A letter penned by Richard Wagner warning of Jewish influence in culture has sold for $42,000 at an Israeli auction house to a Jewish collector from Switzerland, the auction house said Tuesday.
The letter was sold in Israel, where public performances of German anti-Semitic composer’s works are effectively banned.
The buyer remained anonymous.
Wagner, whose grandiose and nationalistic 19th century work is infused with anti-Semitism, misogyny and proto-Nazi ideas of racial purity, was Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer.
While there is no law in Israel banning his works from being played in Israel, orchestras and venues refrain from doing so because of the public outcry and disturbances accompanying past attempts.
The handwritten letter, dated April 25, 1869, was addressed to French philosopher Edouard Schure.
Wagner wrote in the letter that Jewish assimilation into French society prevents the observation of “the corroding influence of the Jewish spirit on modern culture,” adding that the French know “very little” about the Jews.
In 1850, Wagner published under a pseudonym his infamous anti-Semitic pamphlet, “Judaism in Music,” in which he lambasted Jews. It was re-issued in 1869 under his full name.
Meron Eren, a co-founder and owner of the Kedem auction house that sold the letter, said this was the first time he dealt with a Wagner item.
“Wagner would roll over in his grave” if he knew that a bearded Jew in Jerusalem was going to profit from his letter, Eren said ahead of the sale.
Ruth HaCohen, a musicology professor at Hebrew University, said the letter shows Wagner’s desire to have his anti-Semitic views accepted by the public, describing its sale in Jerusalem of all places an “irony.”