Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Trial of Elizabeth Schwarzkop

We are unable to have one here. Therefore it is easy to make statements in
either direction that are at best questionable and at worst untrue. But I
am astounded by what I read. The two books by Michael Kater are easily
available. They are thoroughly documented, and notably evenhanded (he is
very careful to distinguish nasty gossip and envious defamation from facts,
even about known "villains" as established by his documents).

There are a number of other carefully researched and well documented books
about the period and its major players. One can read letters written at the
time by many of these people, including Hans Pfitzner who hated Jews, but
hated Nazis more and identified Schwarzkopf as a hateful Nazi. She did
indeed join the party. That was not necessary even to ensure a career
(though it helped someone who wasn't making quick headway by the normal
avenues). It cost a great deal of money, and in fact, by the mid thirties
it got harder to do, as the Nazi party was more interested in zealots than
opportunists. It also cost a small fortune. That is something she did not
have. No one knows how she got the money but it wasn't easy -- and she did
get it.

SHE WAS A MEMBER OF THE GESTAPO. She was the information officer at the
Berlin State Opera, charged with reporting confidentially on the activities
of ALL of her colleagues.THIS IS A FACT. I have known people who thought
she was a silly slut who then became quite frightened of her. Two thousand
pages of her record with the Gestapo was released right before she died.
The papers have not circulated widely and I wonder why. Did she mainly
stick with tattling about trivial infractions and thus avoid being taken
seriously by her superiors (some of those men were far more interested in
other aspects of her body of work than her spying)? Or did she do real
damage to those she disliked?

Let me be clear again. We may eventually know all that can be known and
find her better or worse than various people think. We are not talking
about Pauline Tinsley and her lack of an Italianate style or attractive
voice, in her quite bad Jewels of the Madonna Pirate performance. We are
talking about someone who sold herself to the highest bidders in an
organization of horrific evil. And what is this I read? That she never said
anything about her Nazi past? Is that person so utterly an idiot that they
think she WOULD? When, helped by the British Nazi sympathizer Walter Legge,
one of her lovers, then her main lover, then her husband, she began to make
an international career, do you think she was going to EXTOL NAZISM AND
CONDEMN JEWS? No one EVER thought she was stupid, or lacking in a quick,
shrewd, smart opportunism.

We are not talking about everyone who stayed in Nazi Germany and did what
they had to in order to achieve some security in their careers. Yes, they
all had to make up to the Nazis. As Kater finds in his documents, thus did
Hotter and Knappertsbusch, two people thought to be "anti-Nazi" (but both,
especially Hotter, fawned on Hitler). Neither was popular with the Nazi
toughs in Munich and it appears unlikely that either had Nazi ideals.
Neither joined the party.

We know that after a burst of enthusiasm R. Strauss went into internal
exile as far as he could, negotiating a tight rope walk between continuing
to collect royalties and conducting (he needed both to survive) and most
important to him, saving his Jewish daughter in law (who had relatives who
died in the camps) and his two adored grandsons who were counted as Jews.
It is said that a Nazi lynch mob was about to attack his villa when the
Americans surrounded it, and after he proved his identity to a musical
member of the unit, saved him and his family.

Strauss and the far more mysterious Furtwangler were unpopular with many
powerful Nazis (the conductor more so) but Furtwangler's case will always
be equivocal, as his letters to Albert Speer who played both sides,

And yes, many, many of the people who had to escape the Nazis and got into
America suffered horribly. Bartok (who was not Jewish but anti-Fascist)
suffered with fatal illness he couldn't afford to treat and was evicted
from the apartment he shared with his wife and son ON HIS DEATH BED.
Zemlinsky, a greatly gifted composer and conductor, nearly starved to death
and died elderly and alone in terrible poverty. That could easily have been
the fate of Schoenberg who had a younger wife and two young children to
support. He landed the teaching jobs in LA at the last second, was badly
paid and horribly treated at both universities and was forced to retire,
but was able to survive.

So it's entirely understandable that those who faced no immediate threat
from the Nazi racial laws and had families to support stayed, did what they
had to at galas and parties, and hoped for the best (but there were hold
outs, Marta Fuchs refused to give the salute and vocally condemned the
Nazis, somehow she escaped. The entire family of the great composer Karl
Amadeus Hartmann went into internal exile in a very rural area and coped
with severe discomfort rather than compromise with the regime. The famous
composer Stockhausen kept his head down; his father was in the army and
died in battle, his mother had a nervous break down, went to the hospital
for help and was shot. When he went to get her body and asked why, he was
told "we can't waste food on the worthless".)

But Fraulein Schwarzkopf lived well, in safety, was celebrated until the
very end of the war, where after a very bad few months she seduced an
American officer who gave her a pass. It is not for me to say she was a bad
person, nor dare I suggest I would have behaved heroically under the same
circumstances (though as a queer I would have very likely been killed or
sent to a camp). But I strongly condemn those who either out of sick
idolatry and sheer stupidity lie about what she did. Whatever her talents
and later fame, they don't answer very disturbing questions about her.

Meanwhile, I don't see a similarity with Netrebko; I assume she has
received and, despite her change of citizenship, continues to receive
benefits in Russia (which has created a super rich class of amazing
resources none of whom are going to battle Putin). She supported a monster,
as did the far more corrupt and vicious Gergiev (why don't our Schwarzkopf
defenders track down the fifty or so gifted Russian artists he destroyed?).
It's abundantly clear how this mediocrity has benefited from the patronage
of Putin. But the Met is a business; cancelling (buying out) the contracts
of all Russian citizens none of whom would find it wise to defy Putin,
whatever their personal beliefs (or proclivities) is probably prohibitive
in the conservative and frightened eyes of Peter Gelb, who in any case
would have to get board approval for any extensive and expensive action
(hell, most of those people are sorry there aren't concentration camps
here). The Met's statement will probably have to do; perhaps there will be
a demonstration. I could fantasize simply replacing all Russians with
gifted Americans (there are very many) but were I in that position would I
really do it? Meanwhile, Vancouver is willing and able to host the Olympic
games. The world should face down vicious tyranny. But the world is a
dunghill of interconnected multinational corporations. We can expect worse;
and Madame Netrebko is the least of it.

Alberto Innaurato 

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