Winifred Wagner

Article

July 5, 2022

Winifred Wagner, born Winifred Marjorie Williams (June 23, 1897 in Hastings, England; † March 5, 1980 in Überlingen) was a British-German festival director and the only daughter-in-law of the composer Richard Wagner, who died in 1883. From 1930 to 1944 she was director of the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth. She was a friend and supporter of Adolf Hitler and continued to support him after the Nazi era.

Life

Winifred Wagner was the only daughter of English journalist John Williams and his wife Emily Florence Karop. After the early death of her parents, she was adopted as an orphan in 1907 by the Klindworths in Berlin. Her adoptive father Karl Klindworth, with whom she lived in the Eden reform settlement, brought her into contact with the Wagner family. Klindworth himself was an enthusiastic follower of Richard Wagner and wrote piano scores for many of his works. On September 22, 1915, at the age of 18, she married Richard Wagner's son Siegfried Wagner, who was born in 1869. The marriage produced four children: Wieland (1917–1966) Friedelind (1918–1991) Wolfgang (1919-2010) Verena (1920–2019)

Early involvement in the NSDAP

Winifred Wagner was a close personal friend of Adolf Hitler, whom she met in Bayreuth in 1923 shortly after the German Day and introduced him to the Wagner family. After the failed Hitler-Ludendorff putsch - which she claims to have witnessed as an eyewitness - and Hitler's imprisonment in Landsberg, she corresponded with Hitler and sent him packages. From her Hitler obtained everything “that a supposed genius could need”, including “large amounts of typing paper” and supplies, which enabled him to start writing his propaganda pamphlet Mein Kampf. From 1925 she was on first-name terms with Hitler, and her children called him Uncle Wolf. In January 1926 she joined the NSDAP (membership number 29,349) and took part in the Reich Party Rally in Weimar in July. On May 8, 1926, Goebbels wrote of Winifred Wagner in his diary: “A racy woman. That's how they should all be. And fanatically on our side.” On December 19, 1928, she was one of the signatories to the founding manifesto of the Kampfbund for German culture.

Management of the Bayreuth Festival

After Siegfried Wagner's death on August 4, 1930, Winifred, as his widow, took over the management of the Bayreuth Festival, which made it a central Nazi place of worship in the years that followed. The director of the Berlin State Opera, Heinz Tietjen, acted as artistic director. From 1933 Hitler was a permanent guest at the festival. From 1936 until his last visit to Bayreuth in 1940, he lived in the Siegfried-Wagner-Haus during the festival, an annex to Haus Wahnfried that was used as a guest house. Until the closure of all German theaters and the last festival in 1944, war festivals were held for propaganda purposes on Hitler's instructions; the audience consisted mainly of wounded soldiers, who were organized to travel by Kraft durch Freude. On October 16, 1944, when defeat was already foreseeable, Winifred Wagner made a public declaration of loyalty to Hitler, in which she wrote: "... he has grown into heroism, is our guide through night to light."

Post-war period

On July 2, 1947, during the denazification proceedings, she was found by the lay court of the Bayreuth-Stadt tribunal to be a Group II National Socialist (“incriminated”). The result was atonement and a restriction of their basic rights, large parts of Wagner's assets were confiscated. At the instigation of the Bayreuth lawyer Fritz Meyer, an appeal hearing took place on December 8, 1948 before the Appeals Chamber in Ansbach. This time she was classified as "less stressed" in group III and had to e.g. single