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1523603

Julius Schaub

Rare war-dated letter from Adolf Hitlerʼs adjutant

showing the Führerʼs continuing interest and involvement in the Bayreuth Festival

Julius Schaub, 1898–1967.  Aide and adjutant to German Führer and Chancellor Adolf Hitler, 1925–1945.  Typed Letter Signed, Julius Schaub, one page,8¼” x 11½”, on stationery of the Personal Adjutant of the Führer and Chancellor of the German Reich, Führer Headquarters, [likely Rastenburg, East Prussia], February 20, 1942.  In German, with translation.

This is a rare letter by Hitlerʼs adjutant, Julius Schaub.  Our research has found no other Schaub letters that have been sold at auction on the autograph market.

This war-dated letter to Hitlerʼs close friend Winifred Wagner, the daughter-in-law of the composer Richard Wagner, reflects Hitlerʼs strong interest in and involvement with the Bayreuth Festival, the annual festival celebrating the composerʼs work that the Nazi Party operated during the Third Reich.

Schaub writes from Hitlerʼs headquarters in February 1942, during the ongoing Operation Barbarossa—the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which began in June 1941—as Hitler and his generals planned a push to capture vital Soviet oil fields and a second push toward Stalingrad.  Schaub conveys Hitlerʼs views as Winifred Wagner planned the Festival for 1943, noting that Hitler agreed to limit the Bayreuth Festival performances to one opera, Wagnerʼs Die Meistersinger.  Schaub writes, in full:  “Very esteemed gracious Lady!  /  As I have already told you by telephone, the Führer is in agreement that this year only the ‘Meistersingerʼ is to be performed.  /  With best greetings, also to your children,  /  and Heil Hitler  /  Yours . . . .”

Richard Wagner first mentioned the idea of a festival in a letter in 1850.  The idea percolated in his mind until 1871, when he visited Bayreuth in April to determine its suitability as a venue for a festival.  Wagner found the existing opera house unsuitable, but because of the reception that he received in the town, he decided to stay in Bayreuth and build an opera house of his own.  A Patronsʼ Society sought to raise approximately $3.5 million for the construction.  By December, back in his home town of Leipzig, Wagner announced the Bayreuth Festival, which was planned for 1873.  But financial problems stalled the opera house construction until Bavarian King Ludwig II authorized a loan in January 1874.  Preliminary rehearsals for the festival began in 1875, with full rehearsals beginning the next year. 

On August 13, 1876, the Bayreuth Festival began at the new Bayreuth Festspielhaus with the first complete cycle of Wagnerʼs Der Ring der Nibelungen—local premieres of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre and world premieres of Siegfried and Götterdammerung.  Those in attendance included Kaiser Wilhelm I, King Dom Pedro II of Brazil, Ludwig II, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and composers Anton Bruckner, Edvard Grieg, Pyotr Tchaisovsky, Franz Liszt, and Arthur Foote.

Unfortunately, the Festival lost money, which made a repeat of it impractical.  Wagner entered into an agreement with the city of Munich for a loan, which he repaid with royalties from performances of his works in Munich.  In 1880, Wagner wrote Ludwig II that he intended to make Bayreuth his “permanent foundation” and that he wanted to restrict performances of his Parsifal to Bayreuth.  He completed the full score of Parsifal in January 1882, rehearsals began in February, and the second Bayreuth Festival opened with the inaugural performance of Parsifal on July 26, 1882.

Wagner died in 1883, but the Festival continued under the leadership of his widow Cosima.  When she died in 1906, Wagnerʼs son Siegfried took over the Festival management until he died in 1930, when it devolved on his widow, the English-born Winifred, to whom this letter was written.  

Winifred Wagner (1897–1980) was a strong supporter and close personal friend of Hitler.  Under the Third Reich, the Festival was modernized, abandoning, with Hitlerʼs approval, the deteriorating sets that Richard Wagner had created.  During World War II, the Nazi Party operated the Festival, sponsoring operas for wounded soldiers who had returned from the front.  As this letter to Winifred shows, Hitler took a direct interest in the Festival even during the war.

During the war years, only the Ring and Der fliegende Holländer were produced from 1940 to 1942.  In 1943 and 1994, only Die Meistersinger was performed. 

This letter is in fine condition overall.  It has one vertical and three horizontal folds, but they do not affect Schaubʼs dark black ink signature.  It has minor paper loss around file holds in the blank left margin, and it has a paper clip stain at the upper left margin, affecting nothing, and small amount of residue on the back.

Provenance:  This letter has impeccable provenance.  Winifred Wagner gave this letter, along with a handwritten letter that she had received from Hitler, to an American soldier in the Central Intelligence Corps (CIC) who interviewed her in Bayreuth in 1945 out of appreciation for the kindness that he showed to her.  She also gave him a sheet bearing her deceased husband Siegfriedʼs signature, under which she signed her own name, Winifred Wagner, and wrote “to Mr. Douglas in remembrance of CIC conversations Bayreuth 1945.”  That note accompanies the Hitler letter that we are offering separately here, and a copy of it accompanies this letter. 

We reject Nazism and all that it represented.  We nevertheless offer these items because of their historical significance.  Nazism, although despised, played a large role in the history of the 20th Century, and to ignore it would be to create conditions under which its atrocities could reoccur.

Unframed.

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