Talk:Das Judenthum in der Musik

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I suggest that this article might more helpful if restructured under the headings (say) - the 1850 version - its reception - the 1868 version - its reception - subsequent recpetion and debate. This is bacuse I beleive that the content and purposes of the two versions are really rather diffrent, and the political climates into which each was launched also differed greatly. Furthermore, in the intervening 18 years Wagner had also become a major recognised cultural figure (in 1850 he had been a nohoper, unknown , political refugee). It can be argued (i.e. I think) that the 1868 version is anti-Semitic, wherwas the 1850 version is Judaeophobic - there is a difference! Btw the article as it stands does not point out that the main spur to the 1850 version was the success of Meyerbeer's 'Prophete'; Mendelssohn is attacked by name because he was then dead - Meyerbeer was still alive and therefore the references to him, which are more vitriolic, are more indirect.

If noone shoots me down (conclusively) on the above, I am willing to attempt such a revision myself.

smerus 26th December 2005

I moved all the controversy about Wagner and anti-Semitism here. I deem it best if we choose from one of the following editorial alternatives:

  • have a separate article for this controversy
  • eliminate this article, and cover the controversy in the bio article.

There's no point in trying to make the case (or refute it) in 2 separate places.

And for the record, I don't really have an opinion one way or another on whether Wagner was anti-semitic. I'm Jewish; I love Jews, Judaism and Israel; but I don't hate people for hating me, because as my dear departed grandmother taught me, it takes too much energy to hate. --Uncle Ed

  • Having a separate article was a bad idea from the start. If we get a really detailed discussion, e.g. about the Bayreuth Circle and the rest of the Wagner clan, we might want to move it to another article, but otherwise it should be part of the Wagner page.
  • If we keep this article, we need to have at least the key facts in the main article so as to not give a skewed picture of the person Richard Wagner.


I don't understand the point of this article. Most of it isn't about "Judaism in Music", but about Wagner's anti-Semitism, which is duplicated in the Richard Wagner article (where IMHO it is more suited, since there it can be viewed in context.) More problematically, it doesn't describe any of the main points of "Judaism in Music"; the few paragraphs which talk about it contain little more than a laundry list of various anti-Semitic quotes (which, I might add, is copied verbatim from this newsgroup post).

For these reasons, I recommend this article for deletion. -- CYD

Yes, the Wagner article is mostly tamed and back to normal, covering music and anti-semitism, two of the three points of interest in Wagner's life, so this one can go. However, I do believe that the anti-Semitic quotes, or some of them, should be pasted back into the main Wagner article (in spite of being a "laundry list" and "copied verbatim", empty phrases implying something but saying nothing). Someone should look at the article itself and dig some more out about how Jews make tinkling empty music. Ortolan88

Right. But the existing laundry list isn't even very good, because it takes quotes out of context. For example, look at the reference to Ahasuerus and "going under", which may be is found in the last paragraph here. It obviously refers to conversion to Christianity - still an anti-Semitic remark, but obviously with a very different meaning than the article implies. -- CYD

That highlighted "here" above is the Wagner essay itself, which you don't have to read too far before you come across some pretty unpleasant stuff. I do hope someone will summarize it for the main Wagner article. My musical knowledge is all rock and roll, so I wouldn't do it justice. Ortolan88

Here's a precis of "Jewry in Music", which is in its original is fairly impenetrable stuff.

Statement of Purpose: "explaining that unconscious feeling which proclaims itself among the people as a rooted dislike of the Jewish nature" especially with regard to music.

Argumentum: Jews have taken control of the world through money and now have taken control of art. Jews look like outsiders. They cannot serve as actors because the very image of them as "hero or lover" is ludicrous. They are therefore unfit subjects for art, and therefore incapable of expressing any artistic utterance. The Jew also invariably speaks with an accent: their mother tongue is foreign, and they cannot express themselves in our language. They speak in "a creaking, squeaking, buzzing snuffle": they garble their syntax and grammar. Hearing them we can think only of how unpleasant they sound, we cannot think of what they mean. The Jew does not engage us as human, but only speaks with us for his own profit or vanity: he cannot convey emotion to us. Song is but elevated passionate speech. Jews, incapable of conveying emotion in speech, cannot convey it in song.

Let us examine the Jew's place in music. Jews are incapable of acting, speaking emotively, or singing: how then can a Jew be a musician? "The cultured Jew…is the most heartless of all human beings": he relates to people only in terms of money. He can buy and pay for culture, but it remains a luxury for him, not an expression of self. Since Jewish art is a superfluity, it can express nothing but the trivial and indifferent. Jews, being monied, have no need for deep expression, so when they turn to art, it is art of the "moment": speech without content, a babbling parroting of human art.

The true artist is connected with his "Folk", but Jews are aliens in our society. They cannot learn how to create art, only how to mimic it. The only music they know they learn from the synagogue, a music that is repulsive: the sound of "horror mingled with the absurd", a "sense-and-sound-confounding gurgle, jodel and cackle." The Jews' musical nature is utterly unlike our own. He is incapable of apprehending the depths of our Folkish music: he can only attend to its surface. Yet when he attempts to mimic our music, it seems " outlandish, odd, indifferent, cold, unnatural and awry". The Jew has no true passion that might lead him to create true art.

Mendelssohn is a typical example. He is talented, cultured, honorable, yet unable to produce Art. He mimics Bach, yet Bach made art through his humanity, pointing toward Mozart, pointing in his turn to Beethoven. Bach can be imitated, as his music contains a large measure of the Formal: but Mendelssohn cannot mimic Beethoven, for Mendelssohn has no Content. Listening to Mendelssohn, we can feel a sense of Tragedy, perhaps, in his resignation to his own inability to produce art.

This is more than we feel listening to any other Jew composer. [Meyerbeer] (Wagner alludes to him but does not name him) is popular because the public lacks taste, and because he assuages their boredom. He is incapable of serious artistic expression, and this incapacity is both the the sign, and the result of his Jewhood. That Jews are popular composers demonstrate that music has become debased and lifeless. Just as insects eat only dead flesh, the Jews swarm over the corpse of dead Music, destroying it as surely as worms destroy a carcass.

It may be objected that I have said there are no true Jew poets, yet Heinrich Heine is popular. This is possible only because there is no longer any true poetry. Heine is the conscience of Judaism, and therefore tells only lies.

There is one more Jew to mention, a writer, Börne. He redeemed himself by ceasing to be a Jew. The only redemption for a Jew is to cease to be a Jew: to annul himself.

Quotes "with all our speaking and writing in favour of the Jews' emancipation, we always felt instinctively repelled by any actual, operative contact with them" " the Jew … rules, and will rule, so long as Money remains the power before which all our doings and our dealings lose their force" "The cultured Jew…is the most heartless of all human beings"

Some of this might belong in an article, presumably Richard Wagner. (The talk page there is too long for me to edit without truncation, perhaps someone could archive the old stuff?). It would have to be made shorter: perhaps someone else might choose those elements they think pertinent. -- Someone else 04:45 Dec 13, 2002 (UTC)

At this point, it seems that it may be a good idea to keep this as a permanent entry, as this is an important article of Wagner's. (Consider how many books, articles and journal articles quote it, or how many people have used it to justify their opinions.) RK

"Judaism" in music[edit]

I'm sorry but this is the better known translation of the title into English. The meaning of both is pretty damn similar so I think we'd be better off going with the more standard translation. I mean, should we renname the article on the "kingdom of heaven" the "kingdoms of heaven" just because that's what the Greek actually says? And in this case it's debatable which is closer anyway. ( 08:14, 2 January 2007 (UTC)).

Why be sorry? I have rewritten the header so as to be accurate. 'Judentum' is not German for Judaism (the word is 'Judaismus'). If Wagenr had meant Judaismus, that is what he would have written.--Smerus 16:14, 2 January 2007 (UTC)

Umm, no it's not!! Grrr.... The word "Judentum" is much more common on German than "Judaismus," and if you go to Leo or anywhere you'll see that "Judentum" is the word they give to translate "Judaism" - they don't even have "Judaismus" listed! If you don't believe me, notice that the German version of the wikipedia article "Judaism" is called, you guessed it, "Judentum," and it also doesn't even contain the word "Judaismus"!! Plus, in English, the word "Jewry" refers either specifically to the Jewish people collectively or possibly to a region inhabited by Jews (witness Wagner's didn't mean "Jewry in Music" as he didn't mean "The Jews in Music" - what he really was referring to was "Judaism" in music, the whole idea of being Jewish, i.e. "Jewishness in Music," which is obviously an unacceptable translation into English. Can someone please revert this for me as I don't even know how? Note that the Ellis translation uses "Judaism" not "jewry" - why are you so sure you know better than the translator what it should be called? Using "Jewry in Music" isn't any more accurate and will only confuse people. (Eeesh 11:53, 7 February 2007 (UTC))

  • Unfortunately you are on the wrong track. The German word for Judaism is indeed 'Judaismus'- see any dictionary - (I have just consulted the Collins dictionary, but others will tell you the same). 'Judaismus' refers to the practice of Judaism, which is not dealt with at all in Wagner's essay. 'Judentum' (Jewdom/Jewry) - meaning the Jewish people collectively - however also carried in the 19th century the secondary meaning of 'Jewishness/commercialism/haggling' - and was thus used by Karl Marx amongst others. That was also the intention of Wagner. The translation normally reprinted is that by W. Ashton Ellis, the first translator, whose mistake is thus perpetuated. Ellis's translations have many eccentricities and this is one of them; if you ask me whether I (and others) am more correct than Ellis on this point, the answer is yes. The recent translation by Charles Osborne uses the word 'Jewry'. I suggest that you carefully read Wagner's essay, which is not at all about generic Jewish qualities of certain music, - indeed, he nowhere states exactly what it is about the music of Jewsih composers which is specifically 'Jewish'(save that he doesn't like it) - but is essentially a crude rehash of traditonal Jew-hatred coupled with specific demeaning of Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer on the grounds of the 'Judentum' (commercialism). Best regards, --Smerus 21:39, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

Excuse me but I speak German, and I can tell you that just about any normal person (and I've checked in dictionaries too just to make sure) would translate the English word "Judaism" into German as "Judentum" rather than "Judaismus," and this was absolutely the case in the 19th century when Wagner was writing. In other words, the word has a very broad meaning in German as it can refer to the religion of the Jewish people, the Jewish people collectively, their real or imagined traits, etc; the English word "Jewry" is far less common in English (not to mention, far less commonly used to translate the title of Wagner's essay), and has a much more restrictive sense than the German in that it really only refers to the Jewish people collectively, merely one of the several senses suggested by the German word, and not really the sense of Wagner's meaning (he would have said "Die Juden in der Musik"). Perhaps a better alternative translation would actually be, ludicrous though it may sound, "Jewishness in Music," but I strongly feel that the more common translation of "Judaism in Music" remains the best one for the purposes of this site, since it is far more common, broader, and doesn't in any way distort the broad sense of Wagner's meaning, and is thus less likely to lead readers astray.

I'll have to apologize if this post was repetitive but I honestly found much of yours to be slightly incoherent. You claim that translating "Judentum" as "Judaism" is a point-blank a mistake; I assure you that it is not, and is in fact, in the great majority of cases, the preferable translation of the word into English. I can't really cite a better source on this issue than the German wikipedia article "Judentum," which begins by stating clearly, "Unter Judentum versteht man die Gesamtheit aus Kultur, Geschichte, Religion und Tradition des sich selbst als Volk Israel (he. am jisrael, bnei jisrael) bezeichnenden jüdischen Volkes. Mit dem Begriff können auch gezielt die jüdische Religion oder, als Gruppe, die sowohl ein Volk als auch eine Glaubensgemeinschaft darstellenden Juden (he. jehudim) angesprochen werden," and goes on to once again call "Das Judentum" a major world religion, etc. etc.. One would never claim that the word "jewry" refers to the culture, history, and religious beliefs of the Jewish people, or to claim that "Jewry" is a world religion. (Eeesh 02:50, 8 February 2007 (UTC))

Why is this entry about Wagner's notorious antisemitism and not about the book or article he wrote, or what they are actually about? I have read Wagner's article, and to me, put into the context of the time it was written (more about that below), the article came across more as a jab at commercialism and cheap sensation/hype in music than actually at Jews. This is supported by the fact that Wagner was obviously not a fanatical anti-semite (why else would he have Jewish friends?). As Smerus mentions, his article really has little to do with Judaism as a religion in practice. If you take out "Jew" (and accompanying references to Jewish language/culture) and put in references to "Commercialism" in its place in the article, you find much of the same sentiment among modern artists, musicians, intellectuals, etc... only these days commercialism and consumerism is not generally represented through the stereotype of Jewish people as it was in Germany at the time, so we have replaced it with "Fat Cats," "C.E.O.s," "Lobyists," "Soccer Moms," and so on. Why is the anti-commercial nature of Wagner's article (and perhaps that sentiment's influence on artwork and thought which followed) barely discussed?

The quotes in this entry serve the purpose of proving what an anti-semite Wagner was, rather than actually describing what the article he wrote was about. We look at his article through the sensitive "PC" eyes of a post-Holocaust world, but we need to remember that this was written BEFORE the Holocaust, and for that reason, it would have been totally different to write such an article at that time.

I understand the possible influence his article may have had on future anti-semites, which is worth mentioning, but I think at the moment this article leans far too much to the modern view of Wagner as an influential anti-semite, rather than as an artist living in a certain time and culture with all the accompanying conditions. --ChetWesley Feb 28 2007

The WP article, as it clearly states, is not only about Wagner's essay, but about its reception. The history of Wagner's essay, subsequent to its publication, and after Wagner's own life, is therefore appropriate. As it happens I agree that it has been over-rated as an important text in the history of anti-semitism. But you cannot separate it from Wagner's anti-Jewish sentiments. The sequence of the WP article does make some attempt to disentangle these different elements. If you think that 'fanatical anti-semites' cannot by definition have 'Jewish friends', by the way, think again!! Wagner is the perfect example of this. By his Bayreuth period he was far more anti-Jewsih than he was in 1850, but had plenty of Jews in his personal circle. --Smerus 20:55, 1 March 2007 (UTC)

could use some more citations for 'Recent reception'[edit]

A lot of this seems to be claiming things about its reception with no attribution to who said various things, and little citation even where there's attribution. For example, take this pair of sentences:

Some writers (for example, Bryan Magee) have sought to make a qualified defence of Wagner's originality of thought in "Das Judentum", despite its acknowledged malevolence. A full consideration of "Das Judentum"'s contents however renders this defence otiose.

It'd be nice if: 1) we cited where Bryan Magee made this qualified defense; and 2) cited some specific person other than us who argues that the defence is rendered otiose by a full consideration. Etc. for much of the rest of the section. --Delirium 23:37, 1 November 2007 (UTC)

  • OK, good point, I will begin to do this.Smerus 11:11, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

Why the spelling 'Judenthum' ?[edit]

The title word is generally spelled Judentum - indeed, it is spelled thus throughout the article. I think that using this spelling in the entry's title would be helpful for linkers and searches. (BTW, I consider this an "A"-level article, but that is another issue.) Thank you for considering this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Brozhnik (talkcontribs) 01:39, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

This was the spelling used in the first publication (see article header which states this clearly). However there is a WP redirect from 'Das Judentum in der Musik' so no problem exists. If anyone is really bothered, the article could be moved to 'Das Judentum', and 'Das Judenthum' could be used as a redirect. --Smerus (talk) 17:25, 29 December 2007 (UTC)


The phrase "physical extermination" which is used in the article raises the question "what other kind of extermination is there?" I suggest removing the word physical.

Feedback please. Wanderer57 (talk) 00:30, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

Mention of Winifred.[edit]

I'm not quite sure of the relevance of Winifred Wagner here. The mention of her being RW's daughter-in-law might put ideas in people's minds of his influencing her, but she was born 16 years after he died. Cosima had some virulent views, as did Houston Stewart Chamberlain (another posthumous in-law) but really a referenced chain of links would need to be produced.--Peter cohen (talk) 22:16, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

I think it's relevant insofar that it indicates there was a continuing tradition of anti-Jewish sentiment at Bayreuth, whatever the chain of causation. It is fair to say that many writers have put 2 and 2 together and made five, especially those who wish to make a case for Wagner being the source of Nazi anti-Semitism.

This all links in with the absence of clarity which still persists in the article Bayreuth Circle: the term Bayreuth Circle is applied by lazy historians and pseudo-historians to at least three congeries of people at different periods:

  1. those who backed the 'early days' of Bayreuth as lovers of Wagnerian opera
  2. the polemical Wagneromanes such as Chamberlain
  3. those associated with the Nazi flirtation with Bayreuth (few if any of whom, as you point out, had ever seen Wagner face-to-face).

The situation is complicated by the fact that there never seems to have been any group of people who called themselves 'The Bayreuth Circle'; the term therefore just means what whoever is writing it wants it to mean - there is no consensus. For this reason, about two years ago, I proposed deletion of the article (which was then mainly ramblings associated with groups 2 and 3). When that was turned down, I entirely rewrote the article to more or less the form it has now, although I am not at all satisfied by it.

Issues about anti-Jewish prejudice shading into Nazi anti-Semitism (in my view two quite different schools of opinion) seem to 'leak round the edges' and anything which links into the historical 'holocaust industry' risks getting distorted. I remain unsure as to the best way to deal with this on WP (as opposed to in a scholarly paper, say).

L'shana tovah--Smerus (talk) 11:12, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

I've now added the word "posthumous" to the description of Winifred as RW's d-i-l. Chamberlain arguably belongs to both groups 2 and 3 as he met Hitler in Bayreuth, joined the party, and wrote for its paper.
A sweet New Year to you too.--Peter cohen (talk) 12:08, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

Needs citations[edit]

This article quotes heavily from Wagner's original work without footnoting those quotes. I was very frustrated when I found a sentence that was very topical to a paper I was writing—"'Only those artists who abandoned their Jewish roots—were that possible—could at all express themselves artistically,' claims Wagner"—but when I attempted to verify it [[1]] couldn't locate it. —Andy Bonner (talk) 16:58, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

I couldn't find it either, so have removed it. I am pretty sure it is a genuine quote, but not perhpas from DJIDM - I will investigate. I have added citations for other quotes.--Smerus (talk) 23:53, 10 November 2009 (UTC)


In the

"explain to ourselves the involuntary repellence possessed for us by the nature and personality of the Jews, so as to vindicate that instinctive dislike which we plainly recognise as stronger and more overpowering than our conscious zeal to rid ourselves thereof."

quote, is "recognise" spelled with an "s" in the original version? Should this be corrected?J.Dong820 (talk) 06:51, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

Really life is too short. But if it worries you, look it up yourself and correct if necessary.--Smerus 09:19, 27 September 2011 (UTC)
Here, on page 79, I found an alternate source for the text which spells it correctly. J.Dong820 (talk) 03:28, 28 September 2011 (UTC)

Lead section, antisemitism landmark[edit]

Sorry, but as far as I can tell the recent reception section contains nothing that supports the claim about Wagner's pamphlet being an important landmark in antisemitism. Don't get me wrong - this may well be true! But it is not based on the content of the section in question. This says that the post-war writers did not mention it at all. There follows a - once again unsourced, by the way - claim that "some have suggested...". Then it goes on to say: "It is perhaps therefore inappropriate to bring forward 'Das Judentum' in itself as a major milestone in German antisemitism", which contradicts the statement in the lead section. And in the next paragraph the text doesn't even take a stand on the issue of whether Hitler liked Wagner for his congenial view on Jews or because he enjoyed the music and subject matter of the operas. Overall, the text allocates more room to downplaying the importance/defending Wagner than in listing those who see this as a milestone of antisemitism. In my view, the statement in the lead is simply too sweeping given the lack of a quote to back it up. So either the lead should better reflect the balance of opinion as described later...or the recent reception section needs more anti-Wagner voices.Drow69 (talk) 15:03, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Das Judenthum in der Musik/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

==Rating by Richard Wagner Project==

B class. Well-balanced, well-organized article - though this is not the place to comment on the content. Given that it is a controversial topic more inline citations and references, and a fuller bibliography, would be helpful. -- Kleinzach 12:38, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

B class. Comments as per Kleinzach, plus some tightening-up would be good - there is a certain amount of repetition, e.g. about the translation of the title, which could be eliminated. --GuillaumeTell 17:59, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

Last edited at 17:59, 26 September 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 12:51, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

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