The Wagner Journal

Hans Rudolf Vaget, Nazi Cinema and Wagner

Hans Rudolf Vaget, Nazi Cinema and Wagner

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July 2015, Volume 9, Number 2, 35–54.

The manner in which the Third Reich made use of Wagner and Wagnerian music is still poorly understood. The assertions found in the relevant literature tend to be so sweeping and shaky that some are led to believe that these are well-established historical facts, while others are led to conclude that they are matters of mere conjecture and rumour. This applies in particular to cinema, the Nazi regime’s preferred art form in its comprehensive effort, in Walter Benjamin’s pregnant formulation, to ‘aestheticize politics’. Nazi cinema provides a uniquely revealing case study of the calculated use of art and culture as an instrument of seduction aimed at all of those who had yet to be won over. If Nazi cinema was ‘a totalitarian state’s concerted attempt to create a culture industry in the service of mass deception’, as Eric Rentschler aptly puts it, then the question of the function of Wagner in that larger project of mass deception comes immediately to the fore.

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