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PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 30 
Richard Wagner

Born in 1813, Richard Wagner was a leading proponent of völkisch nationalism, the movement that defined Germany in highly xenophobic and exclusive terms. Wagner's operas, especially Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), attempted to recapture Germany's grandeur and mystical past.

Wagner was also notorious for his political and racial antisemitism. His essay "Das Judenthum in der Musik" ("Jewry in Music") claimed that Germans were "instinctively repelled" by Jews. According to Wagner, Jews had a destructive effect on German culture. Their financial power enabled them to dictate public opinion.

Wagner's racial antisemitism attracted a large following among Germany's educated elite. Although the composer sank into insanity before his death at 70 in 1883, his political essays and music were greatly admired by Adolf Hitler. Wagner's works were performed at many Nazi festivals.
Photo: Bilderdienst SYddeutscher Verlag

As this color sketch attests, Hitler had artistic ambitions. Rejected twice by Vienna's Academy of Art, he turned his frustrated energies toward reactionary, antisemitic politics.
Photo: Archive Photos: F112E2U
Protestant minister and noted antisemite Adolf Stoecker was appointed court chaplain for Kaiser Wilhelm I. In this position he influenced the Kaiser and his ministers against Germany's Jews.
Photo: SYddeutscher Verlag Bilderdienst
Hitler's artistic ambitions--his traditionalist style of painting featured landscapes and buildings--led him to seek admission to Vienna's Academy of Art. After clearing the preliminary hurdles, he took the crucial drawing examination on October 1 and 2, 1907. The faculty evaluating this examination--none of them were Jewish--admitted 28 of the 113 candidates. How different the 20th century might have been if Hitler had been among those accepted, but he was not. Although rejected from the academy, Hitler remained in Vienna, where he supplemented family funds that were available to him by occasionally selling his pictures to art dealers, most of them Jewish.

While living in Vienna, Hitler became acquainted with Viennese versions of the racism and antisemitism that some European politicians frequently used to blame the Jews for any and every difficulty that non-Jews encountered. One who did so was Dr. Karl Lueger, who served as mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910. Lueger was a popular mayor. He worked hard to revitalize his native city, whose population of two million in 1908 made it the sixth largest in the world. One of Lueger's political slogans was that "Greater Vienna must not turn into Greater Jerusalem." He was a mesmerizing speaker who rarely missed an opportunity to use antisemitism for his political advantage.

 1881-1884: Violently anti-Jewish pogroms sweep Poland, the Ukraine, and Russia; See 1903-1906.
 1881-1903: Waves of immigration of European Jews to Palestine and the United States occur.
 1883: Sir Francis Galton coins the term "eugenics" to encompass the notion of positive modification of natural selection through selective breeding of human beings; See 1910.
 April 20, 1889: Adolf Hitler is born in Braunau am Inn, Austria.
 1894: In France, Army Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew, is falsely accused and convicted of treason, setting off a wave of French antisemitism, bordering on the hysterical. Dreyfus will spend nearly five years on Devil's Island before being freed and ultimately exonerated.
 1894: In France, the antisemitic Edouard-Adolphe Drumont and La Croix, the newspaper of the Assumptionist Order of the Roman Catholic Church, lead the attack on the Jews.
 1894: In Germany, Social Darwinist Alfred Ploetz describes selective breeding of human beings as "racial hygiene."
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 30 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.