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Antisemitic Tirades Against Jews in Richard Wagner’s Music

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Richard Wagner was a composer and conductor from the 1800s in Germany. He was well known and had many popular orchestras and other forms of media. For most of his life, he wasn’t involved in any controversies regarding his music or any notions of racism towards anyone. However, in the 1850s he began to rise in popularity but also experienced a rise in antisemitism. Whether or not his success and words against Jewish people were directly related, it is obvious he could thank his antisemitic views for some of his success, even finding himself as one of Hitler’s favorite composers.

His career also influenced his views, as one can tell in his writings such as “Das Judenthum in der Musik”. He believed that Jewish people who found success in making music were to blame for his struggles in the industry, and for downfalls in many forms of German art. He attacked many Jewish people, even ones who helped him in his career in fact. Somehow, Wagner still managed to live his life and even have Jewish friends and colleagues. Despite that though, Wagner’s music was still extremely controversial and was outright banned in Israel. This also led to many people discussing his ideas, scanning his works for antisemitism, and as time went on, even questioning if the ban on his music made any sense anymore.

Not all of Wagner’s music was filled with bold, antisemitic lyrics or obviously cruel themes. His music was by no means bad, but the man behind the work certainly was. Because of this, people don’t always agree on how his work should be handled. People have tried to play Wagner’s music in Israel after the ban was enacted, however there are also protests and debate still ongoing to keep the music out. There are arguments that the it’s censorship as a whole isn’t the right thing to do, but there are also arguments that Israel should be a place where his work is absent and cannot be heard out of respect for the people affected by his anti-Semitism. This may sound more reasonable if you consider specifically the holocaust survivors that may have even been forced to hear his works as they were played in the concentration camps. Though the music doesn’t hold the same connotations to everyone, for many people they are associated with terrible messages and memories and shouldn’t be played with.

The extent of Wagner’s works and ideas create much debate. Some people believe that trying to discuss his work and his messages is an act of revisionism and can be seen as racist on its own, others believe his work isn’t inherently related to Nazi’s or the Holocaust since Wagner wasn’t even alive at the same time as Hitler, and that discussing it is necessary to properly handle it rather than banning it outright. Regardless of what side may tip closer to the morally justified end of the scale, Wagner has left a legacy of hate and racism not only on himself, but on his works as well. They have been reviled by many and for several years, and potentially many more, were the subject of debate and censorship in Israel.

Works Cited

  • Mourby, A. (2000, July 21). Can we forgive him? Retrieved from,3605,345459,00.html.
  • Richard Wagner. (2019, August 13). Retrieved from
  • Ross, A. (2017, June 19). The Case for Wagner in Israel. Retrieved from
  • Shields, N. (2015, January 5). Wagner and the Jews. Retrieved from

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Antisemitic Tirades Against Jews In Richard Wagner’s Music. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from
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