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The Catholic,The Actor And Richard Wagner.

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 20 February 2017 | 1:06:00 am

For Francis Philips, writing for the Catholic Herald, Simon Callow's new Wagner biography, raises - for most of us well visited -  arguments about Wagner

Reading Stephen Pollard’s article about anti-Semitism and social media in the Telegraph last week gave me a jolt. According to Pollard, figures from the Community Security Trust which monitors anti-Semitic incidents with the police, “show that in 2016 there was a 36% rise in incidents of Jew-hate over the figure for 2015 – and a 29% increase in violent assaults on Jews.”

It gave me a jolt because in my own daily life I never encounter it (though I have read of problems with anti-Semitism within the Labour Party). It seems such a strange and abstract crime, if an ancient one: hating a whole people simply because they come from a particular race or religion.

Interestingly though, I have come across anti-Semitism twice in the comment box when I have blogged: once, when I wrote about the Tridentine Mass and remarked that a Jewish convert who attended the Extraordinary Form had been upset by certain anti-Semitic remarks she had heard; and a second time when I wrote about a book called The Crime and the Silence: confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Poland by Anna Bikont. On both occasions I was taken aback by some of the comments.

Apart from Pollard’s article my thoughts on the subject have been roused by reading Simon Callow’s Being Wagner: The Triumph of the Will (its subtitle eerily echoing Leni Riefenstahl’s notorious film about the dark glamour of the Nazi Party in its early days.) Callow, a lifelong devotee of Wagner’s musical dramas, does not gloss over the more unpleasant features of the composer’s personality – in particular, his virulent anti-Semitism.

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