(Haaretz) — The music of German composer Richard Wagner was never played in his parents’ home: Too many bad associations with Hitler and the Nazis, explains filmmaker Hilan Warshaw.
So it wasn’t until he began playing violin in a New York City youth orchestra that Warshaw was first introduced to the work of the notoriously anti-Semitic 19th-century German opera composer. And rather embarrassingly, he found himself smitten.
“I just loved the music. But, at the same time, it was something that my conscious mind told me was anathema,” he recalls.
Over the years, Warshaw – whose family lost many relatives during the Holocaust – developed what he describes as a “push-pull relationship” with Hitler’s favorite composer. And it made him curious about the other Jews in Wagner’s life.
So curious, in fact, that he decided to devote the past several years to making a film on the subject. The fruit of that effort, “Wagner’s Jews,” is playing in Tel Aviv at the Docaviv festival, Israel’s premier event for documentary film.
Produced, directed and written by Warshaw, the feature-length film focuses on the Jews who were some of Wagner’s closest associates, among them the gifted young pianist Carl Tausig, who was almost like a son to him; the conductor Hermann Levi, who happened to be the son of a rabbi; and the pianist Joseph Rubinstein, who lived in Wagner’s home for many years and killed himself when the composer died.