Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Magda Goebbels, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Joseph Goebbels and Zitla Furtwangler at a 1940 reception for members of the Reichskulturkammer (“State Bureau Of Culture”).

Despite the fact that she had been legally separated from her husband since 1931, Zitla Furtwangler continued to perform public duties for the socially-awkward Wilhelm for another twelve years—hence her appearance at this 1940 reception sponsored by Goebbels.

Zitla provided assistance, openly, to numerous Jewish musicians throughout the period of National Socialism—indeed, Zitla may have done more in this regard than her husband—and Zitla continued, selflessly, to perform innumerable tasks for her husband long after the separation. She did so simply because she knew that Furtwangler had no one else trustworthy on whom he might rely.

When Furtwangler requested a divorce in 1943 so that he might remarry, Zitla immediately consented—and yet she continued to devote her time to providing assistance to Furtwangler’s musicians for the remainder of the war.

It is regrettable that Zitla has been written out of history books. She very well may have been a remarkable woman.

Zitla’s disappearance from modern accounts of Furtwangler’s life is largely due to the initiatives of Furtwangler’s second wife, Elisabeth, the most highly-skilled professional widow since Cosima Wagner.

Having asserted control over her husband’s legacy at the time of his death, Elisabeth has never allowed anyone but herself to feature in the Furtwangler story. In Elisabeth’s eyes, there is no room for anyone else.

So long as Elisabeth is alive—and she remains living at the age of 100, still occupying the home Furtwangler bought near Saint Moritz in 1922—and so long as Elisabeth can continue to bribe journalists with old personal photographs and ancient handwritten memorabilia, no reliable biography of Furtwangler will be allowed to appear.

In fact, I suspect that Furtwangler’s only legitimate son will have to die, too, before a probing account of Furtwangler’s life may be attempted.

By that time it may be too late.

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