For those Germans who lived in the vain hope that the Nazi assault on high culture could be checked, the Hindemith Affair of 1934-35 was ominous. It all began in the spring of 1934 when the regime banned the premiere of Paul Hindemith’s opera Mathis der Maler. The decision was sudden, and of course dispiriting, but the reasons for it were anything but obscure. The opera’s theme—the renunciation of political engagement in favor of an all-consuming devotion to art—could hardly have been expected to delight the Nazis; and the opera’s book-burning scene carried the most obvious implications. Then there was the Führer’s personal feelings of revulsion toward Hindemith, owing to a scene from the composer’s 1929 revue, Neues vom Tage, in which a lady appeared in a bubble bath. Finally, there was the composer’s past: as a member of the Amar Quartet...


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