Hitler's Record Collection Included Jewish Artists

Just about every aspect of Adolf Hitler's personal life has been investigated at some point or another, and his taste in classical music, most of all in what he considered "racially pure" German music, has been known for the longest time.

But a new chapter about Hitler's taste in classical music has now been opened on reports that suggest the German dictator and Holocaust mastermind may have actually had an ear for the works of Jewish and Russian musicians.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported hundreds of gramophone records were reportedly discovered in the attic of a former Soviet intelligence officer, Lev Besymenski.

Besymenski left behind the records at his country house in Nikolina-Gora, not far from Moscow, when he died earlier this summer. But in a document written before his death, he detailed some of Hitler's musical preferences.

"Those records, all clearly labelled 'Fuehrerhauptquartier,' Fuehrer's headquarters, most astonishingly contained many works of Jewish performers," Besymenski wrote in a document. "And while Hitler had banished Jewish and Russian musicians from the concert halls of the Third Reich -- he must have listened secretly to their work."

"I was also very astonished that Russian musicians were among the collection," Besymenski wrote. "The records included works by Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Rachmaninov -- obviously used a lot and scratched from frequent playing."

Hitler had dismissed Russian people as "untermenschen" (subhumans) and was contemptuous of their contribution to world culture.

Professor Wolfgang Wippermann, a historian at the Berlin University of the Arts, told ABCNEWS.com he wasn't surprised by the discovery.

"Why not? I'm not surprised that he would, secretly of course, listen to those composers," Wippermann said. "Hitler loved classical music and he could best relax with his music. When he was young, he used to go to the Vienna opera a lot and he developed a taste for those classical works."

Fear of Looting Accusations

Besymenski's document, which was made available to Der Spiegel, explains how fhe first attained the records in Berlin in 1945, while he was helping to interrogate captured Nazi generals at Hitler's chancellery there.

Besymenski apparently found stacks of crates packed with personal and household belongings in Hitler's chancellery, where Hitler's staff was waiting to be evacuated to his Alpine hideaway on the Obersalzberg during the last days of World War II.

But the evacuation never happened, and that's how the records came into the possession of Besymenski, who in later years became a historian teaching at Moscow's military academy.

During his career he wrote a few books and articles about Hitler, but he never mentioned his "souvenirs" from Berlin, out of fear that he'd be accused of looting.

His daughter, Alexandra Besemenskaya, 53, told Der Spiegel that he would sometimes listen to the records, but only behind closed doors, when family friends were visiting.

She said her father let Russian conductor Kirill Kondrashin or famous piano players Emil Gilels and Jakow Sak borrow those gramophone records to listen to, but he would never brag much about the matter.

Besemenskaya is not quite sure what to do with the collection her father has left her, but she told the German magazine she'll think about it "Over a Good Glass of Wine," which is the title of a song on one of the records labeled "Fuehrerhauptquartier #779."

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