There is a record of a Tchaikovsky concerto performed by Bronislaw Huberman. While Hitler (who, it was said, needed his music to relax) would have been listening to the Jewish violinist, Huberman himself was in enforced exile; he fled Vienna in 1937, a year before the Anschluss, and was publicly declared an enemy of the Third Reich. Music by the Austrian Jewish pianist Arthur Schnabel is also among in the collection.
Aside from these recordings, which have stunned historians, many of the Nazi dictator’s collection is dominated by predictable recordings by Wagner, Beethoven and Bruckner.
Lew Besymenski was a Soviet intelligence officer who helped to interrogate captured Nazi generals. He found the record collection in Hitler’s chancellery in May 1945 when he was ordered to make a search shortly after Berlin fell to the Red army. The discs were packed in crates – most likely for an evacuation to Hitler’s Alpine retreat on the Obersalzberg. All were marked with the label Führerhauptquartier – Führer’s HQ; in the event, Hitler elected to stay and fight to the end.
Mr Besymenski did not mention the collection in his lifetime, because he was worried he might be accused of looting. He later became a historian, claiming he attended the autopsy on the burned remains of Hitler’s body, where he confirmed the long held belief he had just one testicle. When Mr Besymenski died this summer, aged 86, the collection was made available to Der Spiegel magazine.
In a document explaining how itcame into his possession, Mr Besymenski wrote: “There were recordings performed by the best orchestras of Europe and Germany with the best soloists of the age. I was astonished that Russian musicians were among the collection.”
Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that there was no independent Jewish culture. “There was never a Jewish art and there is none today,” he said. The “two queens of the arts, architecture and music, gained nothing from the Jews.” He also referred to Russians as Untermenschen, sub-humans, and dismissed any contribution they had made to the cultural world.
Mr Besymenski’s daughter Alexandra said she was disgusted by Hitler’s hypocrisy in his choice of music.
“This is a complete mockery,” she said. “Millions of Slavs and Jews had to die because of the Nazis’ racist ideology.”