Saturday, 2 February 2008

Furtwängler in the Third Reich: 500 private letters now released

A biography on Furtwängler´s widow, Elisabeth Furtwängler , who at 97 is still alive, has just been released.
The following is translated from Berliner Morgenpost (link here):

"One might assume that all about Wilhelm Furtwängler has already been written. Far from it, and with the first book about Elisabeth Furtwängler, his 25 years younger widow, we now become aware of how little we previously have known about Furtwängler, the man.

Klaus Lang, an expert on Furtwängler is the author of this Elisabeth Furtwängler biography, with the subtitle "The 95-year old girl", which is held largely in the form of dialogue - far more than just a portrait it is a journey through families, orchestral and contemporary history.

For decades Lang has been in close contact with the now 97-year-old great-grandmother, and she has entrusted him with precious documents, never before made public: A poem, dedicated to her mother Kathinka by Kurt Tucholsky and 500 love letters, written by her and Wilhelm Furtwängler in the years 1941-1954.

This book also contributes to the ongoing debate about Furtwängler role in the Third Reich. The infamous handshake with Goebbels in April 1942 has often been interpreted as a pact between Wilhelm Furtwängler and Hitler's Germany although it has long been clear that this is a misinterpretation.

Read and be amazed: "My archenemy Richard Strauss" he is called in a letter, although Furtwängler enthusiastially conducted his symphonic pieces.
The background of this enmity is the following: In 1934 Furtwängler was vehemently defending Hindemith, which led to his resignation from all his Berlin Offices. But Strauss, then president of the Reich Chamber of Culture, stabbed hin in the back by congratulation Goebbels at the same time of his "greeat cultural speech" - in a telegram that Furtwängler in a letter called "disgusting".

Above all, however, Elisabeth Furtwängler remains key figure. "Fu", as she fondly called her husband, would have shot himself, had he known of the Holocaust, she assures in the book. The following is perhaps the most significant statement in the whole book, which summarizes Furtwängler´s reactions after the couple in Switzerland shortly before the end of the war had been told everything about the concentration camps "Wilhelm hugged me and said:" We can, when we think of it, never, never more have a feeling of happiness'. He was appalled that, there were such Germans pigs and could not calm down. " His love letters show the famous musician´s tender side. "Loving you gives me a feeling of a power, which I have not previousl known" he writes in the perhaps most touching letter dated 19 April 1942. "

Originally by Kirsten Liese for Berliner Morgenpost

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