the situation would change radically within four years247.

As far as the attitudes to the Jewish population are concerned (which in prewar Poland was viewed more as a religious community than a national minority), there was a major difference of opinion between the Sanation and the nationalists, and the views on this issue also evolved in both of these two main camps. As we know from his earlier writings,248 Dmowski showed a preference for cool, matter-of-fact analyses of the historical role of the Jews in Polish history. He negatively assessed the early 20th-century domination of trade, finance, transport and other branches of modern economy by the Jews (in most territories of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the exception of the more highly developed Wielkopolska). However, he blamed the conservative attitudes and indolence of “Polish dandies” for this state of affairs, claiming that the Polish nobility saw enterprise and business-like attitudes as “a discredit to a gentleman’s honour” and preferred to compete for the convenient “posts in state institutions”, which were in the hands of the powers occupying Poland. In the later period, however, the National Democratic leader accused the Jews more and more often of preventing a strong middle class from developing in Poland. Irritated by the attitudes of well-organised Jewish groups– which during the Versailles Peace Conference preferred to negotiate with Western politicians without applying for his agency as a representative of the revived Polish state – he was more and more ←108 | 109→prone to accept the conspiracy theory and accused the Jews of actively contributing to all of Poland’s historical misfortunes249.

Such views found numerous and eager followers250, but they were disputed even in the nationalist-Catholic circles themselves, and opposed particularly strongly by Józef Piłsudski, whose federationist visions entailed sensitivity and respect toward national minorities and whose authority guaranteed relative social peace in this area. Still, as late as 1935 the nationalist press accused the government of economic favouritism toward Jewish circles, of which the case of Jewish Zero-Interest Funds (which outraged minor traders and craftsmen) was supposed to be a key example. “Dziennik Narodowy” claimed that these funds were subsidised by several government departments while “the few Polish craftsmen’s funds that exist are quite exhausted,” so that a ‘Christian’ trader or craftsman must “visit several, sometimes a dozen credit companies” in order to obtain funds for his or her business, and usually “he ends up with nothing.”251 It is hard to determine what motivated the officials of the Sanation government to this ‘favouritism’, but the obvious question is: Why could the respective ‘Christian’ circles not organise themselves as well as the Jewish ones? It must be stressed, too, that the press did ask such questions in this period. Since the economy was (especially during times of crisis) one of the main sources of conflict between ‘Christians’ and ‘Jews’ in prewar Poland (these were the categories used in that period), we can easily imagine what impact this kind of news had on the moods of those in society. As we know, after Piłsudski’s death the Sanation came somewhat closer to a nationalist standpoint, at least concerning the Jews, and anti-Semitic sentiments began to spread in society, also affecting the intelligentsia. Magdalena Dziadek demonstrates in her research to what extent the ←109 | 110→staffing of managerial posts at music schools in the 1930s depended on being an ‘ethnic Pole’252. Toward the end of the decade such criteria were no longer a question of behind-the-scenes pressures, but were now openly applied. In 1937 limits were imposed on the access of Jewish youth to Polish universities, and the infamous ‘ghetto benches’ were introduced (student segregation). The former quota imitated the US and British practice of the day. The latter aimed at preventing violent behaviour (coming to blows) rather than strict racial segregation. All the same, these measures reflected the social atmosphere at that time.

The rise in anti-Semitism in Poland after 1934 suggests that it may to some extent have been fuelled by events in the Third Reich, possibly even inspired by the naïve association of the propaganda of the German boom and rising prosperity with the progressive ‘Aryanisation’ of public life, economy and culture. On the other hand, however, one needs to remember that, unlike in Nazi Germany, Polish anti-Semitism was not an official state doctrine, but it manifested itself in the form of local conflicts of varying character and intensity, while state authorities made attempts to handle and resolve these conflicts rather than provoking them as in the Third Reich. The Polish state authorities and the Catholic Church for the most part supported assimilation and integration, while in Germany no assimilation was even considered, and the Jews – regardless of their religion and declared loyalty to the German state – could only leave the Reich if they obtained an entry visa from another country, which was by no means easy in practice. The ideological background was also different. In Poland the majority of nationalist organisations did not go beyond the concept of so-called ‘integral nationalism’, and the biological racism propagated by the Nazis found few followers. This was largely related to the strong influence of the Catholic Church on the programmes of parties and factions that declared themselves as upholders of Christian and national values. In his pastoral letter from 29th February 1936, Cardinal August Hlond, the Primate of Poland, warned Poles against “importing from abroad fundamentally and ruthlessly anti-Jewish ethical attitudes” because it was at ←110 | 111→odds with Catholic ethics. This warning suggests that some kind of fascination with the Nazi purges did exist among the most vehement anti-Semites in Poland.

Nevertheless, avoiding “ruthlessly anti-Jewish” attitudes did not mean rejecting the criticism of vices at that time stereotypically attributed to the Jews and those qualities of their culture that evidently clashed with Polish tradition. It is a fact that Jews fight with the Catholic church, wrote Cardinal Hlond, that they embrace freethinking ideologies and are the avant-garde of godlessness, the Bolshevik movement and subversive activity. The influence of the Jews on morals is disastrous, and their printing houses propagate pornography. It is also true that Jews practise deceit, make profit through usury and trade in white slaves. It is true, claimed the Cardinal, that the influence of the Jewish on the Catholic youth at schools is mostly negative in religious and ethical terms.253

From today’s ‘politically correct’ point of view, these kind of accusations would surely call for proof. Did police statistics really confirm the greater susceptibility of one ethnic group to certain types of crimes? Even if confirmed, in modern public culture generalisations that offend a certain community as a whole are unthinkable. These, however, are present-day standards and they must not be projected into the 1930s. In that period, generalisations and stereotypes of this type were common throughout Europe, and public opinion was definitely more callous and insensitive than today. The criticism of generalised national qualities voiced in that period (whether fairly or not) need not automatically be viewed as an expression of hostility for the nation at which it was levelled. Today such statements would be condemned as anti-Semitic, but if we apply our own standards to the early 20th century, it may lead to such absurd judgments as accusing Paderewski or Dmowski of anti-Polish attitudes just because they criticised Polish national vices – especially those that led the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to a catastrophe in the 18th century. Coming back to Hlond’s letter, his conclusions leave us in no doubt as to his intentions, which were devoid of any hostility – just the opposite:

“In all fairness, not all Jews are like that. Many of them are true believers; honest, just and philanthropic people. In many Jewish families the sense of family bond is both sound and exemplary. In the Jewish world we know people who are ethically distinguished, noble and respectable. We may love our own nation better than others, but we must not hate anyone, Jews included. In trade it is recommendable to have a preference for our own businesses, to avoid Jewish shops and Jewish stalls at the fair. But we ←111 | 112→must not devastate Jewish shops, destroy their merchandise, break windows and hurl bangers at their houses. We should protect ourselves from harmful moral influence of the Jewry, from their anti-Christian culture, and in particular – boycott the Jewish press and demoralising publications. But we must not assault Jews, beat and injure them, and we must not slander them. Also in a Jew we must respect and love a man and our neighbour, even if we cannot respect the unspeakable tragedy of that nation which was made guardian of the Messianic idea, the fruit of which is our Saviour. When the grace of God enlightens the Jew, he will come and greet his and our Messiah with genuine joy, and we too should greet him with joy among us Christians.”254

As evident from the above, Primate Hlond (brought up in Silesia, active mostly in Wielkopolska) was favourable toward the social-economic ideas promoted in the 1930s by the national democrats in Poland (such as the famous slogan “buy from your own people, your own products for your own money”). He asks Poles to grade their attitudes: “we may love our own nation better than others” and “have a preference for our own businesses”. All the same, in fundamental ethical questions his teaching is definite: “we must not assault Jews…”, “also in a Jew we must respect and love a man and our neighbour.” The final paragraph of his letter is a warning against provocations, which proves the Church hierarchs’ good knowledge of the complex political situation in that period:

“Beware of those who incite to violence against Jews. They serve a bad cause. Do you know who gives them orders? Who profits from those riots? The good cause will gain nothing from such imprudent actions. And the blood that is sometimes shed on such occasions is Polish blood.”255

Provocations suggested here by Hlond – possibly instigated by Nazi agents in Poland – were highly probable and fitted the image of the extremely complex relations between Poland and the Third Reich. Most recent studies prove that international relations were changing very fast in that period and – as Piotr Zychowicz suggests in his much publicised book The Ribbentrop-Beck Pact – Hitler, who greatly admired Piłsudski for his victory over the Bolsheviks in 1920 – as late as 1939 still planned to draw Poland into an alliance against the USSR. These revelations (though well known to British historians for a long time256) ←112 | 113→have now also been confirmed by German historian Rolf-Dieter Müller257, who also disclosed the much regrettable statement made by the Polish ambassador to Berlin, Józef Lipski, that if Hitler solves the Jewish question, Warsaw should erect him a monument (!). Naturally, at that time nobody associated this ‘solution’ with mass extermination, which was beyond imagination by the current standards of civilisation.258

The above-presented facts and opinions characterise the atmosphere in which the Polish music environment functioned at that time. The National Democrats exerted much influence in that environment, and controversial (from our present-day point of view) opinions concerning ‘the Jewish question’ can be found also in several (rather marginal) texts by Szymanowski, most likely written in the early 1920s. Though the composer did not publish those texts (which only seems natural, considering the enormous role of three brilliant Polish-Jewish musicians – Rubinstein, Fitelberg and Kochański – in the popularisation of his music), his private convictions still seem interesting enough to dedicate to them a separate section of this book.

2 Protecting Elitism: Szymanowski, the Grand Polish ‘Aristocratic’ Traditions and the ‘Jewish Question’

Reading these texts259 - some of which are just loose notes, thoughts evidently scribbled down, at the moment when they appeared – one cannot fail to notice a certain internal discrepancy, most likely resulting from a conflict between personal experience and ideas derived from books. On the one hand, Szymanowski presents a surprisingly severe criticism of the cultural-historical role of the Jews in European culture. On the other, the great artist was too sensitive not to be moved by the depth and expressive power of Mahler’s music, and it is in the context of the latter that Szymanowski made some very interesting comments. In a text in which he opposes ‘pan-Semitism’ to ‘pan-Aryanism’ (tellingly put in brackets), Szymanowski expresses his regret that the National Democrats and their equivalents throughout Europe do not cooperate “not to lose touch with ←113 | 114→the deepest sources of our cultural consciousness, the hidden flame that is the only effective weapon against Jews…” The composer believes that finding such a weapon is necessary, considering the ‘disruptive’ impact of the Jewry’s activities in contemporary culture. At the same time, “the Aryan spirit looks hectically and a bit chaotically for those sources, lost when Catholicism (not Christianity) was pushed to the background as a mainspring of culture…”

Worrying as these statements may sound, they are not an unequivocal admission of racist views. Szymanowski’s standpoint could rather be defined as determined by ‘history-and-class’. Later in the text we learn that for him, ‘Aryanism’ was a synonym for aristocratic quality in the best sense of the word – a deep rooting in the elitist values of the West’s high culture – while he associated ‘pan-Semitism’ with cosmopolitan ‘internationalism’ pushing that culture into decline, and with bolshevism. Hence, he writes further, “a progressive in the rude sense of the word is nearly a synonym for a Jew.” It seems that Szymanowski borrowed these anti-Semitic topics (i.e. his understanding of the historical and cultural processes) from Antoni Marylski’s book The History of the Jewish Question in Poland (1912)260. This publication – very popular in the 1910s – is a clinical case of the ‘ruthlessly anti-Jewish’ stance mentioned by Cardinal Hlond in his letter. Marylski not only attributed the worst vices to the Jews, but saw them as the demonic source of all evil in history. In fact he puts them outside and above history by claiming that, while “the history of other nations is a constant evolution and self-improvement, or else – complete decline, leading to annihilation and extinction (…), the Jews have petrified in their morally and spiritually destitute state, in their insufficient ability – and so they continue.”261 Szymanowski’s diagnosis was a bit similar. In his view, ‘progress’ or ‘evolution’ in Jewish psyche “is overall an illusion, because it takes place in the closed circle of fossilised racial features, like a series of new labels stuck to a bottle that has for centuries contained one and the same poisonous liquid…”262 However, once Szymanowski enters the domain of music, where he feels at home, his stance becomes much less radical, ←114 | 115→and in the case of Gustav Mahler he seems to forget completely about ‘poisonous liquid’ and yield to the charm of the great Viennese symphonist’s works. Though in the opening section of his sketch entitled Mahler’s Art he still makes a biting remark about the lack of depth in educated Jews’ “opinions on art and philosophy,” he does add a cautious “usually”, and admits that those educated Jews can boast a “trained and complex intelligence”. He finds the reason for this ‘lack of depth’ not in stereotypical Volkist tales about ‘sterile desert’ or in racial deficiencies, but in the lack of “a passion for life instinct,” as a result of which “the noble representatives of that race are for the most part infinitely sad.” This sadness is an effect of “the fatigue of centuries,” of their “too long and indeed too tragic existence.”263 Szymanowski also applies this highly literary thesis to Mahler himself, whose “art is moving to the highest degree and immoral in a sense.” Szymanowski writes: “a noble Jew’s smile is gentle and sad – the smile of an old wise man who has experienced the cruelty of life, but does not want to disperse the illusions cherished by the young. This is the smile I find in Mahler’s music.”

One can hardly help but notice that Szymanowski forgot about his reading and the generally accepted stereotypes in this sketch and followed his own artistic intuition instead, his own personal experience, which led him to conclusions quite the opposite of his previous claims. The very concept of ‘noble Jews’ is at odds with the thesis of the ‘degenerating and poisonous’ influence of the entire race, and also with Marylski’s views. Furthermore, Szymanowski’s honest admission that he listened to Mahler “with tears in my eyes (…) nearly forgetting about the music and loving this great, noble, infinitely sad Human Being” – is not just an apt summary of the essence of the genius of this Viennese master in an era of decadence and decline. This confession also seems to shed light on the truth about Szymanowski himself, about the contradictions inherent in his complex and colourful personality, which was emotionally intense, genuinely passionate and inspired by the depth of its aesthetic experience. This experience clearly proved the falsehood of prejudice and racial doctrines. A genuine, ‘ruthless’ anti-Semite (if I can use Hlond’s term again) could hardly have admitted, even to himself, that probably the most ‘Semitic’ of history’s great symphonists had such a profound artistic impact on him, not to mention calling such a composer ‘great’ and noble’.

In Szymanowski’s comments we often sense his ‘aristocratic’ habits and manners, as well as the kind of polite and elegant nonchalance that the nobility (not only in Poland) typically exhibited toward Jews. Unlike the ‘ruthlessly ←115 | 116→anti-Jewish’ attitudes (of open hostility which would allow for no exceptions), Szymanowski’s stance could be described as ‘relative’ or ‘selective’ anti-Semitism. His racially motivated and generalised dislike of the Jews does not automatically concern all the representatives of the Jewish nation. To a self-declared supporter of elitism and defender of ‘high’ culture, such as Karol Szymanowski, this ‘aristocratic’ type of anti-Semitism was directed mainly against ‘ordinary’ Jews, those who represented ‘egalitarian’ tendencies. Unlike Marylski, Szymanowski did not deny Jewish achievements, talents and their great potential for development264, though he complained that those ‘noble’ Jews were not very numerous.

Finally, we must remember that Szymanowski – like Wagner before him – could well claim that he was an artist in all that he did or wrote. Therefore we should not overemphasise the internal contradictions in his writings or see them as an expression of a logical and consistent ideology. On the other hand, one could ask to what extent Szymanowski’s private views were shared by others in the Polish music world at that time? To what extent were such views representative? This question is quite justified in that the majority of Polish composers in that period, and of the Polish intelligentsia in general, descended from the landed gentry or nobility. Moreover, the National Democrats (whom Szymanowski supported) were very popular in music circles. Is it possible, then, that the Polish critics’ rather feeble reactions to racist purges and persecution in Germany could be caused by their more or less camouflaged anti-Semitism? Could they consider those purges as a price that must be paid for the national homogenisation of society – a price perhaps not too high, considering the scale of the state patronage of music and musicians in the Third Reich? Or – a more likely hypothesis – could the critics’ stance reflect the Polish Sanation government’s policy of neutrality and non-interference in the internal affairs of both totalitarian neighbour states? We must leave these questions without simple answers.

3 The Polish “Rassenkunde”: Józef Reiss and His Research on “The Jewish Spirit in Music”

The aforementioned advice (formulated by Bronisława Wójcik-Kepreulian) to exercise “caution” when talking of racial issues in music, especially with reference ←116 | 117→to Jewish culture – becomes understandable after 1933, because this hot and potentially explosive subject also became at that time a strongly political one. Previously, however, it was considered “safe” enough to produce a Polish version of the musicological Rassenkunde, one example of which can be found in the vast treatise by Józef Reiss, published in instalments in the fortnightly “Muzyk wojskowy” (“The Military Musician”)265. Its author was a well-known musicologist, lecturer, music journalist and activist. In his text, he obviously followed in the footsteps of German authors, more specifically by the previously mentioned Heinrich Berl, whom he actually quotes and who represents an attempt to define the immanently Jewish qualities in European music. Berl also takes up the then much discussed (see above) questions of the existence and impact of supra-historical ‘racial’ features determining the identity of a given culture.

Reiss’s point of departure is an attempt to discover the Jewry’s most typical quality, which he defines as “its mysteriously paradox nature.” The paradox results from the history of a nation of “wondering exiles, who – despite the most severe persecution, scattered throughout the world – have survived through millennia.” This paradox is also the clash of exuberant individualism and collective “psychology of the masses” propelled by “a concordant rhythm of religious sentiment,” and the contrast between mystical longings and a strong sense of reality, a coldly calculated kind of realism. The conditions and brutal fate developed in Jews’ exceptional powers of adaptation, and the main factor of the community’s integration has been ritual synagogue singing. What is reflected in these songs is “boundless sorrow, inconsolable longing and melancholy lyricism” – qualities which Reiss interprets after Berl and the German Volkist tradition as an emotional reflection of the landscape. “The soul of the desert is enchanted in this song.”266 Having analysed the melodic structures of synagogal songs, Reiss concludes that they are mostly based on melodious declamation centred on one sound, balanced by richly ornamental sections. These – as Reiss calls them – typically Oriental qualities of Jewish music also include “an affected tone, bathos and expressive paroxysms.” But the drama of the Jews, living as they do among alien cultures, lies according to Reiss in the fact that “a Jew can no longer be himself, but is unable to become anything else, to creatively collaborate with the alien society.” As an example of this kind of tragic conflict, Reiss quotes the figure of Mendelssohn, whose great artistic talent, he reminds us, was recognised even by such avowed anti-Semites as Wagner, who, however, criticised Mendelssohn for ←117 | 118→“the lack of sincere accents that could inspire the heart…”267 Reiss summarises Wagner’s famous anti-Semitic pamphlet and concludes that, paradoxically, it undoubtedly did them a great service since “it awakened the creative powers dormant in the soul of the Jewry, but previously stifled by alien culture.”

It is hard to establish precisely the relationship between the reception of Wagner’s pamphlet and the evident explosion of the European Jews’ activity in the fields of music composition, performance, and the organisation and management of musical life. All the same, Reiss’s historical overview proves that the “Jewish element” was present in European music from the time of Hans Neusiedler’s 16th-century tablatures and Italian Renaissance madrigals (A. Gabrieli Ebraica), mostly as a caricatural ingredient or as an Oriental colour. It recurred throughout the 19th century in the works of Chopin, Mussorgsky, Liszt, Rimsky-Korsakov, and R. Strauss. Reiss also lists musicians of Jewish origin who were active in Europe since the Middle Ages, arguing that the apogee of their activity in early music came during the Italian Renaissance, which was extremely open to their contributions. In this context Reiss mentions in particular the Dukes of Mantua, renowned for their patronage of Jewish musicians, one example of which was the brilliant career of Salomone Rossi268. After his death, no major composer emerged from the international Jewish community for the next two centuries. Still, as Reiss claims, music must have attracted the Jews “as a sphere of the subconscious, of instinct and emotion. No wonder that they used their powers of accommodation, their unusual sensitivity and subtle sense of insight into everything foreign – to absorb, and soon to conquer this new field of artistic creativity.” Reiss describes how in the 19th century, Jewish composers empathised so perfectly with the national styles that several of them even achieved the status of ‘models’ in this field. For instance Mendelssohn, the “ideal representative of Romanticism in German music”269, gained fame as a master of “sentimental lieder”, to which he gave their complete form. Bizet – whom Reiss calls “the most Romantic of all composers” – was also of Jewish origin. And, eventually, what can be “more Parisian” (asks Reiss rhetorically) that the famous Cancan from Offenbach’s Orphee aux Enfers? Anton Rubinstein, on the other hand, was the actual father of Russia’s professional music tradition, while Mahler led Beethoven’s symphony-cantata form to the point of such “overemphasis” that its further development was virtually impossible. The 19th-century Jewish ←118 | 119→contributions in the spheres of music organisation, management and publishing were even more impressive. All this organisational and economic infrastructure demanded substantial investments and – as Reiss stressed – the readiness to take risks in financial terms, especially when promoting new artistic trends. Reiss explains the successes scored by the Jews in all kinds of popular music genres and in the field of music performance (in which, he claims, they became global leaders) by pointing out their tremendous powers of accommodation and their ability to absorb elements of foreign cultures. However, perfect assimilation has its negative sides, especially for those who “abandoned the banner of Jewry. […] Unfortunately, in such circumstances a Jew knows neither limit nor proper tact,” writes Reiss, and criticises Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer and Mahler for artificiality, insincerity and exaggerated pomposity in their handling of religious themes. Mendelssohn, whose “oratorios and church music were to blot out the memory of his Jewish origins” were sometimes “more ecclesiastical than the Church itself” in these kinds of works, and as a result they “offend the ears with insincerity and some alien tone.” Reiss extends the same charges to Meyerbeer, and in both cases he falls back on the authority of 19th-century critics (such as Heinrich Heine and Robert Schumann). Though his criticism of Mahler was not supported by documents from the reception of his music, its tone of distrust for Jewish neophytes – converts to Christianity – is quite characteristic and worth quoting270, since it also frequently recurred in the early decades of the 20th century:

“And finally, was in not something distasteful on the part of G. Mahler to use the hymn Veni Sancte Spiritus in his Symphony No. 8? Can we talk of sincere inspiration in this case? The words of this mystical hymn can arguably have a true emotional value only for a born Christian of deep faith.”

Reiss also protested against the assimilating tendencies in 19th-century synagogal music, which – in so-called “progressive temples” – was ornamented in the fashion of Christian liturgical music, with the addition of choirs and organ, while old synagogal chant was forcibly adapted to the principles of functional harmony: “What represents the purest and most noble expression of the heart overflowing with religious passion in an Orthodox synagogue, in the modern temple becomes a mere show and a caricature!”

Reiss sums up his treatise with the conclusion that “the Jewry has indeed had its brilliant composers, but it has not created Jewish music.” What, after all, ←119 | 120→do the works of Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Bizet and Anton Rubinstein have in common? – he asks rhetorically. He then calls upon the post-Romantic dualist aesthetic opposition between form and content and argues that “the forms of their works are those of Western European music, and it is not Jewish in spirit. Where national identity and an awareness of one’s race are absent, their art always remains cold and distantly removed from life.” This is why – despite Mendelssohn’s technical and formal mastery – his music “oozes such coldness, and frequently even tedium. What do his ‘songs without words’ tell us today? Are they not to us ‘songs without content and without a soul’?” However, Reiss admits that Mendelssohn also wrote some (or a few) brilliant works, the greatest of them being the Violin Concerto in E Minor, which he describes with unfeigned admiration as:

“an unequalled poem, the fruit of genuine inspiration. What is the secret of such compositions? They contain a subconscious element that informs the music of Mendelssohn, but also that of Offenbach, Bizet, Rubinstein and G. Mahler: namely, the soul of the Jewry! The call of its blood! Blood penetrates the external tissue of form, because blood is the unifying ingredient that nothing can destroy.”

Reiss does not explain in what way this “spirit of the race” manifests itself in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Also in the case of Offenbach and Bizet, he rests satisfied with such comments as that Daemon’s Aria from Les Contes d’Hoffmann is “Jewish throughout”, or that the ‘fate’ motif from Carmen has an Oriental colour. Traditionally, like many other authors exploring “the spirit of the Jewry” – Reiss focuses on Mahler, whose music combines well-known paradoxical contraries: “moments of greatest inspiration side by side with trivial folk ‘Gassenhauer’ melodies and naïve nursery songs, or military march rhythms.”271 This paradox – which cannot be solved in aesthetic terms – is easy to explain once we realise that it is the result of “Mahler’s Jewishness – despite his breaking away from the Jewry!” Thus Mahler’s mystical-Talmudic longings (which Reiss attributes to the strong influence of the poetry by Siegfried Lipiner) overlap with “the Jewishness that subconsciously flows through his soul.” Racial instinct, claims Reiss, also manifests itself in the use of children’s choirs, frequent in Mahler’s symphonies. Where does this come from? Reiss’s resolute answer is supposedly based on some unspecified scientific research: “It undoubtedly results from certain mental predispositions characteristic of the Jewry. It has been proved that Jews more than any other race have a strongly developed longing for the time and land of childhood. Living among alien national entities, ←120 | 121→the Jew experiences a tragic sense of isolation, and seeks sanctuary in the past to which he escapes…” Reiss refers to Max Brod, author of the treatise Heidentum, Christentum, Judentum (1921), widely discussed and popular between the world wars, and wonders whether the frequent march stylisations in Mahler’s music really reflect his childhood experience of the garrison orchestra’s rehearsals in the barracks near the Mahlers’ home – or perhaps they draw on the Eastern European tradition of Chassidic songs, which usually exhibit march rhythms. Reiss admits that Mahler did not know those songs but “who knows – perhaps deep in the subconscious regions of his soul he discovered the same tone, akin to the soul of the Jewry!”272 Reiss eventually concludes that the more or less disguised “racial instinct” is present in the music of all composers of Jewish origin, regardless of the degree to which they assimilated to their host cultures. He finds evidence of this, among others, in the music of Arnold Schönberg, “the leading figure of contemporary German music” and his Pierrot Lunaire with its characteristic Sprachmelodie. Could it be that this technique “is derived from the spirit of synagogal recitative songs?” asks Reiss rhetorically again.

As we have seen, Reiss values most highly those works by composers of Jewish origin in which – from behind the masks of Western European form and technique – one can supposedly hear the mythical “voice of the blood” or “spirit of the race”. The tragic split between the East and the West can be healed in the future, he believes, by clearly defining one’s cultural identity on the basis of one’s own national tradition, the wealth of folksong repertoire and authentic synagogal music. It was on the foundation of these traditions that artistic Jewish music experienced its revival – the first symptoms of which appeared, significantly, in Tsarist Russia in the last years before the 1917 Revolution:

“As from the pain and suffering, from the persecution of our nations, there sprang the inspired Romantic poetry of the three Polish National Bards – so also from the tears of the persecuted Jewish nation flowed the stream of national consciousness and the flourishing of a new life. The Russian ‘Yevrey’, harassed by pogroms, stood up and fought against political oppression, hand in hand with the Russian intelligentsia, united with it by a common ideal.”273

As in the case of all the earlier national schools, this national revival also began by collecting and documenting folk songs and other ethnographic material scattered throughout the vast Russian Empire. This work was coordinated by a society founded in St. Petersburg in 1880, and divided into sections located in ←121 | 122→other major cities of the Empire. Based on these foundations, original artistic works began to appear, composed – interestingly – by artists belonging to radically different musical environments as far as artistic ideals were concerned. On the one hand, there were the pupils of the leading Russian national composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (who included Mikhail Gnessin and Ephraim Shkliar) – the natural followers of a folk-national revival. On the other, however, we can observe a certain paradox. Jewish nationalists belonged for the most part to the circle of Alexander Scriabin – known for his cosmopolitan and eccentric Messianist views, whose sense of mission, mystical ambitions, prophetic tone and nearly priest-like attitude proved particularly attractive to the Jewish nationalists. Also important was the visionary imagination of this brilliant pioneer of multimedia art, who was an ardent follower of the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, but “did not inherit” the racist views of its founder – Richard Wagner…

As evident from above. Reiss’s treatise fuses various tendencies characteristic of the first three decades of the 20th century. The concept of the crucial role of sincerity and authenticity in art, and the need for national affiliation and natural ‘rooting’ in one culture, without which art would be spiritually void, corresponds to the aesthetic stance of such artists as, for instance, Sergey Rachmaninov and Ralph Vaughan Williams. On the other hand, Reiss’s representation of the music written by composers of Jewish origin in terms of the dichotomy between ‘Western form’ and ‘Eastern spirit’ clearly (though not always consistently) draws on Heinrich Berl’s publication, already discussed here, which Reiss must have been well familiar with. Though the Polish author accepts the thesis (expressed in many later German publications) concerning the decisive role of ‘racial instinct’ in the identity of a work of art, similarly to Berl he avoids aprioristic value judgments. Moreover: his concept of “the soul of the Jewry” is definitely more philo-Semitic than anti-Semitic. He combines the erudition of a carefully educated musicologist with interest in new fashionable trends in human sciences. Like most academics in that period, Reiss followed the “news from the wide world” and asked the same questions that his generation was frequently concerned with. Admittedly the ideological basis of Reiss’s interpretations comes dangerously close to the “impressions of the columnists” mentioned by Czekanowski in his sober commentary. Nevertheless, in the interwar period explaining e.g. Mahler’s symphonic orchestration or his obsessive use of march stylisations with ‘racial instinct’ could seem just as revealing and meaningful to many readers as the earlier Freudian analyses. Today we dismiss the concept of race-specific talents as a curiosity, similarly as research into the call of ‘Polish blood’ in the works of great Russian masters of Polish origin, such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, or possibly even Tchaikovsky (?!). Rather than ←122 | 123→pursuing such claims, we are interested in how and why Jewish communities in different European countries succeeded in promoting the talents of those in their religion, and why other cultures did not take advantage of the same tools and methods. But, as we have said before, every generation asks its own questions and tries to answer them in its own characteristic way.

4 Zofia Lissa: The Problem of Race in Music

Another scholar who took part in the Polish debate on racial issues in music was Zofia Lissa, who in the 1930s was a young and ambitious scholar just embarking on a brilliant academic career. Considering the later well-known Marxist-Leninist views of this unquestioned star of Poland’s postwar musicology, as well as her Jewish origins, some readers may find it surprising that as late as 1934 she still spoke approvingly of Rassenkunde and saw major cognitive potential in anthropological research on the racial aspects of artistic phenomena. It should be stressed, however, that she clearly distinguished between research on human races (which agreed with current scientific views) and racism as a political doctrine aiming to establish the hegemony of one race over another. She stated this difference clearly in her article The Problem of Race in Music, drawing wide historical parallels and arguing that:

“The most fatal complications usually occur when a scientific notion leaks prematurely to the masses. Lacking academic precision and separated from the entire edifice of knowledge of which they are but a part, such ideas become – in the wrong, unauthorised hands – a dangerous weapon and a germ of hatred between people. It was so at the time of Copernicus, Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruno, whose scientific achievements were viewed as – first and foremost – a heresy. It was so in the middle of the last century as well, when Darwin formulated his theory of evolution in nature (…) and the same is now happening to Einstein’s theory of relativity. A similar fate has now befallen anthropology, and one of it notions in particular – that of race.”274

Lissa’s thesis that the central social and political issues of the 1930s (especially in Germany) were the result of a ‘leak’ of ideas isolated from the ‘edifice of knowledge’ from academic circles to the ‘wide masses’ – is debatable. Many other scholars of the day approached the problem of racial inequality in the same way as the crowd swayed by politics and ideology. All the same, Lissa’s diagnosis of the current state of affairs (presented further on in her article) is very far from any kind of ‘caution’, and, from the historical perspective, proves astonishingly ←123 | 124→correct – the more so that it demonstrates how ideology combined with the mechanisms of social psychology stands above science and politics. It is an ideology created at the given time by influential circles in accordance with the popular ‘fashion’ and resulting in a kind of ‘political correctness’ which becomes an unwritten compulsion to accept the official standpoint:

“‘Race’, ‘racism’, ‘Nordic qualities’ – these are perhaps the most fashionable and popular terms used and unfortunately also abused today. These categories are now applied by everyone, by the great and the small alike. They are the ideas that steer the minds of the crowd. But unfortunately it is not merely another verbal deluge, a trendy ‘ism’ and a mental epidemic! Today racism already has terrible, bloody consequences – from the lynching of US Negros and the crimes committed by the Ku-Klux-Klan to the excesses of Nazi storm-troopers. Racism is a problem that is becoming a major burden on present-day life and politics, while the prospects for the future are even more tragic. Racism is an attitude to life that sweeps away everything human (ZL’s own emphasis) in men and mostly brings out what is zoological in them!”275

However, as the young Polish researcher observed – while in social life racism was becoming a dangerous political weapon, in the field of science “it opens up very interesting questions, provides a new vantage point and a perspective for the study of phenomena.” It should be noted at this point that the use of the term ‘racism’ (as a positive label) with reference to scientific studies seems highly unfortunate. The author apparently failed to notice that in academic life the meaning of ‘racism’ is precisely the same as in the broadly understood social reality. But – as we replace that misnomer ‘racism’ with ‘the study of the human races’, which, as the context proves, is what the author had in mind – we may disregard terminological inaccuracies and get to the main point. Lissa’s answer to the question whether race is reflected in music is an unequivocal “Yes, and very strongly so.” Racial identity entails differences in “the psychic constitution of composers,” each of whom – Lissa claims – “is deeply rooted in his or her race or nation” and “demonstrates specific musical qualities related to them, even when he or she changes the place of residence, the environment and conditions of life.” It is a fact, she writes, that not only “the various races, but even individual nations stemming from one anthropological line of development differ in their culture and art in a constant and distinct manner.”

With reference to music, the author points to two fundamental types of differences. The first one results from what Lissa refers to as ‘racial psyche’, responsible for the difference of content in musical works, whereas the other ←124 | 125→concerns the choice of sound material, the fundamental ingredients of the music. These two aspects are closely related to each other. For instance, as Lissa argues, the Chinese or Indian ways of dividing the octave, different from that used in Europe, causes that “the music of those peoples seems quite incomprehensible or even worse – out of tune – to the European ear.” As a consequence, Western audiences are unable to grasp “the inner content of that music.” Of special note is Lissa’s claim that “even within more narrow territorial and historical boundaries, in the course of the last millennium of European music history” racial differences have been very strong, despite the use of the same sound material throughout the continent:

“These differences are more concealed in this case and lie in the psychic (emphasis ZL) content of the musical works themselves. Their reflection in the structure of those works is only a later consequence. The different psychic content of music compositions results from a different way of reacting to sound phenomena, which is specific to a given nation or race and leads to differences in the type of creative predisposition.”276

These racially motivated creative predispositions manifest themselves in the way the music impacts the audience through four spheres that together make up the work as a whole. The most sophisticated of them, that of musical structures, appeals mainly to the intellect of the listener. The most direct one is the sphere of sensual impressions. “If we look at the entire history of the musical development of various European nations.” Lissa writes, “the consistent predominance of some creative predispositions in certain national groups is clear that it immediately suggests itself.” Romance nations – particularly Italians and Spaniards – characteristically pay much attention to “the beauty of sound” in the form of attractive melodies and rhythms. France (which Lissa discusses as a separate subcategory) has excelled since the Renaissance period in naturalistic and illustrative music, while Slavic nations focus on the emotional sphere in their music.

“The history and development of music among the Germanic nations – in England, Germany and the Netherlands – betray quite the opposite kind of musical talent, in which intellectualism and speculative quality are the predominant components. Polyphony, which originates among the peoples of the north, from Dunstable to all the Netherlandish schools, to Bach and Handel, as well as the support given to musical form by the Viennese classics, and even the contemporary music of these nations – all point to the predominance of the intellectual element. All this proves the presence of a constantly recurring type of creative predisposition characteristic of that race.”

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However, Lissa warns her readers not to see the above described regularity as a rule without exceptions. In some situations, the spirit of the age or a powerful artistic individuality proved stronger than these racial or national predispositions, and went beyond them, producing a synthesis of the tendencies of the given epoch, of the race and of “the individual psychic constitution” of the composer. All the same, from the perspective of the “entire development of music among the various racial groups in Europe,” these regular lines of development resulting from racially determined predispositions must not be overlooked.

Reading Lissa’s text reveals her intellectual background, her rooting in the solid tradition of German music theory and psychology, and especially in the 20th-century development of those disciplines, which is evident in her frequent references to “internal and external” aspects of the music work and to its “psychic content”. On the other hand, she demonstrates a typical 1930s fascination with the cultural aspects of research on human races, and many of her theses (such as the notorious association of polyphony and musical intellectualism in general with the Nordic race) appear dangerously close to the conclusions presented in the previously discussed publications by Berl, Matzke and Eichenauer. But Lissa also shows her indebtedness to another heritage – that derived from her philosophy studies at Lwów University under the supervision of Professor Twardowski, founder of the famous Lwów-Warsaw school of philosophy and mathematics, which postulated, among others, a humanisation of mathematics and making the humanities more scientifically precise. Evidently aware of the dubious character of the similarities that her research bore to that of her German counterparts, and aiming at maximum precision in her statements, at the end of her paper Lissa once again distanced herself from any political contexts of the research on race. Racial classifications, she claimed, cannot be used as a basis for any value judgments passed on human groups, their ideas and art, nor can it justify one race’s claims to hegemony over the others.

This article, written by a would-be exponent of Marxism-Leninism who – despite her young age – had already obtained her doctorate five years earlier – may surprise us today with her overdue enthusiasm for the then fashionable “racial theories” and the scant interest she shows in the influence of the social environment – which was crucial in Marxist theory. It is difficult precisely to establish when Zofia Lissa’s fascination with communist ideology began – but by the time of her next article on the subject of race, printed in 1938, the then 30-year-old Lissa had evidently undergone some kind of ideological metamorphosis. At the same time, the latter text is highly emotional – possibly because it was dedicated to Chopin, a composer on whose music she would write many excellent works in the future. But this is already the subject of the next subchapter, which deals with ←126 | 127→the rather curious (from today’s point of view) debate on the “racial identity” of this most eminent representative of the Polish Romanticism.

5 Chopin and the Question of ‘Racial Purity’

The question of racial “purity” or “identity” was discussed in the 1930s not only in the context of the Nazi dogmas discussed above. Sometimes the debate involved pride related to a family’s past and origins, and especially to the fact of there being no undesirable ‘admixtures’ of plebeian or Semitic blood in the examinable history of the given lineage. This concerned both aristocratic families and wider communities, including national ones. It was this aspect – criticised by Lissa as ‘zoological’ (and indeed there was an analogy between pure-bred horses and the ‘breeding’ of people believed to represent the ‘purest’ and therefore best specimens of the given race). Despite the opinions of some authorities at that time, who warned their audience against the ‘pernicious’ effects of mixing human races, the application of this ‘aristocratic’ stance to artistic genius provoked opposition from many ideological groups and perspectives. While Zofia Lissa limited herself in her paper to the brief comment that contemporary anthropology was extremely sceptical with respect to the concept of racial purity, Ignacy Jan Paderewski – one of the greatest musical authorities of the day – expressed his opinion (in the context of the current situation in the Third Reich) much more bluntly:

“Racial purity? What nonsense! Who can be so stupid? Can you quote just one example of a perfectly ‘racially pure’ genius? If we were to accept as truly German only those German composers whose biographies agree with these fashionable theories – who are racially ‘pure’ Aryans - then where should we place Beethoven? Or Mozart, whose surname some philologists might derive from the Polish ‘mocarz’, meaning a strong man of power? And what about Wagner’s eminently non-Aryan nose? What about Mendelssohn? Before the [Great] War, a group of leading German scholars produced an extensive academic study on the racial purity of Germans, but [emperor] Wilhelm did not permit its publication. Why? Easy to guess. He was told that according to this study, the vast majority of Germans are not racially Germanic, and not even Aryan…”277

This text, which appeared in 1934, is a printed version of an interview given by the old master of the piano most likely a year earlier. At that time Paderewski could not know that the question of Mendelssohn’s ‘racial identity’ would soon be officially and definitively decided by the official authorities. Nor could ←127 | 128→he imagine that the debate on ‘racial purity’ would soon also affect (albeit in a different context) Chopin. What was at stake were not the possible Semitic connections of the composer’s ancestors (the above quoted Nazi researchers of that time did not level such charges against the master of the mazurka), but a hypothesis that presented such connections as an asset. This was understandable, because the said claim was formulated in Poland, where probably all the existing political and ethnic groups agreed as to a favourable, frequently enthusiastic opinion of Chopin, and, besides, the authors of this hypothesis were the Polish Jews, whose cult of Chopin was frequently as strong as that exhibited by ethnic Poles – and who gave the world one of the most eminent Chopin interpreters, Arthur Rubinstein. Though the ensuing debate in the Warsaw press was rather curious and short-lasting, it is worth noting, because it reflects the climate and interests dominant at that time.

1938 saw the publication in Poland of Mateusz Mieses’s book entitled Poles – Christians of Jewish Origin278. Its author was a specialist in Judaic studies, a philologist, and a Polish Jew. His aim was to familiarise the Polish reader with the very little known scale to which the ethnically Jewish element had penetrated over the many centuries into the families of Polish landed gentry, intelligentsia, and even the aristocracy, and as a result – Mieses claimed – many eminent Poles known in Polish history had some Jewish blood in their veins. The author was inspired to take up this subject by the current situation. In the preface he complains that – under the influence of new ideas flowing from Germany – the ‘zoological’ type of anti-Semitism began to spread in Poland, which led to more and more different societies and associations wanting to become judenrein, “not only in the religious, but also in the anthropological sense.” They were unaware, explains Mieses, that “our symbiosis with Poles-Christians (…) has proved favourable and invigorating” in every field. As a result of many centuries of Jewish neophytes penetrating into the Polish elite, in fact none of those elite Polish families could be quite sure that they had no Israelites among their ancestors. Mieses studies family bloodlines on the basis of armorials and various memories, and quotes numerous examples of Jews being baptised and, as a result, frequently Polonising their names (e.g. from ‘Brunstein’ to ‘Brunicki’); this process was also combined with admitting them into the Polish nobility. Among many more or less convincing examples of such assimilation, Mieses also quotes some rather dubious ones, including the following comment concerning the genealogy of Chopin:

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“Fryderyk Chopin, a musical genius, not only had a French father, but his mother was a [Jewish] neophyte. The well-known poet Antoni Lange wrote in his brochure entitled On the Contradictions of the Jewish Case (1911) that Chopin was half Jewish through his mother Justyna Krzyżanowska. I do not know Lange’s source for this information, but it is a fact that ‘Krzyżanowski’ was a typical neophyte name (…), and Chopin strongly resembles a Jew in the shape of his nose and the expression of his eyes in the portrait.”279

Mieses’s conclusions with reference to Chopin – as well as his entire methodology – were sharply criticised by the reviewer of “Wiadomości Literackie” cultural weekly known by his pen name of Quidam, who accused the author of an unreliable approach and lack of solid source documentation, and of basing his claims on pure speculation and unconfirmed clues:

“Mr Mieses,” he writes in his review, “would like – without much work or effort – to find the largest possible number of noble families having Jewish blood in their veins. Therefore he uncritically accepts every most trifling piece of gossip as proof and draws far-reaching conclusions from most illusory circumstantial evidence.”280

Quidam calls Mieses’s claims concerning Chopin’s supposed lineage “reckless and flippant”, pointing out how at another point the same author admitted that “the surname Krzyżanowski need not always indicate a neophyte.” Talking of a figure of Chopin’s stature, writes the reviewer, the author’s “elementary duty was to examine his lineage and either refute the gossip or else support it with clear arguments.” It should be stressed that Quidam did not treat Mieses’s claims as any kind of ‘blasphemy’ – just the opposite. At the end of his review, he regrets that:

“The subject of this book – if studied with proper care – could have been of fundamental importance for the debate concerning the Jewry. It could have shown the traditions and the range of the Jewish presence in Poland, so that the absurdity of applying racism consistently to Polish history would have become evident…”281

While Quidam did not refer to Mieses’s rash conclusions concerning Chopin’s ‘racial identity’ drawn from his facial features as represented in an unidentified portrait, it was Zofia Lissa who spoke out on this theme. In her article Concerning the ‘Race’ of Fryderyk Chopin printed in one of the later issues of “Wiadomości Literackie”, the scholar opposed “Mieses’s superficial claim” to the results of “long-term studies on the anthropological structure of Chopin,” so that ←129 | 130→the contemporary “myth of race”, already blown out of proportion, should not be nurtured even further.282

According to Lissa, establishing Chopin’s ‘racial affiliation’ is difficult due to the lack of reliable and objective sources. For a long time, all his images available to researchers had been either portraits or sculptures, that is, “artistic creations that deformed his face and figure to a greater or smaller extent.” Interestingly, when we compare drawings, portraits and descriptions originating in different “anthropological environments”, it turns out that in Polish and French circles, artists mostly emphasised the Armenoid features of Chopin’s face, while Germans underlined the Nordic elements. However, claims Lissa, most of his portraits point to his Dinaric characteristics, which are also confirmed by the two surviving real-life likenesses of the composer (referred to by the author as “racially unprejudiced material”) – namely, his death mask and the only preserved daguerreotype. The Dinaric type (very common in France, but rare in Poland) was (believed to be) a result of a mix between the Armenoid and Nordic races. Therefore Lissa moves on to a detailed study of the composer’s face and the sum total of the descriptions of his figure in order to establish which of his features reflected the Armenoid, and which – the Nordic type. She eventually concludes that the Nordic element was poorly marked in Chopin and that the master of the mazurka was, all in all, “a typical Dinaric with some prevalence of the Armenoid element.”283 He inherited this type from his father Nicolas Chopin, who – as we can glean from descriptions and from his surviving portrait – was also “a typical Dinaric”. On the other hand, the portrait and the existing descriptions of the composer’s mother suggest Nordic features, and it was from her that Fryderyk inherited his few physical traits characteristic of that type. Mieses’s speculations concerning the possible Jewish ancestors of some families bearing the name of Krzyżanowski require a closer study, says Lissa, but “her typically Nordic traits seem to contradict this claim.”

Lissa, however, does not rest content with these conclusions concerning the physical evidence of Chopin’s ‘racial affiliation’. She further observes that in accordance with the principles of contemporary anthropological psychology “racial differences between people are the foundation of psychic identity” and therefore influence character, temperament and the entire psychic structure conceived as “a set of intellectual, emotional and volitional predispositions.” On the ←130 | 131→basis of the documented biographical data, the Polish scholar concludes that, beyond any doubt, the composer’s spiritual profile “fundamentally agrees with the model of Dinaric psyche presented by the anthropology of race”284 – and refers at this point to the theory of Hans Günther (previously discussed here). Such qualities of Chopin’s character as a strong sense of humour (he was quite a joker) and feeble will, combined with a short temper, lack of resolution, moodiness, sociability combined with strongly pronounced secretiveness, sensuality, a strong love of his fatherland, as well as outstanding talents for acting, mimicry and music – all perfectly fit Günther’s Dinaric type of psyche. And here comes the surprising bit. Lissa writes:

“Chopin’s music does not correspond in any way to what the anthropologists of race have established as the qualities of Dinaric art (Günther) and of their music in particular (Eichenauer). None of the qualities attributed to other Dinaric composers’ music can be traced in the works of Chopin. On the contrary, it has all the qualities proper to the Polish social and ethnic environment in which he grew up…”285

Chopin’s music is thus a strong argument against racist theses, Lissa argues. It is not race but rather the social and ethnic environment that determined the character of Chopin’s oeuvre. This character did not change even when Chopin lived in France and “absorbed the influences of that culture in which the Dinaric type finds its fullest and most proper expression,” she concludes.

The first impression a present-day reader of this paper will get is most likely astonishment at the seemingly paradoxical fact that a scholar of Jewish descent draws on Nazi theories formulated by German anthropologies to show that Chopin had no demonstrable Jewish ancestors. But if we place this debate in the context of its own time, and of one specific period in the ideological and scientific evolution of Zofia Lissa herself – things do not look so simple any more. Her emphasis on the role of social environment and her rejection of Eichenauer’s theses concerning the impact of ‘race’ on the character of the music – testify to Lissa’s intensifying links with Marxist-Leninist ideology, which she most likely began to absorb in that very period. Her motivation for taking part in this debate was most likely the academic ethos which aims at objective truth regardless of whether that truth is convenient at the given time and place. In fact, at the end of her article Lissa emphasises that she decided to shed light on the issue of Chopin’s ‘race’ because it is “not only racists make demagogical and tendentious ←131 | 132→use of the notions of anthropology, but also those who, quite rightly, fight against fascism and are themselves affected by the consequences of the ‘myth of race’.”

What is untypical of the normally very meticulous and no-nonsense approach represented by Lissa is the complete lack of musicological arguments which she could have used to support her thesis concerning the decisive impact of the social-ethnic environment of the composer’s childhood and youth on his entire oeuvre. Lissa explained this lack by asserting that “Wiadomości literackie” was a magazine targeting wide circles of the intelligentsia rather than expert musicologists, and that for the latter group she had completed her extensive study entitled Chopin in the Light of Anthropological Research. The latter study, announced in her article, was to be published in one of the first Chopin annals prepared (according to Lissa’s own words) by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute during that period. Unfortunately the publication never saw the light of day, and the typescript was lost, most likely sharing the tragic fate of Poland’s capital. When Zofia Lissa returned to ruined Warsaw after many years’ stay in Moscow, she was clearly reluctant to return to subjects which – in new ideological and political circumstances – no longer belonged to priority research topics.

In communist Poland after World War II, the official cult of Chopin was just as strong as in prewar Poland, and Szymanowski’s claim that Chopin had created “the myth of the Polish soul” was still widely accepted. Both before and after the war, the figure of Chopin continued to function in Polish society as an integrating factor. In a sense, Chopin was also a symbol of the continuity of the Polish state, which – ever since its resurrection in 1918 (owed to a very large extent to Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who was a world famous interpreter of Chopin and at the same time the first prime minister of reborn Poland) – held Chopin’s legacy in the highest reverence as one of the foundations of Polish national identity, which in a sense gave Chopin the status of a ‘state composer’286.

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6 The Reactions of British Music Critics, the Appeasement and the British-German Policy for the Musical Cooperation of “Germanic Sister Nations”

Though the opinions of British critics varied greatly (as we have already mentioned), in these circles one can also find many statements which suggest that their authors were ‘under the spell’ of Nazi revolutionary cultural policies and their results. Moreover, British writers were frequently much more open in their admiration for this policy than Polish writers, and some of their texts (despite being published in titles independent from state authorities) seem to have accepted Neville Chamberlain’s government policy of appeasement toward Hitler’s hostile attempts. One example can be “The Musical Times”, whose editors – judging by reports from Germany printed in that monthly – evidently underwent an ideological metamorphosis in the 1930s, evolving from resolute criticism to cautious acceptance, albeit not entirely free of reservations. In January 1934, “The Musical Times” published a brief and laconic review of Eichenauer’s Musik und Rasse. The author, who signed his text with the initials M.D.C., notes that the book, completed in August 1932, “anticipated with surprising accuracy the line of Germany’s new musical policy.” The reviewer then briefly presents Eichenauer’s main theses, emphasising his main assumption, namely that:

“part-writing, harmonic or polyphonic, as a basis of musical art, is entirely a nordic invention and that alone the nordic race, and accessorily the dinaric, have created and maintained the main traditions of musical art, the ‘opposing forces’ having been and still being many, from the Italian verists to the Russian nationalists, and, inevitably, the Jews” [spelling preserved from the original – translator’s note].287

Having perfunctorily presented several examples of Eichenauer’s racial classification of composers, the reviewer sums up the role of artists of Jewish origins, a disproportionate number of whom were described as producers of “musical trash”. Unlike artists of other races, Jews involved in atonal, ←133 | 134→quartertone-based music or other avant-garde projects “have at least the excuse of belonging to a race to which harmonic part-writing is fundamentally alien.” This ironic remark leads to a conclusion which proves the reviewer’s critical opinion of Eichenauer’s book.

“Students wishing to investigate the basic and really significant factors of the problem, music and race, will, I think, find little to help them in Herr Eichenauer’s contributions.”

Eichenauer’s speculations were criticised even more sharply by Edward Lockspeiser, who in his review written for “Music and Letters”288 accused the German admirer of the Nordic race of manipulating historical facts and being an ideologist in the service of the Nazi party. Lockspeiser commented:

“One must indeed be naively prejudiced to fit the history of music onto the theory of Nordic racial supremacy. In fact, to identify the spirit of seventeenth century Italian opera with spectacularism, to ignore the importance of Gabrieli’s influence on Heinrich Schutz, to maintain that Gluck, as well as Jomelli, Traetta, Sammartini and Rameau, embodied the essence of Nordic ideals, is not merely biased but unhistorical. Herr Eichenauer further purports to prove that the disintegration of our musical values is due to ‘denordization’ - not only in Germanic countries, but in Latin countries as well! This thoroughly conforms with the tenets of a certain political party in Germany of whose ideology this book is evidently a product.”289

The tone of these reviews, printed in both of Britain’s leading music periodicals, suggests that the reception of Musik und Rasse in the British Isles probably fell far from its author’s expectations. There is also no indication that the readers of these magazines exhibited any closer interest in the topic. It is possible that many of them viewed Eichenauer’s ‘revelations’ as some kind of harmless academic speculation, but the quoted reviews prove that their authors had already been fully aware at that time of the Third Reich putting these ideas into practice. In the summer of 1933 Victor Gollancz publishing house brought out The Brown Book of Hitler Terror – which, according to Samuel Hynes, had a significant bearing on the attitude of a large proportion of the British intelligentsia toward the Third Reich290. In November of the same year, “The Musical Times” published a devastating report from Germany by the famous musicologist Alfred Einstein, ←134 | 135→who had fallen victim to the first racial purges and was forced to emigrate to England. This extensive account of the various aspects of Germany’s musical life presents a dreary picture of the first effects of the Gleichschaltung policy, growing bureaucracy, and especially of the racial cleansing that opened up chances for power and promotion to mediocrities as long as they were loyal to the authority. Information that reached the British audience, thanks to Einstein, overlapped largely with what Max Meissner communicated to Polish readers in his previously quoted account – but Einstein’s report was more precise and abounded in specific details, as well as attempting a historical analysis of the causes of the phenomena he was describing. The main difference between the two articles lay in their tone. Einstein’s text was far from any kind of ‘caution’, and frequently betrayed the author’s bitterness at the situation:

“In the Germany of today the treatment of music from a political standpoint is a systematic application of the term ‘Gleichschaltung’ in a sphere where such application is unwarranted. It is a misuse of the appellation ‘volkstümlich’ (at present more properly said ‘volksverbunden’); a misconception of the popular, national spirit; it is the arrival of mediocrity, which thinks its opportunity has come, and before which more enlightened spirits must yield. I am not speaking of the expulsion of hundreds of directors, conductors, singers, teachers who have lost their posts, not through any lack of capability, but because they are Jews or politically unacceptable. I am not talking about the loss of artists such as Walter, Klemperer, Huberman, Schnabel, and a host of others, whose ranks have been joined, of their own free will, by Toscanini, Cortot, Casals, Busch – the new State snaps its fingers at them, and, seemingly indifferent, allows foreign countries to enjoy the benefit of their worth. I will not enlarge upon the impoverishment of German concert life, bad enough it is.”291

Apart from issues of quality, Einstein also quoted a telling figure: In early october1933, the London press announced approximately 40 concerts and other music events taking place in Britain’s metropolis over a period of just two weeks, whereas in Berlin there were just four in the same period. The effects of political and racial purges coincided with the peak of the Great Crisis, which reduced subsidies for cultural institutions, led to the closure of opera houses and the disbanding of orchestras. And “worse is yet to come”292.

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While Einstein’s pessimism proved justified with reference to racial cleansing, his predictions concerning the intensity of concert life and the state’s support for music institutions did not come true, or at least not until the outbreak of the war. The return to economic prosperity after the crisis soon translated into a statistically reflected increase in the number of music events. It was probably for this reason – or to prevent accusations of being ‘biased’293 – that the editors began to publish reports diametrically different in tone, written by Nancy Fleetwood, a British singer residing in Dresden, who stressed the political enthusiasm of the German ‘national revival’, the immense commitment of the Nazi authorities to the promotion of musical culture, and the spectacular flourishing of all aspects of music life in the Third Reich, both in terms of quantity and quality. Fleetwood’s reports betrayed her own strong personal fascination with the changes in Germany, as well as possibly some degree of naivety. A typical example of her writing is her extensive account of the Reichstheaterwoche, a festival held between 27th May and 3rd June, which she praised with admiration: “It was really incredible how many operas, concerts, plays - not to mention ‘Kundgebungen’ (…) – were crammed into eight days, and still more incredible that the opera house, concert halls, and theatres, were packed to overflowing for every performance.”294 This enthusiastic presentation leads her to a very heartening conclusion: “This only serves to prove that come what may, Germany is – and the present Government certainly intend that shall continue to be – a nation of music-lovers and theatre-goers.” The author derives this certainty from the activity of the Third Reich’s supreme authorities:

“Hitler and many other prominent members of the Government set the good example by being present themselves at the opening performances in the opera house, and Dr Goebbels – who was responsible for the Festival – remained in Dresden during the greater part of the week and visited [the] opera or playhouse each evening.”295

The German Minister of Propaganda made a particular impression on Nancy Fleetwood thanks to his speech, in which he declared that:

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“the State intends to undertake everything possible to promote theatrical art, especially German art and artists and, more especially, German music. Moreover it is to be made possible for every class of the people to visit the opera and theatres regularly; opera, drama, and music are to play an important part in the education of the rising generation, and are no longer to be regarded as luxuries for the favoured few.”296

No wonder that such a cultural policy must have been to a musician’s liking (both in England and in Poland). The notion of the price that would have to be paid for this in the future was then still rather hazy. Predictably, the more sombre aspects of life in the Third Reich, such as racial persecution, were omitted from Fleetwood’s reports297. Today it is difficult to decide whether this was the result of a fascination quite common among music critics in that era, and to what extent her reports were influenced by the fact that she lived in Germany and was part of that country’s musical life298. Fleetwood strongly emphasised the scale of the German state’s financial support for opera houses and other artistic institutions. The latter aspect generated a natural interest and undisguised envy in British musicians who – like many of their Polish colleagues – would gladly have welcomed similar policies in their own countries. An idea was even put forward that Britain should create a new ministry, the Ministry for Fine Arts, for the purpose of administering arts. A debate flared up in this context in “The Musical Times”, which involved some rather curious arguments which, however, did not sound strange to the readers in the 1930s. One of the magazine’s correspondents went as far as to claim that even “a country as non-musical as France” had its ministry responsible for the arts, which provoked a reaction from US musicologist Gilbert Chase (a specialist in the music of Latin countries) who warned against ←137 | 138→rash attribution of some talents or their lack to entire nations299. Chase argued that such claims are rather a matter of ‘personal opinion’ and of the considerable difference in music tastes on the British and French sides of the English channel. He also corrected the correspondent, pointing out that France only had an arts department in the Ministry of Education, but no separate ministry – and rejected the naïve claim that having such a ministry bore any relation to the society’s musicality and the musicians’ welfare. Besides, who will persuade a pragmatic-thinking British taxpayer to support another bureaucratic body with ‘cushy jobs’ for officials, which will mediate in taking money from some and giving it to others. Here, however, there came an energetic response from the British Fascist Party, which solemnly promised to the magazine’s readers that it would immediately put the idea of the ministry of arts into practice once it has taken over power in the country. The editors realised that this was really too much – this time on the pro-fascist note – and the debate was closed so that it could not be used for the purpose of obvious political agitation300. Nevertheless, the magazine continued to print text which more or less openly praised Nazi cultural policy. The culmination of this trend was Michael Bell’s extensive report in the February 1938 issue of “The Musical Times”, which showed such clear approval, even admiration, for the Third Reich’s policies, especially in the field of music, that the author felt obliged to make the following reservations in the introduction:

“I realize that, in this most intolerant of all democracies, I run the risk of being labelled at least a Nazi propagandist and probably a Fascist when I attempt to put down a few random thoughts dealing with the place of music in the National-Socialist State. In reality my attitude to totalitarian institutions is scrupulously indefinite, since I find too much praiseworthy in them to become a decided antagonist, alongside too much blameworthy to be an out-and -out admirer.”301

←138 | 139→

Leaving aside the author’s highly provocative thesis concerning Great Britain in his time as “the most intolerant of all democracies,” his declared neutrality is not really confirmed by the rest of his text. Bell deplores the lack of proper attention and appreciation of the crucial role of music in the Third Reich on the part of British commentators. “Yet no government, one may safely say, was ever filled with such idealism in respect of the art of music and the place of the arts as a whole as that of the present regime in Germany.” The author supports this thesis with the words of Peter Raabe (as we remember, he was Richard Strauss’s successor as head of the Reichsmusikkammer), who declared his trust in the Nazi state because it recognised the fundamental role of art in the nation’s life. Bell repeats the German authorities’ declarations previously quoted by Nancy Fleetwood that art would no longer be a luxury available only to the chosen few, but would become an essential element of social life, and “the prime element in that culture of the personality which parallels the culture of the mind and the culture of the body in a mutually interactive triad.” Hence, as Bell observes, in contemporary German the term ‘Kultur’ has a broader significance than its English counterpart, ‘culture’, since in German it denotes “all that ennobles a faculty or faculties of the individual.” What follows is an enthusiastic description of the state’s wide range of activities aiming to improve the level of the general public’s music education, including a favourable presentation of the work of the Reichsmusikkammer, inevitably critically compared (as in some Polish critics’ sighs of “why not here”) with the situation of music and musicians in Bell’s own country.

All the same, Bell does note some inconsistence between the Chamber’s long-term plans and the state’s policies, mainly in the racial sphere:

“It is, for instance, difficult indeed to make the Chamber’s balanced attitude in any way consistent with the Nazi ban on non-Aryan and other performers and composers – an attitude that has caused so much indignation outside Germany. The non-Aryans have been caught in the specious argument that as they are not themselves true to their fatherland (indeed, they cannot be expected to be since they are not Germans), how can they assist in that spiritual development of the nation which consists in making men ‘tuchtig, gut und vaterlandstreu’? The forcible expulsion of many and the voluntary departure of others has undeniably inflicted a hurt on German musical life. To the evident anti-Nazi this hurt is irreparable, but although I have every sympathy with these outlawed musicians, I am afraid I cannot see any reason why in point of fact their removal should produce any permanent ill effect on music in Germany; this is probably the somewhat callous attitude of the German Government.”302

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Bell evidently cultivated a highly diplomatic language, which – as one of his readers ironically observed – suggests that he himself was not quite sure of the correctness of his theses303. On the one hand, he accepts the arguments of the Nazi authorities as apparently right, he supports what he calls Raabe’s sensible and balanced plans and expresses his sympathy for the oppressed “non-Aryan” German musicians. On the other, however, he clearly underestimates the problem and seems to sympathise with the view of biological racists, who – as we know – did not recognise perfectly assimilated Jews born in Germany as Germans, thus denying their own national self-identification and declarations of loyalty. Bell’s standpoint provoked a response from one of the non-Aryan musicians settled in England, who tried to make the British readers awake to the fact they usually failed to observe – namely, that in the public space of the Third Reich there was room for only one, officially approved ideology, whose dogmas had to be followed by scholars working in all disciplines:

“It is hardly a ‘specious argument’ which, before being able to approve of an artist’s work must needs know his origins! There might, indeed, have been some sense if it were found possible to judge an artist’s origin by his work, but that is out of the question, and not a single common factor, which could be called ‘non-Aryan’, can be found in the works of, say, Schönberg, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Bruch and Meyerbeer…”304

One should note that in the last sentence of his report Bell suggests that the possible reason for racial cleansing lies in the rather too ‘callous’ attitude of the German authorities. This opinion, claims A.J.P. Taylor, interestingly harmonises very well with the dominant reaction of British society to the Nazis’ anti-Semitic excesses at that time.

Hitler’s rise to power, as Taylor observes305, rather divided than integrated the British political class. Though both the left wing and the Tories were equally ←140 | 141→critical of the new German authorities, their motives were different, which in the long run led to mutual distrust and accusations. At the same time, most British people embraced the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, especially with reference to world superpowers. However, the Nazi anti-Semitic actions made the British of all social classes break this rule and speak with one voice on this matter. On the other hand, however, there was a kind of quiet anti-Semitism then quite common in England, which manifested itself, for instance, in the Jews not being admitted to many prestigious clubs and in the application of the numerus clausus at many famous schools and universities. Taylor therefore believes that the critical reaction of the Britons was provoked by the Nazis’ barbarian methods as such, and he concludes: “…some English people were no doubt the more annoyed at having to repudiate the anti-Semitism which they had secretly cherished.”306

Another aspect of the post-1933 anti-Semitic purges in Germany discussed by Taylor is that they eventually worked to the benefit of Great Britain, which willingly took advantage of the brain drain and welcomed (under the guise of humanitarian action) famous scientists, artists and financial tycoons who fled the Third Reich307. When Bell declared his disbelief in the long-term harmfulness of racial cleansing to German musical life, he was probably well aware that this process had permanently enriched the culture of his own country, despite creating competition for British musicians.

In order to present a fuller picture of the reactions of the British intelligentsia toward Hitlerite racism, we should also tackle the very important question from the standpoint of academic circles in the UK, which enjoyed global recognition and authority. Studies conducted by Gavin Schaffer, Susan D. Pennybacker and Elazar Barkan308 proved that the attitudes of British scholars (and in particular – of anthropologists and biologists) were far from monolithic. All the same, already ←141 | 142→from the late 1920s onward they began to withdraw their previously enthusiastic acceptance for racial typologies and were becoming progressively more sceptical with regard to the possibility of unequivocally demonstrating to what extent man’s psychic predispositions are determined by heredity, and to what extent – by the environment in which he or she lives. According to Barkan, after 1933 the majority of researchers rejected Nazi biological racism as absurd (this is mainly evident in private correspondence), though few announced this rejection publicly before the end of the decade309. The publication of Julian Huxley and A.C. Haddon’s book We Europeans310 in 1935 proved a major event. The work was later reissued and widely commented in the press311, which frequently emphasised the authors’ anti-racist stance. According to Huxley and Haddon, the concept of ‘race’ as applied to human beings is vague and hard to define in scientifically verifiable terms. The authors quote numerous examples in order to demonstrate that the study of ‘race’ ought to be replaced with research on ethnic groups or nations. However, some other scholars, such as e.g. Reginald Gates, represented views that were closer to those of the German anthropologists.

Studies dedicated to this period stress the influence of the political atmosphere, public opinion and the expectations of various influential pressure groups on the official standpoint of the scholarly community. Barkan observes:

“The public demand was for anthropology to define race scientifically and rename it. Most anthropologists followed this intellectual trend against racism and shifted the subject matter of their research from the biological to the cultural. For many the transformation preceded the Second World War, but the British scientific community followed the government’s policy of appeasement, and prevented the shift against rigid racial typology and, by implication, against racism, from receiving formal approval”312

It is hard to determine nowadays to what extent this discrepancy between British academics’ privately expressed views and the official standpoint of various academic associations resulted from political pressure from the authorities, and to what extent it was an expression of spontaneous support for the government’s policy. The latter hypothesis is quite likely as it agrees with the conciliatory attitudes characteristic of the intelligentsia at that time, frequently ←142 | 143→noted by historians and resulting from a paralysing fear of armed conflict with Germany. That fear seemed well justified, especially when Germany’s military power (frequently exaggerated, as we now know) was compared with the potential of Great Britain, poorly armed and unprepared for war. In such a situation, avoiding formal approval for the scientific critique of biological racism, which for the German Nazis was a type of quasi-religious dogma – corresponded distinctly with the policy of the British government.

Another form of support for the appeasement policy and consequently for a growing rapprochement between Britain and Germany was provided by the Anglo-German Fellowship – an organisation of influential politicians, journalists and businessmen, which from the beginning of its operations (1935) actively cooperated on – among other things – a musical exchange between Germany and Great Britain. This programme of exchange and collaboration in the field of music, initiated by the German side, had its hidden racist undertones, albeit they derived from a quite different context. It reflected Hitler’s policy of German-British rapprochement, which he still insisted upon in the mid-1930s. The policy was to lead to an alliance and agreement about the division of the imperial spheres of influence that Hitler sketched in Mein Kampf. Music – as Eric Levi313 proves in his study – was to play an important role in this process of these two ‘racially closely related’ Germanic nations coming closer together. Especially attractive for the English was the prospect of German concert halls, normally hermetically closed to foreign composers, opening up to admit British music. This project gained impetus in 1935, when Joachim von Ribbentrop, a well-known admirer of British culture, became the Third Reich’s ambassador to London314. Both the Anglo-German Fellowship and the Permanent Council for International Co-operation between Composers (headed by Richard Strauss) were involved in this project. The latter council had been founded in 1934 in Wiesbaden as an alternative to the International Society for Contemporary Music, which Germany left in 1933, accusing the ISCM of promoting composers of suspect racial origins and overly ‘modernist’ music315. One of the German side’s first initiatives was to grant the University of Hamburg’s Shakespeare Prize to Ralph Vaughan Williams (1936). The choice of the composer was rather ←143 | 144→obvious; he was also a learned historian, who enjoyed considerable authority in England, a racially ‘impeccable’ Aryan of eminently Nordic physiognomy, and his aesthetic-national views – especially the claim that art must be rooted in local culture – were fully acceptable to the Nazis. What was at work here was the same mechanism of trust and admiration for the German tradition as in Poland. The composer was impressed that a country which most English musicians saw as the artistic ‘promised land’ presented him with a prize. On the other hand, he was aware that contemporary Germany did not represent the same culture as in the past, which is evident from his letter addressed to the authorities of the University of Hamburg:

“…I feel bound to explain that I am strongly opposed to the present system of government in Germany, especially with regard to its treatment of artists and scholars. I belong to more than one English society whose [objective] is to combat all that the present German regime stands for… I cannot accept this great honour without satisfying my own conscience that I shall not feel in any way hampered in the free expression of my own opinion in accepting it.”316

Naturally, the German side assured the composer that the award had no political undertones whatsoever. The argument that eventually convinced the sceptical Englishman was that the prize was proof of a great change in the Germans’ attitude toward English music in comparison with the 19th century. Tactfully enough, they did not refer in this context to Hanslick’s famous contemptuous description of England as a “Land ohne Musik.” Eventually Vaughan Williams accepted the prize and travelled to Hamburg in the summer of 1938 for its presentation. In the meantime, the artistic exchange between the two ‘sister Germanic countries’ was developing fast and also attracted lively interest in Poland. In January 1936 the bimonthly “Muzyka Polska” was informed in a report from London about a visit of critics representing Germany’s leading music periodicals – the “Neues Musikblatt” and “Berliner Tagesblatt” – to the British metropolis, where they came to familiarise themselves “with the music life of that city and with trends in London criticism.” The Polish correspondent stressed the German guests’ “admiration for the abundance and good organisation of London’s musical life, and for the level of the audience’s music education. The English audience listens to concerts with the score in their hands; every third ←144 | 145→listener comes to the performance with the score.”317 The wide social scope of London’s concert life was also noted and praised; this was made possible, the correspondent emphasised, by relatively low ticket prices. Naturally, the greatest interest was inspired by the exchange of excellent orchestras and by mutual presentation of works from the two countries. Thus, Dresden Opera’s spectacles at London’s Covent Garden318 and the London Symphony Orchestra’s German tour under Thomas Beecham were widely reported, and the press dedicated much space especially to the ceremony of bestowing Britain’s highest musical honour – the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society – to Richard Strauss, on the occasion of his visit to London with Dresden Opera’s ensembles319. A series of British music concerts featuring works by Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Bliss, and others, were held in the main German music centres, while Berlin itself hosted in 1936 the premiere of Symphony No. 1 by the then rising star of English music – William Walton. This composition, one of the most significant British compositions of the interwar period, was favourably received by the German audience, which enjoyed the energy and vitality of the music as well as the evident continuation of the ‘sound’ Nordic stylistic trend mapped out by Sibelius. The Germans also clearly liked Walton’s appearance (tall, blue-eyed and blond-haired). However, more and more British musicians were expressing their disgust and indignation at the pompous Nazi propaganda that accompanied these concerts. Ribbentrop, on the other hand, was disappointed by the distance with which the British authorities approached the programme – they seemed not to understand that it was not meant to be all just about music. Eventually the exchange was discontinued early in 1939. Already in January an anonymous correspondent of “Muzyka” magazine informed Polish readers that the London concerts of the Berliner Philharmoniker under Furtwangler had been cancelled, largely, as he claims, due to the unfavourable political climate, especially “the English society’s attitude toward Germany.”320 Still, according to Eric Levi, the direct cause of this cancellation was the reaction of British musicians, who were astonished by the reaction of German organisers of a choral festival, vetoing the main feature of the BBC Choir’s programme – the works of… Vaughan Williams. It had turned out that the composer’s criticism of the Nazi regime led to a ban on ←145 | 146→performing his music in the German territory321. The indignant Britons seemed to realise only now who really controlled the direction of this exchange – and consequently they boycotted the concert. We do not know how the composer himself reacted to this dishonour – or was it a ‘distinction’ for him? This dignified gentleman, brought up to respect freedom of speech as well as all kinds of ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ – certainly had to accept, like the then British Prime Minister, that in the new political style agreements were entered into only to be broken at a later date whenever such a move could bring a political payoff.

Of the British periodicals in the 1930s, “The Monthly Musical Record” was distinguished by a consistently critical attitude toward Nazi ideology. It attacked particularly sharply the racial purges among German musicians. As early as in May 1933 the magazine’s Notes of the Day informed about the dismissal of Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer, who lost their posts not because of any artistic imperfections but due to ethno-political reasons in Chamberlain’s spirit (naturally, this phrase refers to Houston Stewart Chamberlain). At this point, the editors reminded their readers of the ideological sources of racism and unequivocally condemned the decision as a case of “crude anti-Semitism,” which must cause indignation in terms of music values and of decent, civilised liberalism.322

Naturally, qualifying these dismissals as “crude anti-Semitism,” though well justified by the values quoted by the editors, shows that they could not imagine the real scale of crudeness and brutality still to come. Equally unimaginable at that time was the idea that high government and party officials who seized monopolistic power in a state boasting such an enormous cultural heritage could themselves organise racial persecution instead of preventing it. This is what most likely happened in the autumn of 1938 during the famous Kristallnacht – a demonstration of racist violence and brutality unprecedented in modern European history. As had happened many times before in history, artists – mainly writers and film-makers, but also politically and socially sensitive music composers – warned society of these social and political atrocities, which were unimaginable for people thinking in ‘honest and civilised, liberal’ categories. In the interwar period, British culture abounded in such artistic manifestos and prophetic, ominous visions, most of which came from artists of the younger generation, strongly involved in social drama and unwilling to isolate ←146 | 147→themselves in variously conceived ‘ivory towers’. It was also here, in the British Isles more than anywhere else, that novels, plays and compositions were inspired by the ‘great politics’, by the growing aggression of totalitarian states, the effects of putting racial doctrines into practice, which – possibly ‘harmless’ in the closed world of academic speculations – once they became part of everyday social and political reality, led to violence on a mass scale. It was this organised violence in international and domestic policies that progressively destabilised the European order and led to war. Fear of war was this generation’s defining experience, which is why the youth in Great Britain at that time were particularly uniform with respect to ideology, their identity being defined by pacifism.

7 The Ideological Counter-Offensive of British Great War Generation Artists – Pacifism against Racism and Chauvinism

Pacifism was extremely popular among the young French and British intelligentsia in the 1930s. Pacifism was the exact opposite of totalitarian ideologies. Terror on a massive scale, the gradual militarisation of societies, which was justified either by struggle with a ‘class enemy’, or, as in the case of Mussolini323, by preparations for war, or as a ‘natural’ state that made the nation strong - all this was based on the glorification of, or acceptance for, organised violence. Pacifism rejected violence. It opposed social Darwinism and other historiosophic doctrines which saw ‘struggle’ (class or racial struggle) as the propelling force of history – with Christian and Buddhist ideas, as well as the Anglo-American philosophy of pragmatism and common sense. What, they asked, was the point of war as an instrument of international policy, when modern technology made it possible to destroy completely a large part of the continent and cause the collapse of human civilisation?

As we know, pacifism became widespread after World War I mainly in the victorious societies of those countries that imposed the Treaty of Versailles on the world, and were therefore not interested in changing the status quo. Pacifism was especially popular in England, in the generation born and brought up – as Samuel Hynes put it324 – in the shadow of the Great War. The shock of that war determined the psychic makeup of the entire generation. The atmosphere of that ←147 | 148→time and the qualities that shaped the generation’s identity are faithfully reflected by the writings of its most eminent representatives: Auden, Upward, Isherwood, and Orwell. According to Hynes, these authors, brought up in the cult of heroic deeds and of heroic death for the king and the country – already as very young people they saw the glaring discrepancy between these idealised visions and the grim reality of the frontline as described by returning soldiers, many of whom were physically or mentally crippled by the experience. The generation soon found its own voice – Wilfried Owen, a 25-year-old poet and pacifist, who perished on the eve of a truce and whose pointless death became a symbol. The economical, nearly journalistic style of his poems was a revelation for them. Owen showed the war as it really was, in brutally drastic visions, but also making use of ironic paraphrases of Biblical stories325. It was apparently mainly to Owen that the British “Great War” generation owed its tendency to take up a moralising mission based on a reinterpretation of modernised Christian parables. This was related to the crisis and chaos in moral values and to attempts to understand the powers that govern contemporary society – attempts which resulted in literary visions of monstrous dystopian states. The first of these can be found in Upward and Isherwood’s early Mortmere stories, set in a fantastic city where all the moral norms are turned upside down. Orwell’s 1984, written after World War II, was a late version of such a dystopia.

The awareness that the 1930s were in fact a period in-between world wars began to take shape already in 1930. The first literary visions of the imminent catastrophe appeared in that very year, while after 1935 we have an impressive number of books dedicated to the future war, beginning with Evelyn Vaugh’s novel Vile Bodies, which contains an interesting analysis of the origins of contemporary conflicts:

“Wars don’t start nowadays because people want them. We long for peace, and fill our newspapers with conferences about disarmament and arbitration, but there is a radical instability in our whole world-order, and soon we shall all be walking into the jaws of destruction again, protesting our pacific intentions…”326

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The pacifist worldview was very widespread in British society during that period. G. M. Trevelyan writes:

“The English people, in a natural reaction after four years’ experience of the unspeakable horrors of modern ‘total’ war, regarded pacifism and unilateral disarmament as a method of securing peace, and hailed the League of Nations as a machine for making all safe by some magic or automatic process not clearly defined.”327

In 1933 the Oxford Union voted that they would not fight “for the King and the Country.” In this way, they made it clear that in pacifism there was no distinction between aggressive and defensive war, because both were viewed as a crime328. A powerful pacifist faction, the Peace Pledge Union, active in the 1930s, received support from a public poll called the Peace Ballot, in which nearly twelve million citizens took part (1935). This situation could not remain without influence on the foreign policies of Neville Chamberlain’s government – and Hitler eagerly took advantage of the public climate in the British Isles. Noble as the young British elite’s motives undoubtedly were, that elite did not yet realise that it was playing into the hands of their future mortal enemy. By combatting the national armaments programme, the Great War generation contributed to the weakness of the main European empire that could defend liberal and democratic values. In this way, it determined its own tragic fate, and that of the whole of Europe – the same fate that it strove to avoid at any cost.

In music, the main exponents of the dominant pacifist ideology of this generation were Great Britain’s two most eminent 20th-century composers: Michael Tippett (1905–1998) and Benjamin Britten (1913–1976).

8 1938 – The Breakthrough Year: Benjamin Britten’s and Michael Tippett’s Politically Involved Works in Relation to Events in the Third Reich

When we compare the biographies of Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett, we cannot fail to note some striking parallels in their aesthetic and political views, ←149 | 150→as well as their life histories. These similarities result largely from their strong generational identity. They were both born into prosperous middle class families and brought up in highly cultured environments. They received a very good general and musical education; both graduated from London’s Royal College of Music. Their careers took different courses. Tippett lived much longer and fully manifested his talent only after his younger colleague’s death. On the other hand, Britten’s international position as a leading 20th-century classic still seems to outshine Tippett, though the latter’s amazing late-maturing talent is now gaining more and more recognition, catching up with Britten’s fame. In the early 1930s, both composers exhibited interest in the social-political context of art’s function that was typical of their generation. Both perceived their own work through the prism of an aesthetic developed by a leading art ideologist who influenced their generation’s dominant literary circles – namely, Wystan Hugh Auden. The key aspect of his aesthetic was a sense of social mission and the incorporation of a vast array of artistic tools from various disciplines for the purpose of actively supporting society’s ethical education. Auden was convinced that apart from the attempt to use art to escape from reality (escape-art),329 it is modern society’s vital need to cultivate a parable-art330. In the 1930s, both Britten and Tippett demonstrated their solidarity with those social classes that had been most acutely affected by the Great Depression331, both resolutely opposed all forms of chauvinism and racism, and both declared themselves as fervent pacifists.

Pacifism agreed both with the two composers’ personal sensitivity and with the fashion that was then universally adopted by young intellectuals. Already as a child, Britten demonstrated a great sensitivity to social injustice and persecution, an attitude that was most likely enhanced by his father’s habit of reading Dickens’s novels aloud to the family in the evenings when the artist was just a ←150 | 151→few years old. At secondary school Benjamin Britten was known to defend the weak from being bullied by stronger pupils – a mission which he could successfully undertake thanks to his impressive physical fitness332. His sensitivity, supported by Christian beliefs and generational tendencies, transformed in the 1930s into an absolute type of pacifism, with a nearly fundamentalist colouring, which accepts no exceptions to the commandment of “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and condemns every kind of violence, claiming that no state or social organisation can usurp the right to justify the use of violence.

Tippett’s road to pacifism was more complicated, marked by internal conflicts related to his involvement in the communist movement and his fascination with Jung’s theories. In 1935 Tippett joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, but as a follower of Trotsky and an opponent of Stalin, he soon left the party. Besides, the theory of class struggle and the cult of revolution were at odds with the pacifist repudiation of violence. Eventually Tippett chose pacifism and a more socialist worldview, while Jung’s concepts of self-awareness and the balance of opposites allowed him to distance himself from the contradictions of his own nature333, as well as propose an interpretation of the subconscious motives of racist behaviour.

Britten was the first to react to racist acts of violence in his art. His song cycle Our Hunting Fathers for soprano and orchestra, to a text by W.H. Auden (1936), is a loud accusation of the well-to-do elite’s thoughtless cruelty evident in hunting as kind of primitive atavism. But the cycle also presents parallels to similarly cruel hunts already organised at that time in Germany, in which human beings were considered as game. As Donald Mitchell observes334, the juxtaposition of the words “German, Jew” in the text of Britten’s song about the hunt cannot be found in Auden’s original and is therefore the composer’s own, evidently political initiative. However, for a full manifestation in music of the protest against totalitarian violence (racism included) one had to wait for the year 1938, when dramatic international tensions and the threat of war triggered such responses. Both Tippett and Britten then made use of the forces that seemed ideal for such an ideological mission – namely, those of a mixed choir.

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Britten was the first to ‘break the ice’. Alarmed by Germany’s growing aggression on the outside (the Munich crisis) and inside the country (Kristallnacht – the ‘Night of Broken Glass’), in the autumn of 1938 he completed his motet Advance Democracy for a capella choir to a text by Randall Swingler, editor of the leftist journal Left Review. The generic attribution of this work most likely results from the prominent role of counterpoint, from the relation between text and music, and the role of rhythm in the dramatic structure of the piece. These elements look back to both the concept of the medieval motet as derived from the French le mot (‘the word’), and from the Latin motus (‘movement’). The composition, made up of two strongly contrasted parts, opens with a sombre vision of urban blackout, where the night darkness is torn by cold anti-aircraft searchlights. The choir’s hushed voices perfectly reflect the mood of anxiety, at times even of paralysing fear. The choir is divided into two groups; the female voices intone a kind of disturbingly monotonous cantus firmus vocalise, moving upward and downward in turns, on the foundation of alternating broken chords of C minor and G minor (modally speaking, minor tonic and minor dominant). Against this background we hear a march melody sung by male voices, made up of short, punctuated, staccato articulated ‘cries’, each ‘cry’ corresponding to a single text syllable. The text informs us of warnings and threatening news that fill newspaper headlines, of anxious speculations concerning such news, people whispering at the table or talking behind closed doors. Tension gradually grows, enhanced by a change of texture; the ‘moaning’ cantus firmus is taken over by the male voices, while the female ones take up the march-like declamatory melody. The music now moves into the key of G minor. As the tension further escalates, the exchange of voices becomes faster, and the pendulum-like movement of the cantus firmus grows wider in range. This animation of musical movement (though the dynamics still do not exceed pianopianissimo) coincides with the appalling conclusion of this section; the price of the secret ‘haggling’ behind closed doors will be, as we hear, the ‘people’s doom’. These words are followed by an aggressive crescendo that leads to another vision – openly exposing the brutality of the war machine swinging into action, the ‘roar of war’ in factories and the beat of thousands of marching feet, which drowns out all other voices and turns life in Europe into a nightmare. The march-like melody on these words is repeated with progressive downward shifts, which makes the impression of sound of marching troops fading away in the distance. Britten repeated these words and rhythms335 many ←152 | 153→times, clearly aware of the fact that march rhythms are the best symbol of militarism in sound, also purposefully applied as a way to appease people’s conscience and steer the minds of individuals in totalitarian countries336. The main culmination of the piece leads to the somber reflection that the sun of safety and stability was setting for Europe, and the continent plunged in the shadow of dictatorships. We hear a rhetorical question: Can nothing save our freedom? Will our lives be reduced to dust?

The second part of the composition does provide an answer. As the minor keys give way to major ones, fear and uncertainty are replaced by joyous optimism. The passage-based cantus firmus, previously presented as a symbol of fear and threat, is transformed into a nearly victorious hymn. After the minor-to-major transformation and all the voices joining forces in octaves and in unison, it becomes a symbol of social unity, while the expansive ascending movement illustrates the text’s call to action. It is time for democracies to rise, to shake off passive apathy and begin to speak with one voice, so that the values that our fathers fought for were not annihilated. Swingler and Britten left the audience in no doubt as to what kind of struggle they had in mind. Though the words about reviving pride might suggest a reference to the demand (more and more popular, especially among the lower social classes in the British Isles) to show that the proud lion of Britain can still roar and oppose Hitler’s aggression, from another section of the text we learn that it was also time… to disband army divisions.

The events of 1938 meant that the numbers of British pacifists began to dwindle with lightning speed. Still, orthodox followers of this doctrine, Britten included, remained resolute in their views. If we unilaterally disarm ourselves, others will follow. Why should any state spend enormous sums on the army if ←153 | 154→there is no threat from the outside? If this fails, however, and we are attacked, the only solution will be to refrain from armed resistance. This universal gesture of ‘turning the other cheek’ will take the wind out of the sails of even the most aggressive dictators. In the longer run, it will lead them to their fall.

Admittedly there was some kind of logic in this reasoning, but it the political situation of that time, it was naïve and dangerous. Naturally, there is no point in starting a polemic with these views now, with reference to the 1930s, and formulate conjectures as to what would have happened, had the democratic countries really ‘disbanded their divisions’, how the Nazis would have treated those nations which they classified as Untermenschen. Artists are often dreamers, but they can also prove to be visionaries. Britten had his idea – and though in the autumn of 1938 he must already have realised the inevitability of war337, he still believed that this idea ought to be propagated, just as ethical norms must be followed regardless of circumstances. It was all about saving the dignity of humankind in a world in which violence would become an everyday experience for millions of people.

While Britten opened his series of pacifist manifestos with small and medium-scale musical genres, in order to pass on to great vocal-instrumental and operatic forms after the war, Tippett started directly with a great form and the largest performing forces available. His artistic response to the terrifying events of 1938 took the form of a huge oratorio entitled A Child of Our Time, for four soloists, two choirs and large orchestra. Inspired by the first mass Nazi pogrom of the Jews before the outbreak of the war – the Kristallnacht of November 1938, conceived as an act of revenge for the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris by a desperate 17-year-old Polish Jew - Herszel Grynszpan. Kristallnacht, which exposed the true face of Hitlerism, was a shock to European public opinion and largely contributed to a political ‘sobering’ of the silent admirers of the Third Reich in the West.

Notably, the whole tragedy began with a directive from Polish authorities which deprived émigrés of Polish citizenship if they had lived abroad for many years and did not maintain contacts with the mother country. This also affected 11 thousand Polish Jews living in Germany, and the Nazis eagerly used this opportunity to deport the already ‘stateless’ Jews to the Polish border, seizing ←154 | 155→all their possessions. This was not the end of their drama. Since they had no Polish passports, the Polish authorities refused entry, thus sentencing the Jews to narrow vegetation in the border strip338. Among those who found themselves in this situation was the Grynszpan family, who had resided for many years in Hanover, running a tailor’s workshop. They wrote a desperate letter to their son in Paris, hoping that Herszel might save them from this oppression and arrange for emigration to America – which was obviously a very unrealistic expectation. Herszel himself was an illegal alien in France and could not find steady employment; to make matters worse, his French was also poor. He lived with an uncle, took up casual jobs and also feared deportation. A US visa was completely beyond his reach. Feeling like a hunted animal, Herszel came to the German embassy on 7th November 1938, armed with a revolver, and demanded meeting with some higher official, on the pretext that he had important information to impart. In was early morning and the only higher official on duty was Ernst vom Rath, secretary of the embassy. Grynszpan was led into his room. Without saying a word, he took out a gun and shot three times at the terrified diplomat. Mortally wounded, vom Rath soon died in hospital despite energetic intervention of French and German physicians. Grynszpan voluntarily gave himself up to the police, and announced that his deed was an act of desperation and vengeance for the persecution of his compatriots. This statement was printed on the front pages in the press.

This assassination was precisely what the Nazis needed. Admittedly, vom Rath was not a member of their party and was even suspected of a lack of enthusiasm for national socialism. But this was no obstacle for the Nazis, who now had ‘proof’ of their theory concerning an international Jewish conspiracy against the Third Reich, and could launch the long-planned persecution. Goebbels was euphoric. He immediately travelled to Munich, where an assembly of the Nazi revolution ←155 | 156→veterans was just taking place. The following evening, hell was unleashed on Jews throughout Germany339.

These, then, were the events that Tippett used as the point of departure for his composition. The composer first addressed T. S. Eliot, a leading British writer of the time, to write the libretto, but the latter refused, fearing that his text might dominate the whole work. Knowing Tippett’s own literary talent, he advised the composer to write the libretto himself. The text does not focus on the specific historical events; the composer uses them as a vehicle for a universal message, providing them with a psychological and philosophical context, with evident influences from the theories of C.G. Jung, while the simple and succinct style of the libretto brings to mind the writings of the aforementioned Wilfried Owen. From the formal-musical point of view, Tippett modelled his work on the oratorios of Bach and Handel, particularly on the Messiah. The tripartite composition is divided into traditional numbers: solo and ensemble sections (ensembles of soloists), interludes and choruses.

It is the choruses that play a crucial role here. Apart from ensemble scenes important for the progress of the action, and in which choruses symbolise antagonistic social forces (such as the Double Chorus of Persecutors and Persecuted) and apart from the traditional role of the chorus as a moralising commentator, Tippett also makes use of the original (though controversial) idea of summing up large sections of dramatic action by means of African-American spirituals, which make use of the joint forces of both choirs and the soloists. According to the composer, their function is analogical to that of the Protestant chorales in oratorios by J.S. Bach – they are the ‘voice of the people’ as well as providing a timeless, universal commentary. The choruses also have an extra-musical significance in the form of a global cultural, anti-racist message. In order to reconcile such distant forms of musical language – the spirituals, based on major-minor harmonies and the oratorio itself, with its complex contrapuntal lines and frequent strongly chromatic textures – Tippett used as an integrating component the interval of a minor third, which plays a crucial role in the selected spirituals, as well as in those sections of the work which contain enclaves of tonality (almost exclusively minor chords). The minor thirds also largely structure the motifs in those sections where linear chromatic progressions are presented without a tonal context.

The reflective first part opens with a melancholy, still very Romantic-sounding orchestral introduction, after which the hushed voices of the choir ←156 | 157→announce that “The world turns on its dark side. It is winter.” Philosophical questions follow: Can evil be good? Can human reason be wrong? The alto responds: “Reason is true to itself. But pity breaks open the heart.” The choir’s conclusions are alarming: “We are lost. We are as seed before the wind. We are carried to a great slaughter.” This pessimistic reflection leads to a picture of ‘our times’ presented by the narrator (bass), dominated by persecutions both in the East and West. The Chorus of Persecuted asks when hunger is going to disappear from fertile lands, when the rule of usury and avarice ends in the cities? After this exchange of ideas and questions, we hear the voice of the protagonist (tenor), who depicts his desperate situation. He is still almost a child. “I have no money for my bread, I have no gift for my love. I am caught between my desires and their frustrations as between the hammer and the anvil.” Then he asks another rhetorical question: “How can I grow to a man’s stature?” The soprano echoes his anxieties: “How can I cherish my man in such days, or become a mother in a world of destruction?” The tension accumulating with the successive questions, to which no answers are provided, is relieved by the first spiritual, which ends the opening part of the oratorio. Everybody sings “Steal away to Jesus,” as if to suggest that Jesus is the only light of hope in the face of overwhelming darkness caused by the global escalation of violence.

Part two tells the story of a young man who seeks justice in vain. The hushed melancholy lyricism gives way here to aggressive dynamism, while the tempi accelerate. The choir announces: “A star rises in mid-winter. Behold the man! The scape-goat! The child of our time.” The narrator reports in a nearly evangelical language: “And a time came when in the continual persecution one race stood for all.” The aggressive Double Chorus of Persecutors and Persecuted exchanges shouts that musically represent the vicious circle of hate in which society has lost its way. The Chorus of the Self-righteous shouts: “We cannot have them in our Empire. They shall not work, nor draw a dole. Let them starve in No-Man’s Land!” The narrator retells the successive events that lead to the culmination. The persecuted young man is overcome by fury: “His other self rises in him, demonic and destructive. (…) He shoots the official,” and the alto adds “But he shoots only his dark brother - And see…he is dead.” This second part, abounding in movement and brutality, ends with a negro spiritual that recalls the fate of the Israelites in Egypt (Go Down Moses), thus suggesting a distinct parallel between the fate of the persecuted Europeans and that of the African American population. The finale brings a strong pacifist message: one cannot fight violence with violence. Good and evil, light and darkness, reside in every one of us. They need to be recognised and controlled. The final ensemble scene brings these significant words: “I would know my shadow and my light, so shall I at last be whole.” ←157 | 158→This conclusion, derived from Jung’s concept of self-awareness and the balance of opposites, proved crucial to the later development of the composer’s aesthetic and ethical views. It also offers a key to understanding Tippett’s pacifism.

The oratorio A Child of Our Time, written in the shadow of the dramatic events of 1938–41, was only premiered in 1944 and constituted a breakthrough in Tippett’s career as a composer. It brought him fame and reinforced his position in his own country. Meanwhile the young assassin’s deed was condemned – immediately and as emphatically as possible – by both German and international Jewish organisations, who knew all too well that the event was extremely convenient for the Nazis in their policies340. What, then, happened to the ill-starred ‘child of our time’?

Grynszpan’s later fates could well serve as a scenario for an action movie341. The German authorities demanded that France should hand over the assassin, but the French refused, on the grounds that he was not a German citizen, and the crime was committed in French territory, which is where the culprit must be tried. In the meantime, the case was much publicised in the media, which motivated anti-Nazi journalists to attempt a defence of the young assassin. A prominent role in this campaign was played by US journalist Dorothy Thomson, expelled from Germany for her views in 1934. Thomson’s thesis was that the real culprit was Germany and its anti-Jewish policies. She created an international fund for Grynszpan’s defence and soon raised several thousand dollars. At the same time, she appealed to the Jewish communities not to contribute to the fund lest they should be accused of taking part in a conspiracy – especially since the Nazis threatened the Jews with another pogrom in case any organised protests should be held. Grynszpan’s defence at court was taken up by one of France’s most eminent barristers, who immediately developed an ‘apolitical’ line of defence. According to the French law, the punishment for every political assassination, regardless of moral motives, was a death sentence, while if the deed was qualified as a crime of passion, the culprit could avoid the capital punishment. The lawyer took advantage of gossip concerning the victim’s homosexual preferences and presented the whole situation as the tragic end of a homosexual affair, the consequence of a conflict between lovers. Nevertheless, as French-German relations ←158 | 159→were deteriorating, the prosecutor delayed preparing the indictment until the Third Reich’s attack on France. The convoy in which Grynszpan and other prisoners were transported south was bombed. Some of the cars were hit and many of the prisoners perished, but Herszel and the remaining ones managed to escape. However, he voluntarily gave himself up to the police, presumably feeling that prison was the safest place for him. What he did not foresee was the fall of France. He soon found himself in the hands of the Gestapo and was transported to Berlin, where – paradoxically – he was not tortured or anything, because on Goebbels’s orders he was to await a show trial. The latter was postponed all the time, since the German judiciary could not find the right legal clause to start a trial in Germany – for the same reason why France refused to hand Grynszpan over to the Nazis. What is more, the Germans now had the documentation prepared by the French defence and feared that revealing vom Rath’s homosexuality, if publicly confirmed by Grynszpan, might compromise the Germans. In the end, the trial was never held. Grynszpan was transported to some camp deep in Germany, and was never heard from after that.

←159 | 160→←160 | 161→

235 Emil Ludwig, Talks with Mussolini, (London: G. Allen & Unwin 1932), p. 75.

236 Kwartalnik Muzyczny, Nos 19–20, 1933, pp. 172–176.

237 Jan Czekanowski, Zarys antropologii, (Lwów [Lviv]: Lwowska Biblioteka Slawistyczna, 1930), p. 432.

238 Zygmund Grabowski, “Niemcy po przewrocie” [Germany after the Political Revolution], “Życie sztuki” No. II, 1935, p. 302.

239 Max Meissner, “Stosunki muzyczne w Trzeciej Rzeszy” [Music Relations in the Third Reich], Muzyka No. 3 (113) 1934, pp. 125–126.

240 Rafał Ciesielski Refleksja estetyczna w polskiej krytyce muzycznej okresu międzywojennego [Aesthetic Thought in Polish Music Criticism in the Interwar Period], (Poznań: PTPN 2005), p. 360. Cf. also: Rafał Ciesielski, “Muzyka zagrożona? Polska krytyka muzyczna okresu międzywojennego wobec uzurpacji totalitarnych w muzyce” [Endangered Music? Polish Interwar Music Criticism in the Face of Totalitarian Usurpation in Music], in: Pokój jako przedmiot międzykulturowej edukacji w muzyce [Peace as a Subject of Intercultural Music Education], (Słupsk: Wydawnictwo Akademii Pomorskiej, 2007), pp. 228–239.

241 Characteristic in this respect is the previously quoted anonymous report from Germany printed in the Chronicle column of Muzyka Polska in January 1936 (under the title Germany: The New Slogans). Its author writes with admiration about the methodical and well-thought-out programme of making music part of the nation’s life. Rarely has music – as an applied art – played such a major role as “in today’s new Germany”, claims the author. In this way, we read, music is turning into a powerful tool of education and state formation. “We are thus coming back to old Plato,” the author concludes. He highly praises the dynamic activity of the Reichsmusikkammer and expresses his regret that “So much has been said in Poland about creating an analogous situation…” Commentaries of this kind were pretty common and revealed an attitude of poorly concealed envy, expressed by such rhetorical questions as “Why do we not have it in our country?” Cf. anon. “Kronika- Niemcy- Nowe hasła”, [Chronicle – Germany – The New Slogans], Muzyka Polska, I 1936, pp. 80–82.

242 Szymanowski, as we know, supported the idea of a comprehensive system of state music education (which was only implemented after 1945) and demanded active educational policies as well as highly specialised, elitist training for artists on a good European level. However, as Magdalena Dziadek demonstrates, in times of crisis the government had to choose between an elitist and an egalitarian model of education. She suggests that it was the contemporary German and Soviet example that decided about opting for that latter model. Cf. Magdalena Dziadek, “Karol Szymanowski as Chancellor of the Higher School of Music In Warsaw. New Facts, New Light”, in: Karol Szymanowski: Works – Reception – Contexts, ed. Zofia Helman, Musicology Today, 2008, pp. 94–117.

243 Quoted after: Roman Wapiński, Historia polskiej mysli politycznej XIX i XX wieku [The History of Polish Political Thought], (Gdańsk: ARCHE, 1997), p. 214.

244 Jan Korolec, “Czy slowo zaklęcia będzie powiedziane po polsku?” [Will the Spell Be Uttered in Polish?], Prosto z mostu, No. 3, Warsaw 1935: “Fascism failed to reconcile introducing order with preserving the freedom of the individual (…) By hindering individual creativity, fascism is unable to create new life.” The author accused German national socialism of the same mistakes. The Germans did not understand that “even the best trained flock of sheep will not be able to form a new life” (p. 4).

245 E.g., the Poznań-based Dziennik Narodowy No. 52, 1935 quotes the secret Gestapo circular aimed “against malicious criticism of national-socialist ideology by the Jesuits and other Catholic speakers,” who, in case they are caught committing this kind of crime, ought to be immediately arrested (p. 2).

246 Ignacy Wieniewski, “Habend sua fata - insignia” Filomata, Lwów, 1938 No. 101. The author recalls the Roman Emperor Domitian sentencing Arulenus Rusticus and Herennius Senecio for the crime of praising “enemies of the state”, while their books were also burnt. Philosophers who could sympathise with the culprits were exiled. Wieniewski comments: “Publicly burning the books of dissident writers…Is this Domitian’s Rome or Hitler’s Germany? The fate of Rusticus and Senecio is now also the fate of the whole elite of German writers whom Hitlerism holds in disfavour, led by the genius of Thomas Mann…” (p. 527).

247 Cf. Mieczysław Pruszyński, Tajemnica Piłsudskiego [Piłsudski’s Secret], (Warszawa: Polska Oficyna Wydawnicza, 1997), p. 200.

248 Dmowski, Myśli nowoczesnego Polaka [Thoughts of a Modern Pole].

249 Dmowski, Przewrót [The Revolution] (1934), quoted after: Wapiński, Historia polskiej mysli, p. 194. Dmowski’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic obsessions fully manifested themselves in his literary attempts of the 1930s, particularly in his novel Dziedzictwo [The Heritage] (1931). Cf. Andrzej Micewski, Roman Dmowski, (Warszawa: Verum, 1971), pp. 333–336.

250 According to the directives of the Camp of Great Poland (OWP) and All-Polish Youth, the status of a citizen ought to be distinguished from that of a person who ‘belongs’ but has no right to vote and is subject to restrictions and limitations similar to those imposed on the Jews in Austria-Hungary. The difference would be that baptism could not change this status, which excluded any chances of assimilation. This concept was criticised by the Catholic Church.

251 Anon. “Żydowskie kasy bezprocentowe stwarzają konkurencję polskiemu rzemiosłu” [Jewish Zero-Interest Funds Go into Competition with Polish Craftsmen], Dziennik Narodowy. No. 52, Poznań 21st August 1935, p. 5.

252 Dziadek, “Karol Szymanowski”, p. 102. Other sources show that such recommendations did not result exclusively from anti-Semitism. Maciej Gołąb quotes a letter (of 20.02.1938) from Prof. Adolf Chybiński to the director of Poland’s National Library, Prof. Mierczyński, in which Chybiński recommends a young musicologist – Józef Chomiński – who “despite his Greek Catholic faith” considers himself as a Pole, stresses his links to Polish noble families, researches Polish music and writes in Polish. Cf.: M. Gołąb, Józef Michał Chomiński. Biografia i rekonstrukcja metodologii [Józef Michał Chomiński. A Biography and Reconstruction of Methodology], (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo UWr, 2008) p. 33.

253 Cardinal August Hlond, List pasterski [Pastoral letter] O katolickie zasady moralne [For Catholic Moral Principles], Poznań 29.02.1936, Postulatorial Centre of the Society of Jesus,, accessed 10.06.2014.

254 Hlond, List pasterski.

255 Hlond, List pasterski.

256 This is evident from the previously cited book by L. Mosley, which includes an extensive discussion of the conversation between Ribbentrop and Lipski during the famous dinner at Berlin’s Adlon Hotel in the spring of 1939.

257 Rolf-Dieter Müller, Der Feind steht im Osten: Hitlers geheime Pläne für einen Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion im Jahr 1939, (Berlin: Christoph Links Verlag GmbH, 2011).

258 In that period the ‘solution’ was interpreted as assisting the Jews in emigrating and finding their own place to live, in which their own state could be built. We must remember that many Jewish activists also supported this kind of Zionist ideas and campaigns.

259 Szymanowski, “Kwestia Żydostwa

260 Antoni Marylski, Dzieje sprawy żydowskiej w Polsce [The History of the Jewish Question in Poland], (Warszawa: Gebethner i Wolff, 1912). The date of this infamous publication notably coincides with the date of the deportation to the former Kingdom of Poland of large Jewish populations from other regions of the Russian Empire. This influx of Jews led to a rise in anti-Semitic sentiments and caused some nationalist circles to react. It was also at that time that the pogroms of Jews (mentioned by J. Reiss, see below) took place in Russia.

261 Marylski, Dzieje sprawy żydowskiej, p. 22.

262 Szymanowski, “Kwestia Żydostwa ”, p. 233.

263 Szymanowski, “Kwestia Żydostwa ”, p. 236.

264 In the sketch Kwestia żydostwa [The Jewish Question] Szymanowski presented two contradictory views which were very widespread in the 1920s: While some denied any artistic talents and abilities to the European Jews, others claimed, conversely, that “the talents and abilities of the European Jews, and their role in art are undeniable, though they never reach the level normally required from an artistic genius.” (p. 238).

265 Józef Reiss, “Dusza żydostwa w muzyce”{[The Jewish Spirit in Music] Nos. 9–14, 1928.

266 Reiss, “Dusza żydostwa”, Muzyk Wojskowy, No. 9, 1928, p. 3.

267 Reiss, “Dusza żydostwa ”, Muzyk Wojskowy No. 10, 1928, p. 3.

268 Reiss, “Dusza żydostwa ”, Muzyk Wojskowy No. 11, 1928, p. 3.

269 Reiss, “Dusza żydostwa ”, Muzyk Wojskowy No. 13, 1928, p. 2.

270 To mention only the figure of Prosecutor Jadassohn from Heinrich Mann’s satirical novel Der Untertan.

271 Reiss, “Dusza żydostwa ” Muzyk Wojskowy, No. 14, 1928, p. 1.

272 Reiss, “Dusza żydostwa ” Muzyk wojskowy, No. 14, 1928, p. 2.

273 Reiss, “Dusza żydostwa ” Muzyk wojskowy, No 14, 1928, p. 1.

274 Zofia Lissa, “Problem rasy w muzyce” [The Problem of Race in Music]. Muzyka No. 3 (113) March 1934, p. 108.

275 Lissa, “Problem rasy”, p. 109.

276 Lissa, “Problem rasy”, p. 109.

277 Ignacy Jan Paderewski, “Myśli, uwagi, refleksje” [Thoughts, Comments, Reflections], Muzyka No. 2 (112) 1934, p. 50.

278 Mateusz Mieses, Polacy-chrześcijanie pochodzenia żydowskiego [Poles – Christians of Jewish Origin], (Warszawa:Wydawnictwo M. Fruchtmana, 1938).

279 Mieses, Polacy-chrześcijanie, p. 77.

280 Quidam, “O Polakach pochodzenia żydowskiego” [On Poles of Jewish Origin], Wiadomości Literackie, No. 774, 1938, p. 6.

281 Quidam, “O Polakach”, p. 6.

282 Zofia Lissa, “W sprawie ‘rasy’ Fryderyka Chopina [Concerning the ‘Race’ of Fryderyk Chopin], Wiadomosci literackie No. 778, 1938 p. 7.

283 Lissa, “W sprawie ‘rasy’”, p. 7.

284 Lissa, “W sprawie ‘rasy’”, p. 7.

285 Lissa, “W sprawie ‘rasy’”, p. 7.

286 Notably, before WWII one of the main institutional promoters of Chopin’s cult was the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the founding committee of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute (est. 1934) also included – apart from the luminaries of Polish culture including Karol Szymanowski – the head of this ministry, Józef Beck. The Polonaise in A Major was used as the signature tune of Polish Radio Channel One, and Warsaw hosted one of the world’s most important piano competitions – the Chopin Competition. Chopin’s identification with the Polish state was also confirmed abroad – albeit in a rather peculiar fashion. According to an anonymous correspondent of “Muzyka Polska” (January 1936), in Modena the eminent Italian musicologist Nino Salvaneschi delivered a paper entitled Chopin’s Spiritual Struggle. The correspondent concludes: “It is curious that in Italy Chopin can be talked about in public, but he cannot (…) be played, since – according to the most recent directive of the Ministry of Work and Propaganda – he was deleted from Italy’s musical programme as a composer from a state that takes part in the sanctions.” The directive was evidently some kind of retaliation for the fact that Poland had supported the League of Nations sanctions against Italy after the latter’s invasion of Abisinia. This was, however, a mere episode which had no major impact on the reception of Chopin in Italy or on the good relations between the two countries.

Cf.: anon., “Kronika:Włochy” [Chronicle: Italy], Muzyka Polska No. I 1936, p. 80.

287 Anon. (M.D.C.) review of ‘Musik und Rasse’ by Richard Eichenauer, The Musical Times Vol. 75, No. 1091, 1934 p. 40.

288 Edward Lockspeiser, (review of) “Musik und Rasse von Richard Eichenauer”, Music and Letters Vol. 11, No. 2, April 1933, pp. 185–186.

289 Lockspeiser, (review of) Musik und Rasse, p. 186.

290 Samuel Hynes, The Auden Generation, Literature and Politics in England in the 1930s, (London: Faber and Faber, 1979, pp. 130–131). Hynes’s opinion was confirmed by Susan D. Pennybacker, though she also noted the inaccuracies of The Brown Book.: Susan D. Pennybacker, From Scottsboro to Munich - Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain, (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2009), p. 208.

291 Alfred Einstein, “The Present State of Music in Germany”, “The Musical Times” Vol. 74, No. 1089, Nov. 1933, pp. 977–978.

292 Einstein, “The Present State”, p. 978.

293 Eric Levi suggests that this change of tone may have resulted from the German critics’ very sharp reaction to Einstein’s report. The editors of The Musical Times evidently did not have the intention to engage in a “verbal war” with their German colleagues. Cf.: Levi, Appeasing Hitler?, p. 26.

294 Nancy Fleetwood, “Musical Notes from Abroad: Germany,” The Musical Times, Vol. 75 No. 1097, 1934, p. 655.

295 Fleetwood, “Musical Notes”, p. 655.

296 Fleetwood, “Musical Notes”, p. 655.

297 The only criticism concerning the Reichsmusikkamer was its excess of bureaucracy and the imposition of taxes on artists, not the question of racial persecutions. Cf.: Nancy Fleetwood, “Musical Notes from Abroad: Germany”, The Musical Times Vol. 79, No. 1142, April 1938, p. 305.

298 This “conflict of interest” is distinctly evident in most of her reports, and especially in her praise of the Dresden Opera and its director, where she informs that the Reich’s Chancellor himself decided to let him continue his work in this post, while the musical standards of the house were superior to anything that similar institutions in Europe could offer (Nancy Fleetwood, “Musical Notes from Abroad: Germany”, “The Musical Times”, Vol. 75, No. 1096 (June 1934), p. 555). In her report of April 1938 Fleetwood also modestly mentions her own recital of British songs broadcast by the Reichsrundfunksender Berlin on 22nd April 1938. Cf. Nancy Fleetwood, “Musical Notes from Abroad: Germany”, The Musical Times Vol. 79, No. 1142, April 1938, p. 305.

299 Chase Gilbert, “The State and the Fine Arts in France”, The Musical Times Vol. 75, No. 1101 (Nov. 1934), p. 977.

300 To sum up the debate, the editors published a statement in which they assured readers of their political neutrality: “The article in our March issue dealing with the potentiality for good of a Ministry of Fine Arts was entirely non-political and made no reference to fascism or anti-fascism. Since the resulting correspondence has, without our help, taken that turn, it will now cease.” Cf.: Henry B. Raynor and Robert Stevens, “Letters to the Editor – Fascism and Ministry of Fine Arts”, The Musical Times, Vol. 75, No 1098 (August 1934), pp. 737–738.

301 Michael Bell, “Music in Nazi Germany”, The Musical Times, Vol. 79, No. 1140 (February 1938), pp. 99–101.

302 Bell, “Music in Nazi Germany”, p. 100

303 Thomas A. Russel, “Letters to the Editor: Music in Nazi Germany”, The Musical Times Vol. 79, No. 1141, March 1938, p. 216. The reader criticises Bell for ignoring the mass racial purges and penalisation of ‘racially undesirable’ persons and for dismissing these and other atrocities committed by the Nazis as mere ‘callousness’.

304 G.F.D. (anonymous) “Letters to the Editor: ‘Music in Nazi Germany’”, The Musical Times, Vol. 79, No. 1142, April 1938. pp. 286–287. In the same letter we find an ironic response to Bell’s curious theses concerning the lack of tolerance in England: “May I add that, unlike Mr Bell, I do not find this English democracy at all ‘intolerant’? If he had been living in Germany and had written half as sympathetically about Mendelssohn as he has about ‘Music in Nazi Germany’, he would probably have lost his livelihood!…” (p. 287).

305 A. J. P. Taylor, English History 1914–1945, (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1975), p. 461.

306 Taylor, English History, p. 514.

307 Taylor, English History, p. 514. A typical example is the story of the naturalisation of Sigmund Freud, who (after the annexation of Austria by Hitler’s Germany) was admitted into Britain by the authorities without all the usual formalities and procedures, obtaining citizenship in just one day. We know that obtaining a residence permit, not to mention the naturalisation for a German Jew of the lower social strata was very difficult, and the process took several years.

308 Gavin Schaffer, Racial Science and British Society 1930–62, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2008); Elazar Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism: Changing Concepts of Race in Britain and the United States between World Wars, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1992); Pennybacker, From Scottsboro to Munich.

309 Barkan, The Retreat, p. 279.

310 Julian Huxley, Alfred C. Haddon, We Europeans: A Survey of “Racial” Problem, (London: Cape, 1935).

311 Elsworth Huntington, “Exploding the Idea of Race”, The Saturrday Review, 29 February 1938, p. 5.

312 Barkan, The Retreat, p. 296.

313 Cf. Eric Levi, Appeasing Hitler?, pp. 19–36.

314 Ribbentrop took up his London post in June 1935 and in the same year Germany obtained Great Britain’s permission for increasing the size of the German Navy. He was also one of the key initiators of the Anglo-German Fellowship, Cf. Kalor Grynberg, Bolesław Otręba, Joachim von Ribbentrop, (Warszawa:Książka i Wiedza, 1995).

315 Cf. Eric Levi, Music in the Third Reich, (New York: St. Martin’s Press,1994), p. 93.

316 Quoted after: Cobbe, “Vaughan Williams, Germany”, p. 92. More on the composer’s internal conflict between admiration for the German music tradition and a realistic assessment of Nazi excesses can be read in: U. Vaughan Williams, Ralph Vaughan Williams., pp. 217 and 221.

317 (anon.), “Ze świata” (World News), Muzyka Polska, January 1936, p. 78.

318 (anon.), “Ze świata” (World News), “Muzyka Polska”, March 1936, p. 305.

319 (anon). “Ze świata” (World News), “Muzyka Polska”, May 1936, p. 428.

320 (anon). “Kronika” [Chronicle], “Muzyka” 1939 No. 1. p. 53.

321 Ursula Vaughan Williams writes (op. cit., p. 218) that this ban was imposed in February 1939. Cf. also E. Levi, Appeasing Hitler? p. 36.

322 From an anonymous commentary in: “The Monthly Musical Record”, LXIII, May 1933, p. 78.

323 Cf.: H. Kohn, “ The Totalitarian Philosophy of War”, in: Reflections on Modern History, (Princeton: The Van Nostrand Company, 1963), p. 216.

324 Hynes, The Auden Generation, pp. 17–39.

325 This paraphrase of the Biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac – characteristic of Owen, and later also of Benjamin Britten – is an accusation of hypocrisy levelled at the “old men” deemed responsible for the outbreak of the war. Abraham disobeyed the God he worships, and who commands him to sacrifice his pride. His thirst for blood makes him murder his own son and later “a half seed of Europe, one by one…”

326 Quoted after: Hynes, The Auden Generation, p. 61.

327 George M. Trevelyan, A Shortened History of England, (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd, 1981), p. 558.

328 According, to English historian A.J.P. Taylor, this was a gesture of support for world peace rather than disloyalty toward one’s own country. In that historical moment, the only kind of threat envisaged was still imperialistic-colonial war and the citizens of the world’s empires – Great Britain included – united in such gestures in order to ‘watch carefully’ the policies of their own governments. Cf. Alan J.P. Taylor, English History 1914–1945, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 448–449.

329 Wystan H. Auden, “Psychology and Art To-day”, in: G. Grigson (ed.), The Arts To-day, (London: Bodley Head, 1935), p.20.

330 Britten came under Auden’s influence in 1933, as a 20-year-old, when he started his work for the GPO-Film Unit in London, a documentary film studio that attracted England’s greatest literary, film-making and graphic talents of the generation. Most likely under the influence of Auden’s group, Britten began to drift to the left in his political views, which was also fashionable among students of elitist British universities during that period.

331 In 1933–34 Tippett was involved in outreach musical activity at the North Yorkshire Work-Camps; in the same period he founded and directed the South London Orchestra – made up of unemployed musicians and based in a working-class district of London.

332 Britten excelled in many sport disciplines: he was an excellent swimmer, captain of a football team, and famous for his ‘hard fists’. Unfortunately an inborn heart defect and being notoriously overworked led to his early death at the age of 63.

333 Michael Tippett, Those Twentieth Century Blues: An Autobiography, (London: Hutchinson 1991).

334 Cf.: Donald Mitchell, Britten and Auden in the Thirties, (London: Faber and Faber, 1981), p. 48.

335 Importantly, such frequent mechanical repetitions were later used in Britten’s opera Peter Grimes as an allusion to mindlessly repeated gossip – a dangerous mechanism in the collective psychology of totalitarian countries. An identical musical tool was used in the famous march from Symphony No. 7 ‘Leningrad’ by Shostakovich, with whom Britten demonstrates spiritual and aesthetic affinities.

336 Thanks to (mainly American) journalists and diplomats, the West was already aware at that time that Nazi para-military organisations were responsible for the most brutal assaults of the Kristallnacht. Britten was right in his intuitive association of the Munich crisis with the events of that night. This is confirmed by Hermann Göring’s frank statement at a meeting of the top authorities of the Third Reich on 14th November 1938: “If the Reich becomes involved in some international conflict in the nearest period, it is obvious, that also in Germany we will consider, first and foremost, how to settle all our accounts with the Jews.” Quoted after: Karol Jonca, „Noc kryształowa“ i casus Herschela Grynszpana [Kristallnacht and the Case of Herschel Grynszpan], (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego 1998), p. 12.

337 Soon after Chamberlain’s return from Munich with his famous ‘piece of paper’ that was to guarantee peace in Europe, Britten wrote rather ironically in a letter to his editor that he was going to celebrate this event ‘with berry picking’, in the hope that there still would be some ‘next year’ when he can eat the jam made of those berries… Cf. Humphrey Carpenter, Benjamin Britten. A Biography, (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), p. 123.

338 This is how the Western press frequently presented the situation, as did the British studies to which Tippett had access. For instance, Mosley wrote about thousands of homeless people facing the harsh ‘Polish winter’. Some of the German sources, however, paint a much less dramatic picture, claiming that the hapless exiles’ misery on the border did not take long, because in just several days the German and Polish authorities reached an agreement and the deportations stopped. We know that the Jews camping by the border near Zbąszyń were taken care of by the Polish Red Cross and Polish-Jewish organisations. The Polish state and local authorities took action as well, creating transition camps in the cities of Wielkopolska, and directing the sick to a hospital in Poznań, while children were placed in children’s homes. Cf. Jonca, Noc kryształowa, pp. 101–102.

339 Cf. Jonca, “Noc kryształowa”.

340 Among the many speculations that appeared in the context of the assassination, some even claimed that Grynszpan worked for (or possibly was blackmailed by) the Gestapo. What is undoubtable is that it was Goebbels and Himmler in their two political’empires’ that profited most from the consequences of this act.

341 Such a film, entitled Livrez-nous Grynszpan, directed by Joel Calmettes, was actually made in France in 2008.