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Sibelius & the Nazis: Anatomy of a Smear

1,285 words

French translation here

I am a great admirer of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, who along with Richard Strauss and Ralph Vaughan Williams, was one of the last generation (so far) of great European Romantic composers. Thus my attention was drawn to a  November 29, 2009 article about Sibelius in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “A Composer’s Ties to Nazi Germany Come Under New Scrutiny,” by Peter Monaghan.

I love exposés like these. I have devoted intense study to the long list of great composers, writers, philosophers, psychologists, conductors, film-makers, and artists who were in some way linked to National Socialism and fascism in all its varieties: figures like Martin Heidegger, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Ingmar Bergman, Arno Breker, Herbert von Karajan, Julius Evola, Mircea Eliade, Carl Schmitt, Ernst Jünger, Knut Hamsun, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Filippo Marinetti, C. G. Jung, Sir Reginald Goodall, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Henry Williamson, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Anthony Ludovici, and many more.

As a Jew-wise racial nationalist, I am always on the lookout for great minds who share some or all of my concerns, in the hope that they might add both light and luster to our cause. Although such figures arrive at their political views by different routes, they all have their reasons, motives, and goals, which repay study. Interestingly enough, none of them wanted to conquer the world, exterminate the Jews, or plant their boot on a human face forever.

With this in mind, I eagerly perused the Chronicle article. I learned that Timothy L. Jackson, a professor of music at the University of North Texas, argues that “Sibelius was culpably entangled with Nazi Germany, and should join Pound, Richard Wagner, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline in the select group of artists who have been cast into anti-Semitic ignominy.”

The article informs us that he makes his case in a long essay to appear in the first half of 2010 in a book entitled Sibelius in the Old and New World: Aspects of His Music, Its Interpretation, and Reception. This book has been co-edited by Jackson and three of his colleagues and is being published by Peter Lang Publishing Group.

When last I checked, Peter Lang was pretty much the bottom of the academic publishing barrel: a press that would take virtually any manuscript and turn it into a book that is poorly edited, poorly produced, and richly overpriced. I have no idea if Jackson and his colleagues actually paid Lang to publish their manuscript, but the fact that he himself is one of the co-editors already makes it an exercise in self-publishing. (How much do you want to bet that Jackson’s co-editors also have articles in the collection?)

I love the grab-bag title. I challenge you to find an article on Sibelius that could be excluded from a collection with that title.

All this gave me pause. But then it occurred to me that perhaps I was being a snob. The deciding factor should be the evidence, after all. So I pressed forward to see what evidences of “anti-Semitic ignominy” were marshaled by this University of North Texas musicologist in his self-published article in his Peter Lang volume. Here is the evidence that the Chronicle presents.

1. “Sibelius’s early fascination with Finnish mythology and nationalism resonated with Nazism.” Finnish myths are not the same as German myths. Finnish nationalism is not the same a German nationalism. But being a Finnish nationalist with an interest in Finnish mythology somehow “resonates” with Nazism. If there is an argument here, it proves too much. For instance, it proves that every Jew who is fascinated with Jewish mythology and concerned with Israel also “resonates” with Nazism. Does Dr. Jackson believe that Zionism is like Nazism? What other links does he have to the PLO?

2. Sibelius received royalties for the publication and performance of his works in Germany during the Third Reich. This makes Sibelius an anti-Semite, because presumably no royalties were paid to the Mahler estate, since his works were not being published and performed in the Third Reich.

3. “Sibelius in 1935 accepted a Goethe Medal that Adolf Hitler confirmed with his signature.” This makes Sibelius an anti-Semite, because Arnold Schoenberg was presumably not in the running for a Goethe Medal at that time. Heads of state often sign off on important national prizes. In itself, it proves nothing. It would be interesting to learn how many other national prizes Sibelius won and if any of them were also confirmed by heads of state.

4. “From at least 1941, [Sibelius] drew a German pension that was worth half the average German annual income.” Half the average German income? High cotton indeed. Notice that we are not told anything about the source of this pension, but we are left to believe that it was for services to the Reich. What sort of services? We are not told. But perhaps we can infer that they were at least half the average services.

5. “In 1942, Third Reich officials approved the founding of the German Sibelius Society.” This makes Sibelius an anti-Semite, because presumably no German Mahler Society was approved by Third Reich officials.

6. “No single event more clearly illustrates Sibelius’s empathy with the Nazi ethos, Jackson believes, than his reneging on his promise to help a young, part-Jewish composer, Günther Raphael. In the years 1931 to 1936, Raphael implored Sibelius repeatedly, urgently, and obsequiously to help him to retain his teaching position in Germany at a time when Jewish artists were being dismissed from their posts.”

This makes Sibelius an anti-Semite, because only an anti-Semite would say no to a Jew, even a Jew who is obsequious and pushy (five years of repeated, urgent requests is definitely pushing it). I would love to know the nature of Sibelius’s “promise.” I would lay odds that is was something politely non-committal, like “I’ll see what I can do . . .,” that was then turned into the occasion for five years of badgering and emotional blackmail.

Finnish Sibelius scholar Vesa Sirén dismisses this accusation, claiming that it “ignores that the composer received, and rejected, hundreds of such requests, and by the 1930s had had enough. In fact, says Sirén, Sibelius had given out so many recommendations, motivated by politeness rather than informed by their recipients’ qualifications, that ‘he now felt that he was in the middle of a nest of lies.’” (It is heartening to learn that all of Jackson’s charges are being vigorously disputed by Finnish Sibelius scholars as distortions and smears.)

7. “In mid-1942 . . . when it still seemed that Germany might win the war, Sibelius agreed to be interviewed at his home in Finland by Anton Kloss, an SS war reporter who had most likely taken part in war atrocities.” Sibelius apparently gave many interviews to reporters, so in itself this proves nothing.

I would love to know why Jackson thinks war reporter Kloss “had most likely taken part in war atrocities.” Was it just because he was a member of the SS? Or just because he was a journalist? Did he write a savage review of a restaurant in occupied Poland? Did he stab a résistance fighter with a fountain pen?

That’s it. That’s all the evidence of Sibelius’s “anti-Semitic ignominy” that the Chronicle finds fit to print. Clearly, Professor Jackson is operating with Joe Sobran’s new definition of an anti-Semite. The old definition of an anti-Semite is someone who hates Jews. The new definition is someone whom Jews hate.

I don’t know if Professor Jackson is a Jew, a part-Jew, or simply an unscrupulous non-Jew trying to advance himself in our Jew-dominated culture. But I do know that if he ever loses his academic job, he is definitely qualified to churn out smears for the ADL and the SPLC.

 

2 Comments

  1. Murphy
    Posted July 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    In the name of consistency, the last sentence of my comment would be better stated as:

    What remains to be answered for me is: to what extent is this episode merely bad scholarship on Timothy Jackson’s part, versus an agenda-driven action that, if successful, would likely have tarnished Finland’s national musical hero to many minds?

  2. Murphy
    Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Thanks for documenting the refutations of Timothy Jackson’s accusations against Jean Sibelius. You might find these English language defenses of Sibelius in the Helsinki Sanomat interesting:

    http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Questions+raised+about+possible+Nazi+contacts+of+Jean+Sibelius/1135251232384

    http://www.hs.fi/english/article/American+professor+apparently+alone+in+theories+of+Jean+Sibelius%E2%80%99s+Nazi+connections+/1135257098839

    Particularly, in the former article, I enjoyed Sirén’s sly back of the hand to Jackson: “We send background information to the Professor, who unfortunately is unable to read material written in Finnish and Swedish – not even Sibelius’s diary or most of his correspondence. Already it seems that both sides can benefit from the exchange of ideas and sources.”

    My own suspicions as to the nature and motive of Jackson’s witch hunt were somewhat confirmed upon discovering his faculty membership in the Jewish Studies Program at the University of North Texas.

    http://www.unt.edu/jewishstudies/facstaff.htm

    What remains to be answered for me is: was it merely bad scholarship on Timothy Jackson’s part, or was there an agenda behind the action that, if successful, would likely have tarnished Finland’s national musical hero to many minds?

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