Holocaust survivor organization protests Wagner’s Tel Aviv debut

Holocaust survivor organization protests Wagner’s Tel Aviv debut

Group calls the upcoming concert abusive to the feelings of those who suffered under the Nazis

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Tel Aviv University (CC BY-SA/MathKnight/Wikipedia)
Tel Aviv University (CC BY-SA/MathKnight/Wikipedia)

A Holocaust survivor organization has protested Tel Aviv University’s  decision to hold an unprecedented concert featuring the music of anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner, calling it “abuse of the feelings of the survivors and the wider Israeli community.”

The Centre of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel called on the university’s president to ban the June 18 concert. It also contacted musicians slated to play in the concert, urging them not to put down their instruments.

The music of Wagner is considered taboo in Israel becuase of its connections to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Reportedly Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer, Wagner’s music was played in Nazi concentration camps.

An unofficial ban on Israeli orchestras playing Wagner’s music, in place since 1938, was broken last year when the Israel Chamber Orchestra traveled to Germany to play the composer’s music at a festival in his honor.

The June 18 concert at Tel Aviv University aims to circumvent the ban by having Wagner’s music performed by a private orchestra, during a one day event devoted to exploring Wagner’s connection to Theodor Herzl and conductor Arturo Toscanini.

In a letter to university president Joseph Klafter, the organization’s Vice Chairman Uri Hanoch said Klafter has “a right and duty to prevent public harm to the feelings of Holocaust survivors.”

Hanoch emphasized that the wide consensus in Israel believes the concert is beyond the pale. “His music is forbidden because it was played in the camps as part of the mechanism of deception,” he wrote.

Tel Aviv University responded to the letter saying that the auditorium in question is rented for private events and that it has no connection to them.

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