Alma Mahler: The Anti-Semitic Woman Who Loved Talented Jewish Men

Alma Mahler (1879 – 1964), herself a composer of no mean ability, spent her life pursuing relationships—both romantic and platonic—with talented men. Many of these men were Jews—including her first husband, the composer Gustav Mahler, and her third, the writer Franz Werfel, as well as several of her many lovers. The daughter of a Christian Viennese painter, Alma also held fiercely anti-Semitic attitudes, which receive attention in a biography by Oliver Hilmes, recently translated into English. Bee Wilson writes in her review:

Hilmes is the first of Alma’s biographers to treat her anti-Semitism and belief in her own godliness as driving forces in her life, rather than as a form of unthinking prejudice. . . . In the diaries that Hilmes has uncovered, Alma is far more unguarded in her frequent expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment. She calls [the writer Elias] Canetti a “half-crippled, nihilistic Jew” and writes warmly of a meeting with Hitler, when, under the influence of a bottle of champagne, she admired his “kindly, soft eyes.” As Hilmes sees it, Alma deliberately sought out relationships with talented but ugly Jewish men so that she could lord it over them. She would try to improve them, even sanctify them with her love, and when this failed she would feel contempt for them. When the initial glow of feeling for Werfel wore off, in 1924, she wrote that he “has shrunk back down to the short, ugly, fat Jew” that he was when they first met.

Her anti-Semitism was so deep-rooted that it applied even to her own children. She favored Manon, the “Aryan” child of [her second husband, the architect Walter] Gropius, over Anna, the surviving child from her marriage to Mahler.

Many women have aspired to “conquer” men. Some have sought to be muses, under the impression that enabling a man’s creative work is itself a form of genius. It takes a strange personality indeed . . . to see it as her mission to inspire powerful Jewish men to worship her in order that she could then liberate them from their Jewishness.

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Read more at at London Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Arts & Culture, Austria, Classical music, Gustav Mahler

 

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror