Oscar Faux Pas: Music by Hitler's Favorite Composer Played After Award to Holocaust Film

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Laszlo Nemes, director of Hungarian film "Son of Saul" which won an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film.
Laszlo Nemes, director of Hungarian film "Son of Saul" which won an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film.Credit: Reuters

Tact is not something one normally expects from the Oscars ceremony. But playing music by Hitler's favorite composer after the acceptance speech for "Son of Saul," a film about the crematoria in Auschwitz, may strike some people as a little over the top.

Many people in fact. Twitter has been inundated with snide and caustic comments ever since director Lazlo Nemes, who won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language, was accompanied off the stage after his acceptance speech by "Ride of the Valkyries," by Richard Wagner, a prominent anti-Semite and musical icon of Adolf Hitler.

It wasn't done intentionally. The music, excerpted from Wagner's opera "Die Walküre" (needless to say, a Hitler favorite,) was used in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film "Apocalypse Now" and is used in Oscar ceremonies to let speakers know that their time is up.

Still. It was jarring, to say the least. "In the darkest hours of mankind," Nemes said in his acceptance speech, "there might be a voice within us that allows us to remain human. That's the hope of this film."

Moving words. Pity they were followed by the Wagner faux pas, which was instantly picked up by Twitter.

Most took it with a dose of humor – "I'm still laughing that they played Wagner after the Holocaust movie win. Literally the worst possible choice there," wrote Sara Morrison – while others tied it to the protests about the lack of African Americans among the Oscar nominees.

"All this Wagner isn't exactly making these Oscars less white," wrote Andrew Flesser.

"Son of Saul" is set in Auschwitz in October 1994. Saul Auslander, a Hungarian Jew, is a member of the sonderkommando tasked with burning the dead. The film describes how one day he finds a body who he takes to be his son and tries to find a rabbi to give him a proper Jewish burial.

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