Introduction to: Das Judenthum in der Musik

In the shift in rethoric applied to the Jews from religious to "scientific," the idea of the special language of the Jews, the so called "hidden language", became one of the salient markers of the new "science" of race.

The Jews as possesing only their own, base discourse - the "hidden language" which debarred them from joining the German Volk, was most influentially described by Richard Wagner Das Judenthum in der Musik (Judaism in Music). The essay presents a concentrated catalogue of "Jewish images" which shaped all of the later perceptions of the Jew, and was originally published under the pen-name "K. Freigedank" ("K. Freethought") in 1850 in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. (See Introducion)

Saul Friedländer describes the impact of the representation of Jews in Wagner's operas in shaping the image of the Jew and the vision of Germany without the Jews. The Jew represented the erotic, materialistic creature devoured by worldly carvings - the direct antithesis of the German, the idealist who was ready to sacrifice himself for the cause of justice and extended his help to those in need with nolimits or egoistic considerations. The noble, brave, and pure Siegfried and the ugly, evil dwarf Mime confronted each other in a war to the death. The musical language of instruments and voices carried the spirit of the end of days, symbolising "the ultimate fate of the Jew". (Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Presecution, 1933-1939. New york: HarperCollins, 1997).

(To be continued)

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