"Damn! Bang goes the neat theory that Hitler was a crazed Wagnerian," writes Stephen Moss in the Guardian. Someone in Moscow has discovered a trove of records that were allegedly retrieved from the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. If authentic [update — it seems not], the find will be a fascinating one, but the notion that Hitler "adored" Russian music seems unlikely. A three-volume index to Hitler's main record library can be found in the Rare Book and Special Collections division of the Library of Congress. A few Russian records are listed there — including Chaliapin singing Boris Godunov — but they are far outnumbered by the Wagner records, of which I counted, on my visit to the library, around four hundred. Furthermore, the fact that Hitler owned certain records does not mean that he enjoyed them; many of these items were sent to him as gifts. Heinrich Hoffmann, in his memoir Hitler Was My Friend, recalls that when his daughter Henriette von Schirach gave Hitler discs of Tchaikovsky's Sixth, he "told her quite brusquely to take them away." They may have gone into the library anyway. Schirach (Baldur von Schirach's wife) also played for Hitler works by Stravinsky and Prokofiev, to see if he would like them. He did not. In the waning years, eyewitnesses said, the playlist favored Wagner excerpts, Richard Strauss songs, and arias of Lehár. Nor should anyone be surprised that Hitler may have listened to a few records by Jewish artists. Goebbels's diaries (Dec. 22, 1940) report that Hitler "did not contest" the abilities of select Jewish artists such as Max Reinhardt and Gustav Mahler as long as they were reproducing the works of others. All anti-Semites have their "exceptions." I believe that this story out of Moscow falls into what Ron Rosenbaum calls the "lost safe-deposit box" or we've-finally-got-the-key category of Hitler studies.
If you nose around the Internet, you will see that someone in America owns a stack of recordings from Hitler's Berchtesgaden retreat. I won't provide a link, because there is something unsettling about the site that's offering three of the discs for sale. Wagner scholars monitor such finds closely because they cling to the hope that Hitler's unimaginably valuable collection of Wagner manuscripts — the original scores of Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot, and Rienzi, orchestral sketches for The Flying Dutchman, clean copies of Rheingold and Walküre, a copy of the orchestral sketch for Act III of Siegfried, and a copy of the orchestral sketch for Götterdämmerung, all given to him on his fiftieth birthday — may still turn up. On April 6, 1945, Wieland Wagner drove in a wood-gas-powered car toward Berlin to see if he could extract the manuscripts from Hitler's bunker and place them in safekeeping. He was unsuccessful in his mission, and the scores vanished. Albert Speer reported that Hitler was fascinated by the Götterdämmerung material in particular. He probably kept it with him to the very end.
Having done a modicum of research on Hitler and his musical taste for the "Death Fugue" chapter of The Rest Is Noise, I was deeply impressed by — and strongly disturbed by — Bruno Ganz's performance in the movie Downfall. Without making the man remotely sympathetic, Ganz managed to convey how people fell under Hitler's spell. Too bad the director felt the need to tack on cloying war-movie devices (woman and boy escape on bicycle). And I found it exceedingly odd that Purcell's "When I am laid in earth" kept appearing on the soundtrack. "Remember me, but ah! forget my fate" — not really the message one wants to carry away from a movie about Hitler.