'Wagner group has brought shame on the name of my antisemite great grandfather'

The great-granddaughter of the notorious composer has hit out at the paramilitary group


Katharina Wagner, the great-granddaughter of one of Adolf Hitler’s favourite composers, has said that it took her breath away to see the Wagner name on the “bloody banners” of Yevgeny Prighozin’s mercenary group.

In Die Welt, a German Newspaper, Wagner expressed her shock at the deteriorating legacy of her ancestor Richard Wagner. She wrote that the “heinous” appropriation of his work by the Nazis was continuing in Russia. 

The Wagner Group, a paramilitary group run by a former chef to Vladimir Putin, staged a rebellion in June this year, has been accused of war crimes in Ukraine, the Middle East, and Africa. 

The mercenaries are not directly linked to Richard Wagner. However, the co-founder of the group, Dmitry Utkin, is said to have chosen the name in honour of the composer and and author of Jewishness in Music. Utkin, who is reportedly a neo Nazi and has multiple Nazi tattoos, including an SS insigna, used "Wagner" as his army call sign.

Katharina Wagner also said that it was undeniable that “the most evil forms of political and racist madness” were woven into Wagner’s operas. Wagner's work has frequently been accused of including antisemitic tropes as well as controversial German race science.

Richard Wagner's music was cited as an inspiration by Adolf Hitler and a museum in Bayreuth displays a photograph of Hitler standing beside two of his nieces. 

The composer also resented Jewish composers like Felix Mendelssohn and Giacomo Meyerbeer, blaming them for his failure to produce popular music despite the fact that It was Meyerbeer who arranged for the premiere of Wagner’s first successful opera and loaned him money. 

Katharina Wagner is the director of the annual Bayreuth Festival, which hosts performances of Richard Wagner’s operas. “The Bayreuth Festival should continue to be a place of innovation,” she said. “Everyone is welcome, but we do not see ourselves as a place for reactionaries and fanatics”.

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