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

 

A Better Syria Strategy Can Help Achieve the U.S. Goal of Countering Iran

While the Trump administration has reversed much of its predecessor’s effort to realign Washington with Tehran, and has effectively used sanctions to exert economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, Omar Hassino argues that these measures might not be enough:

Iran and its militias control more territory and natural resources in Syria and Iraq than before President Trump took office. . . . The U.S. should back the low-cost insurgency approach that has already shown potential in southwest Syria to bleed the Iranian forces and increase the costs of their expansion and [of Tehran’s] support for the Assad regime. It makes no sense that Iran can fund low-cost insurgencies to bleed American allies in the region, but the United States cannot counter with the same. The administration should also consider expanding support to the proxy forces that it currently works with—such as the Revolution Commandos near the [U.S.] al-Tanf garrison in southwest Syria—for the purpose of fighting and eliminating Iranian-backed militias. This limited escalation can curb Iranian expansion and put pressure on the Assad regime in the long term.

Furthermore, in this vein, the U.S. should empower peaceful Syrian civil-society groups and local councils operating outside Assad-regime control. Last year, the Trump administration eliminated assistance for stabilization in Syria, including funding going to secular anti-Assad civil-society groups that were also combating al-Qaeda’s ideology, as well as the Syrian [medical and civil-defense group known as] the White Helmets, before quickly [restoring] some of this funding. Yet the funding has still not completely been resumed, and if this administration takes an approach similar to its predecessor’s in relying on regional powers such as Turkey, these powers will instead fund groups aligned ideologically with Muslim Brotherhood. This is already happening in Idlib.

The United States must [also] jettison the Obama-era [strategy of establishing] “de-escalation zones.” These zones were from the start largely a Russian ruse to help the Assad regime conquer opposition areas, and they succeeded. Now that the regime controls most of Syria and Iranian proxies are dominant within the regime side, support for de-escalation is tantamount to support for Iranian expansion. The United States must [instead] prevent further expansion by the Assad regime and Iran in parts of the country that they still do not control.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy