“Mad” King Ludwig, King of Bavaria from 1864 to 1886, designed his castle to be a hideaway from people. He created a fantasy world as a refuge from reality. Writing to composer Richard Wagner, whom he idolized: It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau in the authentic style of the old German knights' castles, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day; there will be several cozy, habitable guest rooms with a splendid view of the noble Säuling, the mountains of Tyrol and far across the plain; the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world.
In1866, the state of Prussia conquered Austria and Bavaria in the “German War.” From then on, Bavaria’s foreign policy was dictated by Prussia and the king was no longer a sovereign ruler. The following year, he began planning his own kingdom where he could be a real king, in the form of his castles and palaces.
In his fantasy world – far removed from reality – he constantly devised new settings that were beyond the private means of a king. From 1885 on, foreign banks threatened to seize his property. The king’s refusal to react rationally led the government to declare him insane and depose him in 1886. The next day he died in mysterious circumstances in Lake Starnberg, together with the psychiatrist who had certified him as insane.
“I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others,” Ludwig once told his governess.
As with Ludwig, Wagner was one of Hitler’s favorite composers. Ludwig and Hitler both lived in fantasy worlds out of touch with reality. Whereas Ludwig was benign (if you discount bankrupting his kingdom with his extravagant building projects, Hitler unleashed his murderous bid to take over the world.
Wagner’s anti-Semitic and passionately nationalistic writings are believed to have had a profound effect on Hitler, who formulated his racial purity theories partly from Wagner. “Wagner’s line of thought is intimately familiar to me. At every stage of my life I come back to him,” Hitler once said. “Whoever wants to understand National Socialist Germany must know Wagner.”
Ludwig van Beethoven said, “Music can change the world.” Wagner had that effect in Germany.