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Winifred Wagner

Winifred Wagner, born Winifred Williams (June 23, 1897 - March 5, 1980) was born in Hastings, England. She lost both her parents before the age of two and was initially raised in a series of homes. Eight years later she was adopted by a distant German relative of her mother's, namely Karl Klindworth[?], a musician and a friend of Richard Wagner. Klindworth raised Winifred to be a perfect "Wagnerite".

The Bayreuth Festival[?] was envisioned as a family business, with the leadership to be passed from Richard Wagner to Cosima Wagner to Siegfried Wagner to his son, but Siegfried showed little interest in marriage, being bisexual, and preferring the company of men. It was arranged that Winifred Klindworth, as she now was called, aged 17, would meet Siegfried Wagner, aged 45, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1914. A year later they were married. It was hoped that the marriage would end Siegfried's homosexual dalliances and the associated costly scandals.

On September 22, 1915, she married Siegfried Wagner, son of Richard Wagner. They had four children in rapid succession:

  1. Wieland (1917-1966)
  2. Friedelinde (1918-1991)
  3. Wolfgang (born 1919)
  4. Verena (born 1920)

Winifred met Adolf Hitler, who greatly admired her father-in-law's music, for the first time in 1923. When Hitler was in jail after his unsuccessful Munich putsch, Winifred sent him food parcels and the paper on which Mein Kampf was written.

After Cosima Wagner (Richard's widow) and Siegfried Wagner had died, Winifred Wagner took over operations at Bayreuth, running it from 1930 until the end of World War II, when she was ousted.

She remained utterly faithful to Hitler and Nazism. The Bayreuth Festival became one of the highlights of the Nazi calendar, and the pinnacle of the German opera season.

Her relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage. Haus Wahnfried, the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler's favorite retreat. Hitler gave the festival government assistance and tax exempt status, and treated Winifred's children solicitously.

The Bayreuth Festival served as the rite of a secular cult of German nationalism, of Nordic self-realization, and volkisch aspiration. Like Hitler, Winifred Wagner believed profoundly in these values, and in Nazism as the fulfillment of her father-in-law's aesthetic ideals. After the collapse of the Third Reich, she was forbidden, among other things, to run the Bayreuth Festival, which she passed to her sons Wieland and Wolfgang. In 1975, she gave a long filmed interview to Hans-Jurgen Syberberg, where she appeared utterly unrepentant concerning her past. Most striking was her love for Hitler. 'To have met him', Frau Wagner declared, 'is an experience I would not have missed'.

It is not certain whether her intimate relationship with Hitler was sexual or not.

She died in Überlingen.

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