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1938-1944

Salzburg beneath the Swastika

On 12 March 1938 German troops marched into Salzburg. The Anschluss – the annexation of Austria by Germany – was now complete, and Nazi ideology immediately began to affect the Festival. Many artists who had left a deep imprint in previous years – we need only think of Max Reinhardt, Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini – were no longer welcome. The works of the Festival’s co-founder Hugo von Hofmannsthal, especially Jedermann (but not his librettos for Strauss), were struck from the repertoire. Also discarded was Reinhardt’s spectacular Faust in the Felsenreitschule, which had to give way to a production of Goethe’s Egmont. Henceforth, the Ministry of Propaganda in Berlin proclaimed, the Festival programmes were to be dominated by "German art". Nor was Salzburg allowed to be a meeting place for an international audience. The majority of foreign visitors stayed away and were replaced by thousands of Germans from the programme known as Kraft durch Freude ("Strength Through Joy"). Most of them were workers with modest incomes who were given heavily subsidized tickets to the Festival.

The city was misappropriated and transformed into a huge propaganda vehicle for those in power. It was festooned with Nazi flags and even received a visit from Hitler himself in 1939. At the onset of the war the Festival’s programmes were sharply reduced. The performances were meant to bolster morale on the home front, and they were attended mainly by soldiers on leave or recovering from wounds or by workers from the armaments industry. In 1943 the term “Festival” was banned by the Propaganda Ministry and replaced by "Salzburger Theater- und Musiksommer" ("Salzburg Summer of Theatre and Music"). After the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler on 20 July 1944, and the proclamation of “total war” shortly thereafter, Minister of Propaganda Goebbels cancelled every festival in the Reich. All that finally remained in Salzburg were one orchestral concert and the dress rehearsal for Richard Strauss’s most recent opera, Die Liebe der Danae, whose world premiere had already been scheduled. Among the artists who kept the Festival going beneath the swastika were Clemens Krauss, who was appointed General Artistic Director in 1942, his fellow-conductors Karl Böhm and Hans Knappertsbusch, and the pianist Edwin Fischer.

Details of the several years:

1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944,