The moment I have in mind is October 24, 1922 in Naples, Italy. Addressing a mass rally of his Fascist followers, Benito Mussolini declared, “Either the government will be given to us, or we will seize it by marching on Rome.” It was enough. The prospect of blackshirted mobs rampaging through his capital frightened the King of Italy into appointing Mussolini prime minister. From there, it was a short step to his becoming Il Duce (The Leader)—a dictator with absolute power.
Although some have compared Donald Trump to Hitler, he more nearly resembles Mussolini.
The fate of Denmark’s Jews in October, 1943 was an anecdote in a sea of malice. My Danish friend Michael was on one of those boats, the ones wandering around in the Øresund on a dark night in October, lights out lest the Nazi patrols find them, and also lost in an autumn storm, headed possibly for Sweden, but also possibly to Poland or Germany itself.
Richard Wagner, the great German composer, was born two hundred years ago on May 22, 1813. Wagner was one of the most stupendous musical geniuses who ever lived. He was also a notorious anti-Semite. Even on his two hundredth birthday, there is no ignoring the dead elephant in his living room.
At the same time, to say that Wagner was an anti-Semite, and to say no more than that, is too simple. It is too simple because Wagner was very much a self-contradictory genius, and his contradictions extended to his attitude toward Jewish people.
Vienna. The Mozart impersonator hawking the evening’s classical concerts is decked out in a powdered wig, brocade coat, knee breeches and hose. But if you look closely, you will see that he is also wearing sneakers. Welcome to Vienna, a city of paradoxes. Continue reading Mozart in Sneakers→