The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Office of Strategic Services
Hitler Source Book
Interviews with Friedlinde Wagner
New York City
(1 of 2)

[Page 1]

Friedlinde Wagner is the granddaughter of Richard Wagner and the daughter of Winifred and Siegfried Wagner. Her mother became interested in the Nazi movement about 1923 and was warmly welcomed by Hitler because of her family and the social contacts she was able to provide. Hitler visited the Wagner home "Wahnfried" shortly after. It was the first time that Friedlinde had ever seen him. She was six years old at the time but still remembers him very clearly on account of the costume which was strange to her.

Hitler wore his Bavarian leather pants with suspenders and the short socks which are not common in Bayreuth. He looked very funny to her and she was much interested in his mission. She does not remember what was discussed but she remembers that his teeth were extremely bad and that he was very awkward and ill at ease. The family talked about him after his departure and also found him very amusing. Winifred thought him a diamond in the rough while Siegfried considered him a fraud and an up-start. Neither one has changed their minds in the course of time. In the years that followed Hitler was a regular and frequent visitor at "Wahnfried" and it became as near to being a home as any he has contacted since his mother died.

The entire Wagner family addresses him in terms of "Du" and Winifred even to this day calls him by the nickname he had adopted, "Wolf". He seems to be very much at home in the Wagner household and has often stayed there without his guards. This was all arranged in the greatest secrecy and he usually came with his entire entourage early in the evening and then drive off to some Inn where all arrangements had been made and then later return alone with his chauffeur. When he stayed overnight at "Wahnfried" he usually occupied a small guest cottage next to the large house. In later years, particularly since he has become Chancellor, this guest cottage was not adequate to his needs and he has enlarged the original cottage and built another in which to house his staff.

The entire Wagner family has often been invited to the Chancellery and to Munich and to Berchtesgaden.. They have strict orders from Hitler that they must call on him whenever they pass through Berlin when he is there. The result is that they have all visited him informally a great many times and have seen him under unusual conditions. Hitler has always been very gracious to them on such occasions and has invariably invited them to meals or parties and encouraged them to prolong their visit.

There has always been considerable friction between Hitler and Friedlinde. From the very beginning she thought him amusing but never came under his charm. If anything, there has been a note of antagonism which, according to her story, has often been verbalized. This antagonism may be due to the fact that from the very first meeting Hitler seemed to be attracted more to her younger sister than to herself. He always paid a great of attention to the sister and he would do almost anything she requested. One has the feeling that there is an underlying jealousy which has not been consciously faced.

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Hitler was always a regular attendant at the Bayreuth festivals and always stayed at 'Wahnfried". From an early date he was always anxious to mingle with the cast. A special restaurant was opened for them and Hitler frequently went their for his meals and lingered on afterwards in order to talk to the prominent actors and actresses. He usually used these occasions to tell about all the great things he was going to do and especially what he would do for the festivals after he became Chancellor. What he did do when that time arrived was to make Bayreuth into an armed camp. Special armed guard regiment was thrown for blocks around "Wahnfried" and even the Wagner family had to get special passes from the Gestapo in order to get in and out of their home. Guard stations were set up on all the roads leading into the town and all cars were stopped for purposes of identification and mission.

Anti-aircraft batteries were set up in the hills surrounding Bayreuth, the place bristles with men in uniform. When all this came to the attention of the Wagners they asked Hitler why he felt such precautions were necessary. He replied that the Czechs would know that he was attending the performances and that since they were only a few miles from the Czech border, all these precautions were necessary because one could never tell when they would attack. As time went on, more and more precautions were taken although no one else could see any danger of Germany being attacked by the Czechs. Nevertheless Hitler always insisted there was a real danger and the others could not appreciate it because they did not know the Czechs.

Friedlinde was at home when Hitler visited the family shortly after signing the Munich agreement. She said he was in a positive rage and could not think of names bad enough to describe Chamberlain and Delaudier [sic]. He said he had done his utmost to get them to fight by continually increasing his demands but that instead of fighting they kept giving in, that one just couldn't fight someone who refused to take an insult. The family was dismayed to hear him talk in this manner after all his public speeches concerning his desire for peace. Hitler insisted this was the opportune time and that since there was going to be a war it might as well be now.

Hitler was present at the Bayreuth festival at the time Dollfuss was murdered in 1934. There was great activity at "Wahnfried" all day with special messengers coming and going. At the performance, he invited the Wagners to sit in his box but he paid no attention whatever to what was going on. He was always asking one of his attendants for the latest telephone communications and whispering to Goering and Goebbels. When the news finally arrived that Dollfuss had been murdered, he left the performance with his staff and went to the house. When the Wagners returned home, he was extremely nervous and somewhat incoherent. His chief aim seemed to be to get down to the actor's restaurant as quickly as possible in order that he could mingle with the celebrities and create the impression that he had had nothing to do with it.

Later that night there was talk about the future of Austria and the murder of Dollfuss. When Winifred asked him if he intended to annex Austria he laughed and said that he would sometime but that the time was not yet ripe. That the murder of Dollfuss was only the first step in his plan and that it would take four to five years before everything was ready. His performance on that day antagonized Friedlinde still further for she came to the conclusion that he did not come to the festivals through love of Wagner but only to show himself and use the festival as a screen for underhanded actions.

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Another source of antagonism which probably goes back much further was due to the fact that the children were very much restricted in their activities while Hitler was a guest at "Wahnfried". According to Friedlinde he never went to bed until 5:30 in the morning and then would sleep until 11:00 or 11:30. They were forbidden to make any noise or play outside the house until Hitler raised the shade in his bedroom window. If their dog barked before that time the guards would come rushing in and insist that the dog had to be quiet because he would disturb the Fuehrer. They could not even take the car out of the garage because the sound of the motor would disturb him, etc. Even their meals had to be arranged to suit his convenience.

Hitler's breakfast usually consisted of a glass of milk and two slices of dry bread. Sometimes he would eat lunch a half an hour later. That did not seem to disturb him. She claims that it is not true that Hitler is a strict vegetarian and says that he has frequently eaten meat at her house. In general, he prefers to eat vegetables but now and. then when meat is served to the other members of the family he would take some and say that he just wanted a taste of it. She further claims that his vegetarian diet began after the death of Geli. Before that time she has distinct recollections of his eating a great deal of meat and that he was particularly fond of Leberknoedl. He used to eat large quantities of these and when they knew in advance that he was coming, her mother would always arrange to have this dish. She also remembers that before this time he drank a good deal of tea and she remembers, as a very small child, how she and her sister would sit at the table and anxiously await the time for Hitler to sweeten it. In those days he always put seven teaspoons full of sugar into a cup of tea and the children were fascinated to see whether on some occasion he would lose his count. But he never did. She also commented on the tremendous amount of chocolate he consumed throughout the day. He had the firm of Hamann prepare a special kind of chocolate for him and on an average, he consumed about two pounds of these every day. Before the death of Geli, he also drank some of the regular beer but gave it up shortly after her death and then later had a special light beer prepared for himself by a Munich brewery. He was always very fond of small pastries, particularly the very sweet ones and he would consume large quantities of these while he was at her home and often took whatever remained with him to eat on his journey. She says that she had never had a meal in the Chancellery at which Nudelsuppe was not served.

According to her story, all kinds of precautions are taken in the preparation of his food. He has a secret fear that he will be poisoned and only one cook is permitted to prepare his food. The only exception to this in Berlin is that Mrs. Goebbels can cook special dishes for him and these are mostly of the Austrian variety. She makes great use of this prerogative in playing up to Hitler and getting him to do favors for her. While at Wahnfried, Hitler eats with the family and has never made any fuss or taken precautions against being poisoned. He takes great precautions about his health in general. He is always afraid of his stomach and always likes some kind of medicine at meals. In the Chancellery he has a complete operating room with all the latest equipment and a staff is on twenty-four hour duty with instructions to keep everything in readiness in case Hitler should need immediate attention. It is also equipped for all kinds of dentistry.

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The amusing part of it is that Hitler almost poisoned himself between 1933 and 1935. One day when he was visiting at "Wahnfried" Winifred had a headache and decided to take an aspirin tablet. As she was about to take it, Hitler saw her with the bottle in her hand. he became very excited and rushed over and grabbed the bottle and demanded to know what it was that she was taking and who told her to take them. She was amazed at his conduct and told him he was just taking an aspirin for her headache and asked if there was anything unusual in that. To this Hitler retorted that one cannot be too careful about these things and asked if she had not heard of his experiences.

It seems that some years ago he was visiting an old Party member at one of the lakes near Munich. They sat down to meals, his host always put something into his mouth. Hitler's curiosity got the best of him and he asked his old friend what it was that he was taking. The friend said that he had always been bothered with stomach disorders and that he had been to a number of doctors who had not been able to help him and finally he found this old country doctor who prepared these capsules according to a secret prescription and that these had cured him. Hitler then informed his host that he had always been bothered with indigestion and his host urged him to try some of his capsules. Hitler did so and did get relief from them. He then ordered a private stock from the doctor and took them regularly before every meal. After he came to power, his health became worse and worse and he called in his private doctor who in turn called specialists. In spite of all their efforts, Hitler's condition continued to grow worse and his appetite failed him almost entirely. For a time he was under constant care of his physicians and one day as he was coming in to dinner, the doctor happened to see him take one of his capsules. He demanded to know what Hitler was taking and Hitler assured him it was a medicine he had been taking for years and that they worked wonders for his indigestion. The doctor insisted on analyzing the contents of the capsules and found them to be nothing but methyl alcohol. It turned out that this alcohol was gradually poisoning him and wearing down his resistance. After telling this tale, he said, "You cannot be too careful about medicines, you see, and you must promise me never to take any medicine which is not prescribed by a first-rate physician.

In July, 1933, he visited "Wahnfried" and whether due to the alcohol poisoning or other factors, seemed rather downcast. He talked at length about getting old and complained bitterly that 10 years of valuable time had been lost between the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 and his succession to power. This was all very regrettable since he predicted that it would take him 22 years to get things in adequate shape so that he could turn them over to his successor. Since he had lost these 10 valuable years, he would have to work harder than ever. He had no particular reason for picking 22 years, except that he had figured it out that that was the total. It was only a short time before this visit that he had finally had his finger nails manicured. In earlier times, he always had vast quantities of dirt under them and they looked like "Kraut und Rueben". But once he had had them manicured he kept them so.

According to Miss Wagner, Geli's death had a tremendous effect on Hitler. For several years previous to this event, it was his custom to spend Christmas Eve with the Wagner family. The first Christmas after Geli's death, they expected him but he did not arrive. They waited for some time and then telephoned his apartment in Munich. The only information they were able to obtain however was that he had left Munich presumably to go to Bayreuth and they had no other knowledge of his whereabouts. There was

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