Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Night At The (Soap) Opera

From Albert Speer's memoir Inside The Third Reich - Nazi propaganda chief Goebbels has had many afffairs, deeply hurting his wife Magda, mother of his six children. A younger man, Gauleiter Karl Hanke, has fallen in love with Magda and after much wooing has finally persuaded her that she must leave her husband. The top Nazis are all assembled in Bayreuth for the 1939 Festival.

Goebbels and his wife had arrived in Bayreuth on the same day as myself and, like Hitler, had moved into the Wahnfried annexe. Frau Goebbels looked very drawn. She spoke quite candidly with me : "It was frightful, the way my husband threatened me. I was just beginning to recuperate at Gastein when he turned up at the hotel. For three days he argued with me incessantly, until I could no longer stand it. He used the children to blackmail me; he threatened to take them away from me. What could I do ? The reconciliation is only for show, Albert, it's terrible ! I've had to swear never to meet Karl privately again. I'm so unhappy, but I have no choice."

What could have been more appropriate for this marital tragedy than, of all operas, Tristan und Isolde ? Hitler, Herr and Frau Goebbels, Frau Winifred Wagner, and I heard it sitting in the big central box. Frau Goebbels, on my right, cried silently throughout the performance. During the intermission she sat, bowed and sobbing uncontrollably, in a corner of the salon, while Hitler and Goebbels went to the window to show themselves to the audience, both of them strenuously pretending to be unaware of the embarrassing episode.

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