Gottfried Wagner is the descendant of genius and controversy. From a youth spent rebelling against an inhuman family, which was part responsible for events in German politics and culture of the 19th and 20th centuries--including Hitler and the Holocaust--he has emerged as an adult who is trying to realize his own responsibility. And in direct contrast to his forefather's philosophy, his own is one of empathy: "I see the loss of empathy in our human existence as the reason for all evil." - Gottfried Wagner.
The Wagner family, with all its acclaimed genius, is inextricably linked with anti-semitism, dating back to 1850, when Gottfried's great-grandfather, composer Richard Wagner, published numerous virulently anti-semitic pamphlets. These writings, which continued until 1881, along with his operas, were an inspiration to Adolf Hitler, the architect and executor of the Holocaust. And Hitler was a close friend of the Wagner family: someone they respected, followed and admired.
Perhaps it was the way Gottfried discovered the truth about his family's past that was most disturbing. Their connection with--as well as their admiration and advocation of--Adolf Hitler and Nazism was not a topic of conversation in the household: Gottfried had to uncover the details, piece by piece, through the most impressionable years of his childhood. Aged 10, Gottfried found the keys to the photo archive room in the Bayreuth Festival building where he discovered photos of his grandmother, Winifred, with Hitler and countless handwritten letters, covered in dust and soiled, but still legible: documents of dedication, admiration and support of her beloved friend.