Hitler's Record Collection Included Jewish Artists

The dictator privately enjoyed listening to music he publicly criticized.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 5:18 PM

PASSAU, Germany, Aug. 7, 2007 — -- 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."

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.