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Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler had much in common. The first was Italian yet he liberated and led the French nation. The latter was of Austrian birth but freed and championed the German people. Napoleon put an end to French revolutionary abuses. Adolf Hitler brought an end to the corruption and banking houses’ usurious deprivation following the victors’ vicious terms inflicted upon Germany after World War One.
Both national leaders were social reformers and both had humble origins, revolutionary zeal, courage beyond question, rags to riches legends and undoubted military prowess. Yes, both lost wars but such were the odds against them they could not hope to emerge triumphant even with the help of God.
Yes, both social reformers were Christians. Both believed in God. Napoleon and Hitler reconciled the Catholic Church to the State. The German Reich half the size of Texas was overrun by the combined forces of three world empires; British, Soviet and the Corporate United States, none of which could be considered of Christian belief.
The multitudes adored them whilst the privileged classes with vested interests trembled before them. After their defeat in battle, both Napoleon and Hitler were ludicrously vilified and demonised.
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead, is a Mass offered for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal. It is usually, but not necessarily, celebrated in the context of a funeral.
Neither of these historical figures had a requiem or funeral march composed in their honour. It is true to say that when Ludwig van Beethoven was asked if he might be inspired to write a funeral march for Napoleon Bonaparte, gruffly replied: ‘I have already composed the proper music for that catastrophe.’
He was referring to the second movement; the funeral march of his Eroica (Heroic) 3rd Symphony. The honour was removed when, upon hearing that Napoleon was to crown himself emperor, Beethoven furiously scratched the name ‘Bonaparte’ from the symphony’s title.
Several months later, the gifted composer had second thoughts. He instructed his publisher that the original title must remain. Napoleon was also respected and admired by Adolf Hitler.
Upon the surrender of Paris, the German leader who, at the time, many described as the leader of the free world, forbade the triumphant playing of the Paris Entry March. During his visit to The City of Light, the German Leader paid homage to the Napoleonic Tomb. The two great leaders did however part company when it came to personal aggrandizement.
It is inconceivable that the Fuhrer would crown himself emperor. Hitler was enthused by Richard Wagner’s works. Those familiar with the great composer’s operatic sagas and the Fuhrer’s life will be fascinated by the parallels drawn from the stories of these heroes of Germanic folklore. Were these early manifestations translated through Wagner to be re-born through Hitler?
The Ring of the Nibelungen recounts the struggle between the Forces of Light led by Wotan, Brunhilde, Siegfried and Sigmunde against the bacillus of evil and darkness. These are the Nibelungen, swarthy misshapen dwarves who dwell out of sight and steal the Rheingold (Germany’s wealth).
In another quirk of Hitler’s history, Das Lied der Nibelungen is said to have been composed in the evocative Kurnberg Castle set on the Danube Plain. The fortress’s imposing edifice is situated just a short country walk from Adolf Hitler’s childhood rural home and not far from the grave of his parents. As a schoolboy, the future Fuhrer walked in its shadows with his schoolbooks and pencils.
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Had Richard Wagner been asked if he was inspired to compose a funeral march for Adolf Hitler, who can doubt he would have immediately replied: ‘I have already done so: Siegfried’s Death and Funeral March.’
I like both but think Karajan the most dramatic but lacking imagery… not that there is much on the other.
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