For some years I have been looking for film material about German history in the National Archives in College Park. I noticed some material that I didn’t know much about at first. But as always, stories that can be material for an exciting reportage are tied to such shots.
William Wyler in as a war reporter Germany
The composer Richard Strauss was filmed in his garden in Garmisch at the beginning of June 1945. Back then, in the early summer of 1945, film director William Wyler came to southern Germany with a US Air Force film team. Wyler shot color films for the film Thunderbolt!” in Munich, Berchtesgaden, Dachau and other places. The film was taken during a visit to Richard Strauss in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
A very unusual theme, at least in the context of these Wyler films. This footage was never published because Wyler only finished the first of his two planned films because of the end of the war. In the other preserved film roles, which I reviewed and scanned together with Elisabeth Hartjens in the American National Archives, Wyler’s cameramen mainly film the effects of the bombardments of German cities. So why Richard Strauss?
William Wyler and Richard Strauss
We see Strauss with peonies in the garden of the Strauss Villa at Zoeppritzstraße 42 in Garmisch. Little is known about the meeting of Wyler and Strauss. Strauss reads in the score of the opera “Die Liebe der Danae”, which was written between 1938 and 1940 and was first performed in Salzburg in a public dress rehearsal in the summer of 1944. The world premiere of the opera did not take place until 1952 in Salzburg. What is unusual about the style of the recordings are the numerous close ups by Richard Strauss. There are no portraits of any other personality in the collection of these Wyler films.
The US Army and the Strauss Villa
Garmisch-Partenkirchen had been conquered by the US Army on April 30, 1945. On the day of Hitler’s suicide. A troop of the US Army invaded the Strauss Villa to make quarters in the magnificent house. So the 80-year-old composer faced – in Garmisch snow fell that day – the wet and exhausted GIs. He describes in his memoirs that he had introduced himself as the composer of the Rosenkavalier, whereupon the Americans immediately left. Some of the American soldiers involved, however, describe the encounter somewhat differently. The Strauss family served food to the GIs and Richard Strauss played the piano in the living room. This was not very helpful, the Strauss family actually had to leave the house for a few hours. But the soldiers were instructed to move on immediately towards Innsbruck, so they left the house again. Why the Americans had to continue so suddenly has to do with another exciting story – the fights in the Inn valley for Castle Iter. Anyway, the Strauss family can go back to their house.
Lieutenant Alfred Mann
On the evening of the same 30 April, the musicologist and American lieutenant Alfred Mann also came to the Villa von Strauss – Richard Strauss is well known to him. Alfred Mann is the son of the pianist Edith Weiss-Mann. An emigrated connoisseur of Germany and an admirer of Strauss with influence high up. “When the tall, imposing figure of the eighty-year old man appeared in the door frame, it seemed to me as if a chapter from music history were opening before my eyes”. In any case, the Strauss Villa becomes “off limit” after the arrival of Alfred Mann – the US Army now holds its hand over the house of the famous composer and in May 1945 Richard Strauss is the subject of lively visitor tourism. Alfred Mann has nothing to do with another gentleman who will visit Strauss. This Mann is no less a man than Thomas Mann’s son.