Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was to opera singing what fellow National Socialist Herbert von Karajan was to orchestral conducting. Nothing short of perfection and adherence to originality would suit her temperament and this extraordinary singer’s voice. Born December 9, 1915 the beautiful Prussian might easily have been lured by the medical profession. Happily, for the world of music lovers she took up a career in classical singing.
Elisabeth was eighteen-years old when in 1933 Adolf Hitler’s chancellorship was endorsed by the German electorate. These were heady times for a Germany that was to soon afterwards disentangle itself from the coils of the Versailles Treaty and international banking elite.
This was a pivotal moment in Europe’s fortunes. David Lloyd George, former British Prime Minister, was impressed:
Upon his return following a visit to Hitler, his daughter greeted Lloyd George, humorously, with “Heil Hitler!”
“Yes,” he replied. “Heil Hitler, I too say that because he is truly a great man. I have never met a happier people than the Germans and Hitler is one of the greatest men among the distinctly great men that I have ever encountered.”
It was impossible not to be inspired by the infectiously cheerful atmosphere. Confidence throughout Germany replaced brooding and the young opera singer signed up to three different National Socialist organisations.
A student at the High School for Music, Elisabeth joined the National Socialist Students League; she was hardly alone as about half of university students did so. The young student was afterwards elected to a position of Party leadership. When later joining the Deutsche Opera she was noticed and mentored by both Mari Ivogün and her pianist husband Michael Raucheisen. Both luminaries were also ardent supporters of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism.
Theatre artistes were not over represented in the National Socialist Party. Nor was there any requirement for artistes to apply for either Party membership or Party endorsement. Any artiste’s apolitical stance was understood and respected by the National Socialist German Workers Party. However, those who did endorse the N.S.D.A.P were appreciated.
One in five theatrical world and various artistes were members of the National Socialist German Workers Party. In her case her loyalty to the ideals of National Socialism was very much respected not only in the Party itself but throughout Germany. The young singer successfully applied also for membership of the National Socialist People’s Welfare Organisation. Is this any different in the Capitalist West where ruling parties are always delighted when a celebrity offers their endorsement?
In order to get a work permit and to eat following the defeat of Germany the performer was required by the invaders to recant her deeply held convictions. Elisabeth always refused their threats and their blackmail. The internationally celebrated opera singer was never forgiven by her nation’s conquerors and nor did she wish to be forgiven. To her death in 2006 Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was to stand by her beliefs.
Palace journalists had the gall to criticise her for her enthusiastic support for all things National Socialist. These despicable and cowardly scribblers had the chutzpah to wax indignant over her refusal to collaborate, genuflect and toe the allied line.
Little is known of Elisabeth’s private life throughout those years of triumph and then adversity and to defeat. This most gifted of sopranos did contract tuberculosis during the years of war. When convalescing in Germany’s Tatra Mountains Elisabeth’s constant companion was a high-ranking SS officer whose identity has never been ascertained. He was said to be Dr Hugo Jury, gauleiter of Lower Austria. Apart from being a Waffen SS General Doctor Jury was also a highly skilled medical doctor specialising in tuberculosis.
Elisabeth died on August 3, 2006 at the age of 90 at her home in Schruns, Austria. Regarded by many in the world of classical music as possibly the best soprano ever she had by then been awarded a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). However Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was never in doubt as to the value of her membership that her heart truly belonged to.
This pocket biography is one of twenty-five vignettes celebrating the best of Europeans through the period of the Reich. HEROES OF THE REICH, Mike Walsh