“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. (Samuel Johnson 1775)
Patriotism seems a rather pedestrian word to use when considering the activities of Richard Wagner and Adolf Hitler in Germany during the first half of the 20th century. It was extreme patriotism, amplified by mental instability that created these monsters. They were not alone of course; Japan demonstrated similar traits in the same period.
Christopher Nicholson’s book, ‘Richard and Adolf’, records in the minutest detail the manifestations of Wagner’s and Hitler’s obsessions, and the impact they had on European Jewry. He postulates that Wagners anti-Semitism as demonstrated in his major musical works provided the launch pad for Hitler’s excesses.
The book is beautifully produced. It is well bound and the pages are fine quality paper that will accommodate many readings.
The work is catalogued as a Holocaust book, but it is more than that. It is a detailed expose of how two disturbed people are hypnotized by an 800 year old poem, and use that as a justification for the calculated murder of 5 million innocent people. That is not to mention the millions that died as a result of their dementia.
Nicholson’s book is a scholarly tome. All facts are annotated, and his bibliography runs to 7 pages.
However, Mr. Nicholson is a lawyer – a High Court Judge in fact, and his book reads rather like a brief. That does not in any way detract from the value of this work, but I did have the feeling that ‘Richard and Adolf’ read like 2 briefs presented to condemn these individuals. That is not to suggest that these indefensible lunatics shouldn’t be condemned, but I didn’t think the numerous abusive after-thoughts at the end of paragraphs was appropriate. Facts alone are sufficient to condemn Wagner and Hitler, and personal evaluations serve little purpose.
I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants a greater understanding of why someone would want to legislate to harass, hound and murder innocent families. But be prepared for the realization that Hitler didn’t do it alone – indeed, he didn’t do it at all. Nicholson doesn’t site one incident of any resistance movement in Germany or anywhere else against Germany’s attempt to exterminate European Jews.
This is an important work particularly for a generation to whom World War II was something someone mentioned during a history lesson. ‘Richard and Adolf’, describes how a population with exaggerated patriotic zeal, can be manipulated by one individual to destroy their own people, the people in the continent around them and ultimately themselves.
Everyone should read this book to remind themselves of the cataclysmic dangers of Nationalism.