I'm sure my transcription still has some typos.
Stars and Stripes Reporter Visits Richard Strauss
Finds Celebrated German Composer Living in Comfort
(Editor's Note: Klaus Mann, son of the famous writer, Thomas Mann is a staff correspondent for the Stars and Stripes, Mediterranean edition, who has been covering events Germany and Austria)
By Corp. Klaus Mann — Garmisch-Partenkirchen, (Bavaria) -AP- This Alpine village was in prewar days one of Germany's most fashionable winter and summer resorts. Now there are no glamorous tourists, but picturesque Garmisch still can boast some illustrious residents. One of them is the world's most celebrated living composer, Richard Strauss.
I made the fairly long trip from Munich to net the grand old man of European music. As well as paying homage to his creative genius, I wanted to have a look at an old opportunist and to hear what Strauss had to say himself about his experiences under the Nazis.
The composer and his family occupy a comfortable, roomy villa surrounded by a beautifully-kept garden. A companion and I introduced ourselves as "two American correspondents." I thought it wiser not to disclose my identity. One of the first public gestures Richard Strauss made after establishment of the Third Reich was directed against my father. He was among those artists and intellectuals who signed a Nazi-inspired manifesto denouncing a Richard Wagner essay by Thomas Mann as "an insult to the German genius."
In Good Health
Not realizing that he was receiving the son of that same Thomas Mann, he was all smiles and gracious cordiality. His health was just fine, he assured us — and, in fact, he looked surprisingly well preserved for a man of 83.
When we asked about his artistic plans he shook his head with philosophical resignation: "No plans for me anymore! I've written 15 operas, not to mention my symphonic pieces and my many many songs. That's enough for one lifetime."
We listened respectfully to his complaints about the way in which the defunct Nazi regime had been dealing with his recent opera "Die Liebe der Danae."
"Of course." he said, "this was not the first disturbing incident. I have had two rather serious conflicts with the Nazi administration."
One of these "conflicts" developed only last year, when Herr Strauss was supposed to take a bombed-out German family into his spacious villa. Such a nuisance was too much. He protested, appealed to Hitler. The fuehrer remained adamant. Every citizen, he replied, had to make sacrifices; Herr Strauss could not be exempted.
This decision —the only sensible one, as far as I know, Hitler has ever made— seemed outrageous to the old man. Remembering the Incident, he got very annoyed again.
"A bunch of strangers In my house!" he cried. "Imagine! A family with children, if you please! I don't know what to do. Really, I thought of leaving Germany. But how could I afford to lose my main market? We have about 80 opera houses in this country. That's where most of my royalties come from."
"You mean you had about 80 opera houses," I ventured to interrupt. It took him some time to understand. Exclusively concerned with his own affairs, he seemed hardly aware of the destruction of German cities.
The other collision between the master's interests and Nazi policy took place more then 10 years ago. Strauss had based one of his operas, "The Silent Woman," on a libretto written by Stefan Zweig. Rehearsals at the Dresden Opera house were well under way when Goebbels interfered on account at Stefan Zweig's racial background. In this case, Hitler proved more diplomatic. He allowed "The Silent Woman" to be shown for a few times in Dresden, whereupon It disappeared from the repertoire and remained buried. "The whole affair was indeed most tiresome," Strauss told us. "I hated to lose Stefan Zweig—the best librettist I've ever had since the death of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who, by the way, was also partly Jewish. Naturally, after this experience, my relations with the government remained a little cool for some time. But in general, I have been treated very decently ever since."
Anti-Semitism or any other manifestation of Nazi madness irritated him only when it affected his own interests. Richard Strauss has never said a word against the defamation of his Jewish colleagues.
When Bruno Walter was forbidden to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, back in 1933, it was Richard-Strauss who replaced him.
"Why shouldn't I take over the concert?" he asked with an almost disarming naivete. "It wouldn't have helped my old friend Walter if I had refused to do so. Yet it seems I have hurt his feelings- I really don't understand why. When I saw him in Salzburg, some time ago, he didn't even say hello to me."
It would have been useless to explain to him why Bruno Walter resented his actions. He wouldn't have understood. Nor did be understand why my friend and I exchanged bewildered glances when he called Baldur von Schierach, former Nazi governor of Austria. "a very nice chap" because he had granted certain privileges to the Richard Strauss family.
Another Nazi boss of whom the master spoke with sincere warmth was Hans Frank, governor of Poland, who was responsible for atrocities of truly appalling dimensions. Strauss praised the governor's delicate, artistic taste. The fuehrer too, he added, was able to appreciate good music — for instance, music by Richard Strauss. In short, if it hadn't been for those two minor misunderstandings about Stefan Zweig add the Garmisch villa, the Nazis were more or less all right.