Alex Ross Bait (Me-Bait, too)
The anatomy of Vienna was concentric. Its disproportionate contribution to modernity resulted from an implosive density of contact and encounter. The famous cafes were only one instrument of this daily creative collision. Its sexual parable is that of Schnitzler's Reigen or La Ronde. It was nearly impossible not to meet in that bustling centre and on the Ring. This means that, spatially, statistically, it is all but inconceivable that Hitler did not cross paths with, say, Mahler or Freud or Wittgenstein or Schoenberg, be it on the pavements, be it in a tram (when he could afford one). His eyes must have met the eyes of the shapers of that central European humanism, so richly Jewish, which he would reduce to ash.
It looks to be almost certain that at a Vienna performance of Rienzi Hitler stood or perched in the top gallery while Theodore Herzl sat in the stalls. Hitler drank in, from the marching choruses, the programme for the Nuremberg rallies and the Wehrmacht's bellowing surge across Europe. Herzl tells us that these very same choruses, and Rienzi's ascent to the leadership of his Volk, sparked in him the vision of Zionism and of a return to a Jewish nation in Palestine. The dialectic of that evening is inexhaustible. It affirms that in all art which is beyond good and evil. It makes a mockery of censorship, let alone of the infantilism of 'political correctness'. It tells us of our near-total ignorance of the ways in which music invades, infects, energizes, elevates human consciousness. Israel on the one hand, the Shoah on the other, the founder of Zionism and the ultimate Jew-killer gathered up in the identical hour of musical magic. Thrust into opposite directions (or, God help us, were these directions all that opposite ?). The State of Israel continues to prohibit performances of Wagner. Do its Spartan guardians know about Herzl's Rienzi ?
George Steiner ( "Hitler's Vienna," Salmagundi: Summer 2003, Iss. 139/140, pg. 64)