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Winifred Wagner and Adolf Hitler


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During the 1920's and 30's, Germany underwent a great deal of social engineering, much of it good, otherwise the German people wouldn't have entertained Hitler, but much of the political and social reality was also incredibly sinister. Winifred Wagner became enchanted by Hitler, but she was also a woman who employed many Jewish artists. When Hitler made himself dictator in 1934, she defended her Jewish employees, but she also continued to adore Hitler, even after Germany lost the war. It was a very painful period for many Germans and the pain continues to be felt to the present day.


Winifred Wagner (née Winifred Williams) was born in Hastings, England, in 1897. She lost touch with both her parents when she was 2 years old and was raised in a number of homes. In 1905, when she was 8 years old, she was taken to Germany where she was adopted by a German family, a distant relative of her mother and her husband, who was a musician and friend of the German composer, Richard Wagner.  


Towards the end of his life, Richard Wagner lived in Bayreuth, a medium sized town in Bavaria. In 1874, he moved into a house, which he had built for himself, which he named ‘Wahnfried’ (literally meaning mad peacefulness). On the outskirts, on top of a hill, Wagner also built a theatre and established an annual music festival for his music dramas, the Bayreuth Festival, which took place every summer (still going to this day). When Richard Wagner died in 1883, Wagner’s son, Siegfried Wagner, took over the running of the festival, and carried on living in Wahnfried.


Richard Wagner’s house in Bayreuth, Wahnfried, completed in 1874.
From 1936, until the end of WWII, it often became Adolf Hitler’s summer residence. 


In 1914, when the girl from Hastings, now living in Berlin, turned 17, her father, the friend of the late Richard Wagner, took her from Berlin, across to Bavaria, to Bayreuth, where she met and fell in love with Richard Wagner’s 45 year old son, Siegfried.  A year later, he and Winifred were married, and they lived in Wahnfried together.


“A young man jumped out of the car dressed in short leather trousers, thick woollen socks,
he had a starved look.” (Winifred Wagner, recalling her fist meeting with Hitler in 1923)


In 1923, Siegfried Wagner met Adolf Hitler, who greatly admired Richard Wagner’s music, and they became friends. In that year, Hitler was imprisoned in Landsberg after his abortive bid to seize power in the notorious "beer hall putsch" in Munich. Whilst Hitler was in prison, it’s claimed Siegfried Wagner sent Hitler food parcels and stationery on which was written Mein Kampf. From 1923, Hitler also became friends with Siegfried’s wife, Winifred. She called Hitler, "USA" (Unser Seliger Adolf - our blessed Adolf). For nearly two decades, Winifred corresponded with Adolf, but her letters are locked away and in the possession of one of Winifred’s granddaughters. They’ve never been released to the public.


Winifred Wagner greeting the Führer, Adolf Hitler, at Bayreuth, in 1937


In 1930, Winifred’s husband, Siegfried, died, and by 1933, when Hitler was Chancellor, Winifred became so close to him, there were rumours that she was going to marry him. From 1936 until the end of WWII, Wahnfried became Adolf Hitler’s favourite retreat. 


After WWII, a denazification court banned Winifred from the Bayreuth Festival, so the festival was passed to her two sons, Wieland and Wolfgang. Wolfgang moved out of Wahnfried, but Wieland stayed and became the sole occupant. He built an extension to Wahnfried for his mother, which she moved into. In the 1950’s, Winifred again blossomed as the first lady of right-wing groups, and in Wahnfried’s back garden, she entertained many famous right-wing figures, including Edda Goering, Ilse Hess, and Oswald Mosley. In order to distance himself from his mother’s social life, Wieland built a wall down the middle of the garden, to cut her off from Wahnfried.


In 1975, when Winifred was 78 years old, she invited the German film director, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, into her apartment, the annexe of Wahnfried. Syberberg set up a camera and allowed to her talk for just over 5 hours. The video was released the following year, in 1976. In 1980, Winifred died at the age of 82.


The 1975 interview is available, in two parts, on YouTube. Winifred begins talking to the camera about her personal relationship with Adolf Hitler in part 1, from 01:30:20 (through to 01:47:38):




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