Anonymous Buyer Bid $42,000 for anti-Semitic Wagner Letter at Auction in Israel

Wagner argued that the Jews are incapable of engaging in music and warned against the 'Judaization' of art in general and of music in the letter

Meron Eren of Kedem Auction House holds a letter handwritten by composer Richard Wagner in 1869, before it is sold at an auction in Jerusalem, April 24, 2018.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

An anti-Semitic letter written by the German composer Richard Wagner sold for $42,000 at an auction house in Israel.

The handwritten letter was sold to a Jewish collector from Switzerland, the French news service AFP reported. The collector remained anonymous.

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Wagner’s work is rarely played in Israel, with most musicians observing an informal ban on performing his compositions.

The letter sold Tuesday at the Kedem Auction House was dated April 25, 1869, and was sent from Lucerne, Switzerland, to the French philosopher Edouard Schure.

Wagner wrote that the assimilation of Jews into French society prevents the French from distinguishing the “corroding influence of the Jewish spirit on modern culture,” and discusses the importance of distinguishing between a Jewish-German individual and a “true” German, according to the auction house’s catalog. It also says the German press is entirely in Jewish hands.

Wagner expressed his anti-Semitic worldview in, among other places, his essay “Judaism in Music,” which was published in 1850 under the pen name K. Freigedenk, and in 1869 under Wagner’s full name. In the essay, which he references in the letter, Wagner argued that the Jews are incapable of engaging in music and warned against the “Judaization” of art in general and of music in particular.