Richard Wagner’s Jewish Problem—and Everybody Else’s

Alex Ross’s recent book Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music is not so much a study of the great composer himself, but of the various ways he has influenced, and been understood by, his interpreters, admirers, and critics—a group that includes Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Mann, and Adolf Hitler. In his review, Nathan Shields writes:

At the turn of the century, [Wagner] was idolized by both the decadent Italian novelist (and future proto-fascist politician) Gabriele D’Annunzio and the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl. Three decades later, his music introduced the Nuremberg Rallies.

It is this last Wagner that we know best, or think we do. He has gone down in popular history as a raging anti-Semite (true) and Hitler’s favorite composer (not entirely true); his music is thought to have provided the soundtrack for the death camps (in fact, it was mostly light waltzes and operetta). Wagner’s role in the iconography of German imperialism was real enough. When Paul von Hindenburg, [the German generalissimo who lost World War I and later made Hitler chancellor of Germany], claimed Germany was stabbed in the back by the treaty of Versailles, he was invoking Siegfried’s assassination by the villainous half-breed Hagen [in Wagner’s Ring cycle]. And when Hitler died, Siegfried’s funeral march was played to commemorate him.

But Wagner was less popular in Nazi Germany than this might suggest, and his appeal was more complex. For one thing, Hitler’s Wagnermania was not shared by rank-and-file Nazis, who scalped the opera tickets he gave them. Besides, Siegfried’s funeral march had first been played to mark Lenin’s death. In 1933, at the dawn of the Third Reich, Thomas Mann could still find in Wagner the spirit of a very different Germany than Hitler’s. Wagner’s real meaning, Mann insisted, was “entirely revolutionary.” He would “assuredly be branded a Kultur-Bolshevist today.”

Since the Second World War, there has been endless discussion about whether Wagner’s highly public art, alongside his equally public statements of bigotry, influenced or prefigured the rise of 20th-century fascism. There are several traditional positions, best understood as points along a continuum. [One] could be called the Wagner-to-Hitler-pipeline theory, which casts Wagner as an ideological prophet of Nazism. . . . For [others], Wagner’s music floats majestically free of his ideology. “Richard Wagner, I hate you,” as Leonard Bernstein famously put it. “But I hate you on my knees.”

Read more at Baffler

More about: Anti-Semitism, Music, Nazism, Richard Wagner, Theodor Herzl


Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security