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Melissa D. Burrage
The Karl Muck Scandal: Classical Music & Xenophobia in World War I
Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2019

This year saw the publication of a curious little history about a curious little event from the First World War. Karl Muck is a name that might not be on the lips of many people these days. A hundred years ago, however, as the German-born conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) who was interned in a Georgia concentration camp under dubious circumstances, he certainly was. His story offers a sometimes poignant, sometimes baffling glimpse into our contentious political natures. It also presents a startlingly clear mirror image of our current struggles – seemingly identical, yet eerily inverted. In the Muck affair, the inevitability of ethnocentrism is impossible to ignore, yet that’s what author Melissa Burrage tries so hard to do. That she steeps her book, The Karl Muck Scandal, as deep as she can into today’s stifling political correctness only adds layers of irony to this fascinating and mostly-forgotten historical episode.

It seems that Burrage initially approached this project with only a superficial understanding of her subject matter. The subtitle of her work is Classical Music and Xenophobia in World War I America. The dust jacket blurb tips her hand even more (or, more likely, that of her publishers):

One of the cherished narratives of American history is that of the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants to it shores. Accounts of the exclusion and exploitation of Chinese immigrants in the late nineteenth century and Japanese internment during World War II tell a darker story of American immigration. Less well known, however, is the treatment of German-Americans and German nationals in the United States during World War I. Initially accepted and even welcomed into American society, at the outbreak of the war this group would face rampant intolerance and anti-German hysteria.

From such vain moral posturing, one can conclude that this book will amount to yet another blunt instrument with which the Left can pummel supporters of President Trump for wishing to build a wall on the Mexican border and limit non-white immigration. If we can shame people for past xenophobia, according to this strategy, perhaps we can conquer xenophobia today and allow the huddled masses of future Democrats to keep streaming into America. (Stephen Jay Gould attempted a similar kind of history-shaming – only with psychometrics – in his thoroughly debunked The Mismeasure of Man.)

Burrage hits a snag, however, when she reveals Muck’s true character. He was the most celebrated conductor in America at the time. Under his leadership, the BSO became the nation’s leading orchestra, which aided greatly in keeping Boston at the forefront of American high society and culture. Affable, charismatic, and cultured, Muck was extremely popular in Boston, and, shortly after arriving at the behest of financier and BSO founder Henry Lee Higginson in 1906, became a de facto member of Boston’s aristocracy. This aristocracy was so famous, it had a name: the Boston Brahmins. Boston was also home to a very large German population and was ground zero for Germanophilia in New England. German businesses, German newspapers, German food, and German culture were highly visible in Beantown in the early twentieth century. Of course, everybody loved German classical music, which Muck was all too happy to provide.

Higginson was Muck’s biggest booster, despite not being German himself. They were close friends who had much in common, culturally and ideologically. Both were highly aristocratic and conservative. Higginson had spent many years in Germany and Austria in his youth studying piano, and was fluent in German. In a peculiar coincidence, both men had similar scars on their right cheeks. Muck received his from a fencing duel in his youth, and Higginson from a Confederate saber during the Civil War.

But who was Karl Muck? He was a highly educated man of world-class talent who was proud of his German roots, possessed nationalistic sympathies for his nation of birth, and held the realistic opinions on race which were common in his day. This was, after all, the heyday of writers such as Madison Grant, Lothrop Stoddard, and Henry Adams. Race realism, as well as cultural chauvinism and a healthy support for eugenics, were de rigueur in educated circles back then. And this included a relatively mild form of anti-Semitism among the still-strong WASP elites:

[Muck’s] racial views also affected his actions and judgment. When composer Ernest Bloch presented his Three Jewish Poems for inclusion on the Boston Symphony program, Muck was reluctant to debut the work if Bloch did not change the title. Bloch supposedly responded, “Dr. M[uck] you speak exactly like my Jewish friends, who advised me to change the title for obvious reasons.” Bloch defended the title of his piece, to which Muck replied, “If there were more Jews like you, there would be less anti-Semitism.”

Higginson was worse in this regard – or better, depending on your perspective. He supported immigration restriction in order to keep undesirables out of America and was a race patriot almost as much as he was an American patriot. He was a leading member of the Immigrant Restriction League, and was well ensconced in the national power circles of the day, being cousins with fellow immigration hawk Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. Higginson used his contacts in government to bust musician’s unions. He also wrangled with Jewish attorney and future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who sought to curtail Higginson’s various business interests in the name of trust-busting. And this, according to Burrage, informed Higginson’s negative opinions of Jews.

Henry Lee Higginson
Henry Lee Higginson

Not surprisingly, Burrage considers Higginson’s racial views “flawed,” and then describes Higginson and the Immigrant Restriction League like so:

The league also used pseudo-scientific dogma to divide European white men into biological categories, classifying eastern Europeans into the most inferior type to justify their arguments. Its view of nationalism was built on an “ideology of kinship to enthrone their own tribe and oppress others.” It justified discrimination, arguing that America could “improve its race” by selecting immigrants based on “appropriate national origins.” The league was influenced by eugenicist Madison Grant, who wrote The Passing of the Great Race (1916), which promoted a theory of “Nordic” racial supremacy and advocated the separation or removal of all “worthless” and “unfit” types. It was inspired by scientist Robert DeCourcy Ward, who publicized his view that “science decrees restrictions on the new immigration for the conservation of the ‘American race.”’ Higginson‘s father-in-law, Harvard professor Louis Agassiz, was a prolific writer and teacher on the topic of scientific racism, believing that races were distinct and unequal and could be classified based on climatic zones. Boston’s upper classes feared that foreigners would replace their own native stock, and they worried about “biological defeat.” Immigration restriction was a “phase of national defense” against “the strange invaders who seemed so grave a threat to their class, their region, their country, and their race.”

After stepping back from this and having a cigarette, I believe most of us on the Dissident Right will conclude that we were all born a century and a half too late.

Getting over that, there is so much to unpack here, one hardly knows where to begin. Yes, there’s the stunned respect we all must have for this Higginson fellow, who was related to both Henry Cabot Lodge and Louis Agassiz (whom Gould heartily denounced in Mismeasure), and who was able to speak in defense of white, ethnocentric interests so candidly. The Boston Brahmins had every reason to worry about biological defeat; we’re entering the jaws of that defeat today. Also, this passage should be met with some sadness regarding the hidebound chauvinism whites used to have toward other whites. This attitude will have to be discarded entirely for whites to have enough solidarity to thrive in the next century.

Most apropos to The Karl Muck Scandal, however, is how Burrage attempts to paint Karl Muck as the victim of xenophobia. Of course, he was. He was a perfectly innocent man when federal authorities arrested and incarcerated him in March 1918. But Muck and Higginson were Dissident Rightists back when the not-so-Dissident Right ruled the roost in America. So Burrage is in effect going to bat for someone on the Right in order to strike a blow for the Left. How’s that for irony?

The story undergoes a few more twists before completely unraveling. If there is a villain in this book, it is New York socialite Mrs. William (Lucie) Jay, who really didn’t like Germans. Jay, whose deceased husband was descended from early American statesman John Jay, tirelessly lobbied for Muck’s dismissal from the BSO all throughout the war. Muck hired too many German musicians, or he played too much German music, according to her. The woman organized committees to ban all German music. She tried to prevent the BSO from playing in New York. She spread false rumors about Muck in order to discredit him. She hurled insults at him as often as possible. She called for boycotts. She accused him of supporting the German military effort. She also (ahem) muck-raked his life, searching for sexual impropriety. As anti-German feeling in America grew more and more intense, Jay’s attacks on Muck grew more and more strident.

Here she is at her hysterical best:

Rather a thousand times that the orchestral traditions fade from our lives than one hour be added to the war’s duration by clinging to this last tentacle of the German octopus!

Then there was the “Star-Spangled Banner” non-scandal which got the attention of the entire country. In October 1917, the BSO had received numerous requests to play the “Star-Spangled Banner” before a concert in Providence, Rhode Island. Since it was late and the programs had already been printed, Higginson decided to ignore the requests. The song hadn’t yet become the national anthem (which wouldn’t happen until 1931) and didn’t quite fit in with the pieces the BSO was slated to play that evening, anyway. Of course, Higginson didn’t bother to tell Muck about this, and allowed the oblivious maestro to conduct a concert free of star-spangled banners.

In an astonishingly brazen instance of “fake news,” John Rathom, the editor of the Providence Journal, then accused Muck of deliberately refusing to play the patriotic anthem because of his German sympathies. Not only did this story later appear in newspapers all across the country, but Rathom kept the momentum going with even more accusations:

The zealous newspaperman spread reports among his readership that Muck was pro-German and a friend of Kaiser Wilhelm. Rathom distorted the facts, claiming to uncover foreign espionage plots that were later revealed to be fraudulent. Once such plot suggested that Muck intended to destroy American munitions factories. On November 21, 1917, the New York Times reported that Rathom “thrilled and enthused” seven hundred members of the Pilgrim Publicity Association at the Boston City Club with a story of “German spies in Boston” outlining his great campaign against them.

This damaged Muck’s reputation overnight, and Lucie Jay later used it relentlessly to incite violent hatred against him. (Burrage speculates that Jay and Rathom colluded in Muck’s character assassination, but no one knows for sure.) Thousands of influential Americans were now onboard Lucie Jay’s muck-up-Muck train. People were calling for the conductor’s assassination, internment, or deportation. Crowds as far away as Baltimore were chanting “Kill Muck! Kill Muck!” It got so bad that the authorities had to step in to determine if Muck was indeed a dangerous enemy alien. In all cases, they found no evidence of wrongdoing – but not for lack of trying. Some investigators feared that Muck was putting coded messages in his musical scores. Others theorized that he kept a disassembled radio transmitter in his Maine summer house with which he signaled German U-boats. (The apparatus belonged to the landlord, and was unbeknownst to Muck.)

Regardless, we should remember that this was a period when the American war machine was churning out absolutely vicious anti-German propaganda – and the people were beginning to believe it and take part in the suppression of all things German. Violence against German-Americans became quite common during this time. So these false accusations from Jay and Rathom threatened to have deadly consequences.

A First World War-era anti-German propaganda poster
A First World War-era anti-German propaganda poster
A German-American after being whipped, tarred, and feathered in August 1918
A German-American after being whipped, tarred, and feathered in August 1918

Despite her hypermodern moral posturing, Burrage does provide useful scholarship. Most notable in The Karl Muck Scandal is her well-researched contention that Lucie Jay was not all that she was cracked up to be. Jay may indeed have been an American patriot. She may also have been as anti-German as advertised. But her real motivations behind ruining Karl Muck’s life were far pettier. She was on the Board of Directors of the New York Philharmonic (NYP), and was jealous of the BSO’s star conductor. Other than the brief period from 1909 to 1911, when Gustav Mahler waved their baton, the Knickerbockers really did play second fiddle to the Celtics back then – and that bothered a lot of wealthy and powerful people in Gotham. Taking out the NYP’s top rival in the most literal sense became Lucie Jay’s idée fixe throughout the wa,r and ultimately made her the Tonya Harding of classical music.

Burrage reveals another reason for Jay’s hatred for Muck, and this one’s even pettier. Yeah, it was all about money:

Jay had even deeper motives for her persistent attacks on the Boston Symphony that cut to the heart of her own economic security. In September of 1906, her brother Hermann had passed away. Estranged from his wife, much of his estate was bequeathed to Mrs. Jay and her brother Charles. Mrs. Jay acquired a large share in the North German Lloyd Steamship Line and presumably railroad stocks from the Vanderbilt interests as well. It made logical sense to support her family’s interests and further their progress within the United States, which was threatened, as we shall see, by political forces directly related to the BSO.

And what were these political forces? None other than Henry Lee Higginson and his powerful anti-immigration allies in government. Since the 1880s, millions of immigrants, many of whom were Eastern European Jews, had been streaming into America from Europe on steamships, making Mrs. William Jay and her family richer and richer by the mile. Immigration was Mrs. Jay’s bagel and cream cheese, as it were, and Higginson with all his race realism and polite anti-Semitism was threatening to spoil the bar mitzvah. That’s basically it. So, let’s now appreciate another level of irony in which Burrage is forced to cast a pro-immigration harpy like Jay as the villain in a drama that’s ostensibly pro-immigration.

Unbelievable as it sounds, there’s even more irony to this story. Lucie Jay, as it turns out, was herself German! Her maiden name was Oelrich – a fact she obscured beneath her husband’s time-honored and quite Anglo last name. It seems to me that the obsession behind Jay’s Muck-hate was a form of ethnocentrism in reverse, the kind of contempt born only from familiarity. I can’t prove this, but it seems to be the prime motivator here. America was pulled into a war with Germany, and Jay felt especially betrayed by her own people whenever they expressed sympathy for the enemy. And in Muck’s case, this was at least half-true. Before America’s entry into the war, he had actively supported his homeland and was on excellent terms with the German ambassador in Washington. He also never applied for American citizenship and never denounced Germany. For a person like Lucie Jay, who wanted to erase or hide everything about her that was German, what Karl Muck did (and did not do) must have seemed like treason.

The story could have ended here. Worn down by years of slander, libel, hostility, and death threats, Karl Muck and his wife Anita decided to leave for Germany. He resigned from the BSO in March 1918 and was preparing to depart when he was hit with the bombshell news that the Massachusetts District Attorney would not let him leave. Apparently, the DA was intrigued by Lucie Jay’s previous unproven accusations of sexual impropriety, and felt that Muck may have a skeleton rattling around in his closet after all. And after a thorough investigation by the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), they found it. Muck had been having an affair with a 22-year-old mezzo-soprano named Rosamond Young.

This wasn’t a mere summer fling; he was madly in love with her, so much so that he wrote her love letters and promised to divorce his wife for her. Yes, he was a married man in his late 50s. Yes, under normal circumstances, this would be quite the scandal. But it hardly amounts to law-breaking. Yet the BOI and powerful anti-German elements in the federal government – especially hardline Attorney General and rabid Hun-hater A. Mitchell Palmer – were determined to make it so. And under what contrived pretenses did they finally nab Muck?

Well, Muck (kind of) violated the Comstock Act of 1873, which forbade sending anything obscene or immoral by US Mail. Apparently, sappy quotes such as this qualified as “obscene”:

But can’t you see, my darling, how much harder it is for me to renounce the love that grew between us so sublimely? Must we, for the sake of foolish sentiments that are imposed on us by others, foreswear the love that is divine and inexpressible by common language? No, a thousand times, no! You are mine and I am your slave and so I must remain.

He also (sort of) violated the Mann White Slavery Act of 1910, which prohibited transporting women or girls across state lines “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” Muck had apparently “abducted” Young every time he traveled with her out of state with the BSO to perform.

Such flimsy reasons to arrest a man may seem ridiculous today, but they were deadly serious back then. Yes, the US government needed to keep a lid on the immoral behavior of its citizens (if only it would do so today!), and yes, white slavery was quite the menace back then. However, Karl Muck’s arrest clearly amounted to abuse.

And the abuse did not end there. American authorities then blackmailed Muck into being interned as an enemy alien at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia in return for their keeping quiet about his affair with Young. It was either that or going public and trying him as a sexual deviant in a Boston court – a humiliation that would ruin him, Young, and Anita regardless of the trial’s outcome. Honorable gentleman that he was, Muck “was only too proud to shoulder” the burden of internment, and opted for the extended vacation in Georgia. He stayed there for a year and a half.

Then, while Muck was serving time behind barbed wire and machine guns in the sweltering Georgia heat, the US government reneged on its promise and allowed the Boston press to publicize his affair and his love letters to Young anyway. This caused nearly all of what remained of Muck’s fan base to abandon him. The Boston Brahmins did so as well, likely because distancing themselves from Muck would keep the heat off their own sexual indiscretions, of which, according to Burrage, there were many. Unfortunately, Higginson was counted among this number – although in his case he seemed to be acting more out of wartime American patriotism than sexual hypocrisy.

If this weren’t enough, the US authorities then stole all of Muck’s assets. When they finally deported him nine months after the war, he went back to Germany flat broke.

Well, after this disgraceful episode, an embittered Muck had had enough of America. Not surprisingly, his own ethnocentrism began to flourish once he was back home. He jumpstarted his career in Bayreuth with help of the Wagner clan and became very close to them, especially with Wagner’s widow Cosima. After poor Anita’s death from cancer in the early 1920s, Muck was able to reassert himself as a world-class conductor. According to Burrage, he produced original interpretations of Wagner by pouring all the pain from his recent tragedies into the great composer’s work.

It was through the Wagners that Muck met an up-and-coming young radical named Adolf Hitler. The two got along famously and remained friends for the rest of Muck’s life. And it wasn’t only for their shared love of Wagner’s music. According to Burrage:

Karl Muck’s ultraconservative nineteenth-century view of the world was compatible with Hitler’s thinking. Old German elites like Muck were keen to maintain stability and order, and he found enough common ground with Hitler to admire him. Muck’s elitism, his sense of German superiority, his anti-Semitism, and his anti-communism, all were in alignment with Hitler’s Nazi ideology.

Even before Hitler came to power, Muck was not shy about blacklisting or simply not hiring Jewish musicians. Afterwards, he fired them at Hitler’s request and claimed that only the under the most extreme circumstance would he ever bite from “the Jewish sour apple.” When he finally resigned for good in 1934, he made it clear that he wasn’t doing it in protest of Hitler’s treatment of Jews.

Karl Muck with his good friend Adolf Hitler, February 1933
Karl Muck with his good friend Adolf Hitler, February 1933

Hitler showed his love for Karl Muck by naming the square in front of the Hamburg Music Hall after him and by awarding him with the coveted Eagle Shield medal on Muck’s eightieth birthday in 1939. In a more touching gesture, he also named his dog after the conductor:

Hitler playing with his dog Muck, March 1935
Hitler playing with his dog Muck, March 1935

If the Karl Muck episode can teach us anything, it’s that we cannot beat our inner natures. When we are placed under pressure, for example, during times of war and deprivation, or even during the onset of old age, we tend express our true selves. We cannot help it. Burrage blithely accuses Americans of “xenophobia” towards Germans during the First World War, but if Americans had been truly xenophobic, they would have been anti-German before the war as well. But they weren’t. Just the opposite, in fact. Total war can do strange things to a person’s mind, causing him to hate what so recently he had loved. Henry Lee Higginson provides an excellent example of this. He was, deep down, an Anglo-Saxon, and his inherent and quite natural ethnocentrism ultimately trumped his love and admiration for the German Karl Muck and all the beautiful high culture he stood for. Muck himself may have been dismissive of Jews while in America – but he still worked with them, most notably violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler. It was only afterwards in Germany, when he was surrounded by his own people and had absorbed their sense of national pride and identity, that he finally acted on his ethnocentrism against Jews.

Wouldn’t it be better if we expected and encouraged people to be ethnocentric to begin with rather than wait for war or tragedy to make a mess of things, forcing them to be that way?

In August 1914, Muck was actually in Germany for a performance and was reluctant to return to the BSO out of nationalistic sympathies for Germany in its time of crisis. He also correctly feared there would be anti-German backlash in the United States. Higginson talked him into returning regardless and promised to protect him, come what may. Muck then risked his life on a dangerous sea voyage back to the States in order to fulfill his obligations to Higginson, the BSO, and his multitude of fans. That he was ultimately rewarded with incarceration, humiliation, and poverty should stand as a reminder that when the chips are down, we should all remain with our own.

(Republished from Counter-Currents Publishing by permission of author or representative)
• Category: History • Tags: American Media, Germans, World War I 
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  1. One of the best articles to appear on Unz.

    • LOL: FB
  2. Logan says:

    Given the vitriolic hatred of Germans in WWI, it’s quite amazing that nothing similar happened only two decades later in WWII. Best demonstrated by the family name of the #1 General of the Allied forces in Europe.

  3. Dan Hayes says:


    The remnants of America’s still virulent World War I germanophobia had taken its toll. By World War II it had essentially totally eviscerated German-American culture and political strength. A job well-done by the Anglo-American establishment!

    • Agree: Carolyn Yeager
    • Replies: @syonredux
    , @JackOH
  4. This short documentary mentions German-American persecution during World War I, and the massive numbers of draft dodgers. It also notes problems with the British royals German roots, including the fact the Kaiser was a first cousin and buddy of the King of England. Most Americans don’t realize that Anglo-Saxons were Germans who immigrated to England!

    • Replies: @Alfred
    , @Wizard of Oz
    , @TGD
  5. dvorak says:

    this passage should be met with some sadness regarding the hidebound chauvinism whites used to have toward other whites. This attitude will have to be discarded entirely for whites to have enough solidarity to thrive in the next century

    The author can’t have it both ways. The difference between a Dutchman and a Jersey-Shore-type is at least as far as between the latter and non-Whites.

    • Replies: @BiggDee55
  6. tac says:

    [It’s very bad behavior to leave the same long and off-topic comment on several different threads and may get most of your future comments trashed. Maybe you would be happier departing for some other website.]

  7. syonredux says:
    @Dan Hayes

    The remnants of America’s still virulent World War I germanophobia had taken its toll. By World War II it had essentially totally eviscerated German-American culture and political strength. A job well-done by the Anglo-American establishment!

    If only we could do the same to the Latinx……

  8. Sean says:

    I don’t think America entered WW1 because it was racially led by an elite whose ethnicity was much more British than Germans. No, Germany had to be stopped from becoming an unbeatable world superpower and by 1917 it was obvious that only America could do that.

    By the begining of WW2, American money and technology (see Wall St And The Rise of Hitler by AP Sutton) , along with German reorganisation for greater revenue raising powers by central government had made it an even stronger contender for world power than under the Kaiser.

    The whole of the problem with the American elite is that they are making too much money to admit that China is the new Germany, wining by a mercantilist blitzkrieg and it has to be stopped even if that causes economic pain, The Deep State part of the establishment think their futile secret intelligence service games with Russia are still the most significant thing happening in the world.

    • Replies: @Bookish1
  9. conatus says:

    Germany had recently beaten France in 1870 and become a big deal in the 1890s, Christmas trees and Kindergarten. So you could also look on the Anglo-Saxon enmity as a result of primal sibling jealousy. “How dare my little cousin Kaiser Wilhelm think he is my equal!” thought the Brits. Then elites of the two countries were related by blood, Great Britain could not bear their little cousin Germany becoming a great continental power so simple jealously ran, like a glowing green vein of irritation thru a lot of the British elite.
    And so the lies and propaganda machine went to work…..’they impale Belgian babies on bayonets’…’the Boche are ethno and racist’. This last accusation was the pot calling the kettle black. Great Britain had been led by Disraeli in mid century, a PM and novelist who was a self proclaimed  ethnocentrist.
    In 1847 Disraeli had Sidonia, one of his novel’s characters, proclaim to the world, “All is race, there is no other truth”
    And so little cousin Germany simply took the racism and Social Darwinism, so fashionable in Britain in the late 1800s, and way way too bluntly and honestly, Germany started acting upon the precepts taught by her older and bigger sibling Britain. The resultant world condemnation showed the Germans had gotten too big for their lederhosen and they learned the hard diplomatic truth that ‘Honesty is the worst policy.’

  10. Alfred says:
    @Carlton Meyer

    One of my great-grandfathers was a German who went to England long before WW1. He married an English lady. He was a surveyor and his name was König. He had to change his name to “King”

    The British royal family was called Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and changed that to Windsor in 1917.

    The Germans were very popular in the England of the 19th century. They had saved the British at Waterloo and they had trashed the French a bit later. The French were always the historic enemies of the English (not of the Scots).

    When those who controlled the media realized that Germany was an economic threat – the “Entente Cordiale” came into being with the French. The Germans were savagely portrayed. The pubs that were called the “Kaiser’s Head” changed to the “King’s Head” The Kaiser visiting Morocco on his yacht became a “cause celebre” – on par with the MH-17 false flag.

    In some ways, Europe was more “multi-cultural” in those days than it is today. But because White people look similar, this is not so obvious.

    • Replies: @JackOH
  11. mp says:

    Better to have Tribal homosexuals like Lenny Bernstein, Tilson Thomas and James Levine running the musical show. They are somehow ‘cleaner’. LOL Disgusting what has happened in the classical music world. It’s mostly Jewish money selling the product, anymore.

  12. JackOH says:
    @Dan Hayes

    “By World War II it [Germanophobia] had essentially totally eviscerated German-American culture and political strength.”

    Dan, that’s pretty much my understanding, too. There’s a sort of remnant German-American culture in those countryfied singing and dancing clubs, but you’re not going to see, for example, an energetic German-American book discussion group focusing on 20th century literature and history.

    This extremely ugly Muck story seems to me of a piece with Ron Unz’s essay on the Japanese-Americans’ properties being divvied up by opportunists during WWII. War and the need for solidarity brings out the scoundrel in some people, who use conflict as cover for their personal agendas. We talk about that a lot here.

    • Agree: utu
  13. JackOH says:

    “When those who controlled the media realized that Germany was an economic threat . . .”.

    Alfred, my understanding is cheap American grain and cheap German manufactures (after 1870) put the squeeze on British elites. I don’t think the Kaiser and his diplomats understood how adept British elites transformed those farty, parochial Prussians (see, e. g., Theodor Fontane’s novels) into an epochal threat to civilization.

    • Replies: @Houston 1992
  14. @Carlton Meyer

    You must hope that no one actually listens to you on that video as you have been very careless with fact. ” WW1 was a childish squabble amongst heartless Royals” is just comic book stuff. And to say “the war dragged on for two more bloody years” after President Wilson got war declared suggests no familiarity with the subject at all. (It was 18 months).

  15. @Logan

    it’s quite amazing that nothing similar happened only two decades later in WWII

    Oh it did, we just changed the target race to the Japanese, as like Dan states, the German race had been sufficiently castigated in the previous war, never to recover.

    Our Supreme Allied Commander was said to have been of Jewish German descent (((Eisenhauer))).
    And yes, we know with which blood line he sided with.

    • Replies: @Logan
  16. Just one item about the Statue of Liberty. Its association with Emma Lazarus’ later ode to immigration has eclipsed the original meaning of the great monument. French sculptor Bartholdi named his creation “Goddess Liberty enlightening the world.” He conceived the idea for the statue on July Fourth 1865 to commemorate the suppression of the slaveholder insurrection two months earlier; Lazarus’ poem was not added until1903. Bartholdi proposed to give the statue to the people of America as an enduring monument to their successful struggle to preserve the world’s sole experiment in republican self-government.

    Americans of 1865 understood it was their responsibility to maintain the free institutions of their republic as an example to the world, not to function as an asylum for its poor and downtrodden. It was the world’s peoples’ task to fight free government in their own homelands, not to relocate to ours. While Europe’s despots cheered the collapse of America’s first republic in 1861, there was an immense outpouring of support among the common folk for the Union and the hope for democracy in their own nations that it inspired. Mindful of the 1848 republican revolutions that convulsed the Old Word, British and European rulers dared not endorse the Confederate oligarchy, lest they trigger a new round of class warfare in their own restive kingdoms.

    Mass immigration of non-English speaking people was allowed for the first time in the corrupt laissez-faire Gilded Age that followed the Civil War because the victorious northern capitalists needed vast supplies of cheap labor to do the hard manual and industrial work that Americans did not wish to do, having fought a costly war to abolish the most grotesque form of exploitation of labor, and which four million ex-slaves could no longer be compelled to do without wages.

    • Agree: Buzz Mohawk
  17. Republic says:

    It seems that Karl Muck wasn’t the only musician arrested and interned as an emery alien during WW I. Another conductor, Ernst Kunwald of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was also arrested.

    In fact so many other musicians were arrested that Karl Muck was able to conduct a full symphony orchestra when he made his last performance at the Interment camp at Fort Oglethorpe , Georgia

    It is highly likely that those musicians were denounced by their artistic rivals in order to gain advancement

  18. @JackOH

    Han versus the Hun

    Any good link to data on how large were theUK trade deficits with US (food) and Germany ( manufactures, chemicals , pharmaceutical perhaps ? How do those compare with ours to China ? I would bet China is running a far larger surplus in% terms than Germany ever ran with UK.
    Certainly, there would have been little or no IP transfer to Germany via universities etc versus what the US is doing by letting the Han dominate the grad school enrollment

    • Replies: @JackOH
  19. The Brits dragged America into the first World War to destroy Germany as a rival; the Americans pushed Britain into the second World War to destroy their rival, Britain.

  20. And remember, the Stalinists were much worse than anyone accused the Germans of being. Thereby vindicating both General Patton and Adolf Hitler. All the sufferings of the Cold War and the many millions of deaths in both World Wars, because America chose the wrong side in both wars. The propaganda of the lying mainstream media, and blackmailing of some of out politicians, brought that about. We can learn from those mistakes.

    • Agree: Bookish1
    • Replies: @Poupon Marx
    , @Bookish1
  21. @Dennis Gannon

    “We can learn from those mistakes.”

    We have not, up to the present time…..

  22. Curious that so far no one has mentioned just how magnificent a conductor actually Muck was. His version of Parsifal, available on CD from I think Naxos is a supreme revelation of the difference between a good conductor like, say, Karajan, and a sublimely great one like Muck.

    That Adolf Hitler recognised Muck’s greatness is no surprise: his profound knowledge and understanding of Wagner is just one marker among many of the cultural superiority he enjoyed over those who shared the historical stage with him.

    As for those wonderful Boston Brahmins: they were too late and then too hesitant to stop the destruction of everything they had accomplished and held dear (Boston itself, its clubs and museums, Harvard, their own high and dry religion (the Unitarian), etc.) but at least their wiser members had seen it coming and rightly named the enemy: the unassimilable immigrant, from the Catholic Irish to the Polish Jew.

    Our country would be a very different place had “eternal vigilance” ever been more than a vain aspiration.

    • Agree: Hail
  23. So he busted musician’s unions, did he. Well, then, I’m glad he’s dead. Fuck him.

    • Troll: Hail
  24. Richard B says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    when the chips are down, we should all remain with our own.

    And exactly who is “our own”?

    The Dissident Right?

    No thanks.

    If you want to unite as Right-wingers or as Fascists go knock yourselves out (literally).

    But if you want to equate “Right” with White then you deserve to be crushed to death like the bugs that you are.

    All kinds of good things come from White people.

    But nothing good will ever come from the Right – ever.

    We don’t have enough problems that we have to contend with morons who insist on equating ideology with race?

    • Replies: @Bookish1
  25. Bookish1 says:

    Baloney. We gained nothing from entering ww1.

  26. Bookish1 says:
    @Dennis Gannon

    It’s too late for lesson learning. We should have learned our lesson in ww1. and stayed out of ww2. The mistakes have been made and the results have been catastrophic. No turning back now.

  27. Bookish1 says:
    @Richard B

    You cant separate ideology from race. Every race has it’s own inclination to it’s own racial characteristics that is reflected by its racial ideology

    • Replies: @Richard B
  28. Some quibbles with this article…

    Under [Karl Muck’s] leadership, the BSO became the nation’s leading orchestra…

    The BSO certainly became one of the top orchestras. However, his efforts were aided enormously by the work of his predecessor Arthur Nikisch, perhaps the most famous conductor of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    In addition, Leopold Stokowski and Frederick Stock had in Philadelphia and in Chicago respectively already built ensembles that arguably were not only among the best in the US, but surpassed all but a handful of European ensembles.

    Despite [Burrage’s] hypermodern moral posturing…

    How is this any different from the moral outrage of the society ladies she describes in her own book? Then as now, white women are the most insufferable scolds and hairshirts of all.

    • Agree: baythoven
    • Replies: @baythoven
  29. @obwandiyag

    Musicians’ unions did not really become mainstream in the orchestral world until later in the 20th century. In Muck’s time a conductor or general music director had a lot more power to hire and fire than they do now. Their positions are largely ceremonial now and it shows in the orchestral playing of today: Precision without articulating anything. In fact, unions have probably been among the major reasons for the dimming of interest in classical music. Their sundry onerous rules, for example, regarding recordings and transmissions thereof make it financially impossible to venture into any kind of recording project of the sort taken for granted by the likes of Eugene Ormandy, Fritz Reiner, Charles Munch, George Szell, et al with their American orchestras.

    • Replies: @obwandiyag
  30. Logan says:
    @Johnny Walker Read

    Our Supreme Allied Commander was said to have been of Jewish German descent (((Eisenhauer))).

    Only by idiots.

    His mother was a member of the group that later adopted the names Jehovah’s Witnesses. My grandmother was a friend of hers.

    His father is from quite a long line of Pennsylvania Dutch.

    • Replies: @Wally
  31. What an interesting, informative article! I plan to save it. Thanks to Ron Unz for publishing it here; I would never have seen it otherwise.

    • Agree: Alden
  32. @Nicolás Palacios Navarro

    Utter complete stinking bullshit you vile evil liar.

  33. @obwandiyag

    Your surly reply would seem to suggest that you must think of yourself a latter-day Ernest Newman, Boris Asafiev, H. H. Stuckenschmidt, or Virgil Thomson. So, please, I defer humbly to you and your erudition: Prove me wrong.

  34. Hail says: • Website

    Solid book review/article. Thank you, Fordham T. Smith.


    Some supplementary info on the book’s author which may be of use/interest:

    Melissa Dawn Burrage
    Twitter handle: @newenglandgirll

    – Born 1962 in Middleboro, Massachusetts, to Philip and Marilyn (nee Procknik) Burrage [born 1935/6 in Mass.] — While the mother’s maiden name, Procknik, could indicate partial Jewish ancestry (at least one famous, googleable Procknik/Prochnik is definitely Jewish), Marilyn’s parents’ names, Helena and Peter (both born circa 1905), indicate likely Ellis Island, Central/East European Christian stock (also, browsing the Acknowledgements section of the Karl Muck book, there is nothing there that indicates anything like a Jewish identity and much to indicate a secular-Christian, WASP identity);
    1984: BA, Music, Keene State College [New Hampshire];
    – circa 1990: married to Thomas Goodwin of Massachusetts; they reside in Weston, MA;
    Sept. 1992: First children, boy and girl twins, born (one dies 2015 in car accident); another daughter is born ca. 1995; the children use parents’ surnames hyphenated; all three became talented musicians and performed together around New England;
    Fall 1998: Begins studies at Harvard Extension School;
    1998 to 2000s?: Writing consultant (adjunct) at Harvard University Extension School;
    2004: Graduates from Harvard Extension School with MA in History (children at ages 9 to 12), from which she receives prize for best social science thesis (“Albert Cameron Burrage: An Allegiance to Boston’s Elite through a Lifetime of Political, Business and Social Reform,” investigates the activities of A.C. Burrage (1859-1931), lawyer, politician, mining entrepreneur, horticulturalist, and philanthropist”);
    2008 to 2014: Doctoral studies at the University of East Anglia [UK] (American Studies); Dissertation title: “Caught on the Changing Cultural Battleground: Dr. Karl Muck in World War I America”;
    2010s?: “In her spare time, she is (slowly) restoring an antique sea captain’s home on Cape Cod;”
    June 2019: Publication of her Karl Muck book (presumably a popular-audience version of the 2014 dissertation);
    As of late 2019: “[W]orking on a second biography of a Boston Brahmin capitalist in the American West.” (2010s quotes from her profile at the Cape Cod Writers Center). This may refer to Albert Cameron Burrage, the subject of her 2004 thesis, and presumably either an ancestor or first-order relative of an ancestor.


    I would offer a word of praise for Melissa Burrage in this way: While she could have easily had MA and PhD in hand ten, fifteen, years earlier, she put it all off to get married and raise three children. She deserves respect for this, as by circa the 1980s there was much pressure on smart young women to go for broke with career first, family last.

    She continued her creative work after the children were raised. Her youngest daughter left home in or about August 2013 for college, and in the six years since that time, Melissa finished her PhD, published an impressive book, and has made progress on a second.

    • Replies: @Old Palo Altan
  35. Richard B says:

    I never argue with stupidity. It’ll only drag you down to its level and beat you with experience.

  36. JackOH says:
    @Houston 1992

    Houston 1992, I sort of hazily recall an anecdote about a British labor leader pre-WWI publicly complaining that British-made telephone receiver housings were cheaper than German-made housings then being imported into the UK. Why, he wondered, weren’t British-made housings being bought?

    The author of the history noted sharply the German-made housings were imported completely outfitted with internal electromechanical components, while the British labor leader was simply pointing to the hollow British-made housing without any internals.

    Han versus Hun? You’re right. I don’t know how you balance the relevant interests. As an ordinary American, I don’t want to be “played” into thinking the Chinese are “evil” when all they’re doing is exploiting economic opportunities opened up for them by Western elites for their–the elites’–reasons. At the same time, I have packaged fish in my freezer marked “product of China” and “product of India”, and I don’t feel great about putting a Gulf Coast or New England guy out of a job.

  37. TGD says:
    @Carlton Meyer

    Most Americans don’t realize that Anglo-Saxons were Germans who immigrated to England!

    The Anglo-Saxons were indeed Germanic invaders of Britain in the 5th century. But current genetic research shows that “…the majority of Britons are Celts descended from Spanish tribes who began arriving about 7,000 years ago.”

    • Replies: @Alden
  38. BiggDee55 says:

    Yes. I can’t imagine myself mingling and having solidarity with hidebound, porcine slacker crackers on one end or effete Beamer driving Clintonians.

  39. @Hail to the rescue: the Procknicks were Austrian Polish Jews; very unusually, they were farmers in Massachusetts. Peter (a carpenter in 1940) married a Canadian Anglo, so our author is only one-quarter Jewish, and of the sort which would not have given her any kind of advantage socially.

    Her Burrages are, if at all, only distantly connected to A C Burrage. They were drapers in Weston, Massachusetts for two generations at least. Our author was fascinated and understandably perhaps rather jealous of the wealth and fame of her namesake. Her fascination with the Boston Brahmin class is understandable, and she has turned it to good use, but a part of it she is not.
    Given the sad decay of that class today, she suffers no loss.

    • Agree: Hail
    • Replies: @Hail
  40. Wally says:

    Except Eisenhower’s nickname was “the terrible Swedish Jew” in his West Point yearbook.

  41. Wally says:

    see my comment #43

    • Replies: @Logan
  42. Alden says:

    Don’t post that on American Renaissance. They firmly believe England is solely populated by direct descendants of the Anglo Saxon invaders. With a few recent Indian and African newcomers.

  43. Hail says: • Website
    @Old Palo Altan

    Thank you, Old Palo Altan — Not sure if this is the source you used as well, but it looks like the 1930 UScensus provides us with the answer:

    This Peter Procknik (born about 1905)’s parents were named John and Ester Procknik, born in “Austria” circa 1876 and 1882, listed by the 1930 census-taker as immigrating in 1900 (which was around the time of their marriage, the father’s second and the mother’s first; this suggests to me they were possibly married in Europe shortly before leaving for America). Both John and Ester Procknik were listed as unable to read and write English, native language Yiddish listed for both, and both resident aliens (not naturalized citizens) still in 1930, after thirty years in America, which is also somewhat surprising in its own right.

    No other native Yiddish speakers on this census sheet in 1930 (i.e., their nearest neighbors in Raynham town, Bristol County, Mass.); the majority of their neighbors appear to be of New England ancestry back to at least the mid-19th century (an individual’s parents birth places are listed on the 1930 census, and there are people as old as b.1860 on the Proknicks’ census sheet with parents born in New England). The neighbors have names like Ramsey, Hall, and Rogers; two families of Swedish origin and one of English-Canada origin. Nor only no Jews, not even any ethnic-Catholics. This was a WASP stronghold at the time. The wiki for Raynham, Massachusetts, suggests the place may still be 95% white today.

    I had assumed a boy given the name “Peter” would be a Christian, but I don’t expect (m)any Christians would be native Yiddish speakers, so that settles it. Maybe this “Peter-Christian” assumption is a wrong one, or maybe he was a convert to Christianity (a modest trend at the time) and took the name in the early 20th century. In any case, these Proknicks were highly assimilated to WASP New England culture already a century ago, and their daughter Marilyn (mother of the author of this Karl Muck book) may have had little to no Jewish identity at all, with our author inherited New England Protestant identity on even this Procknik line.

    • Replies: @Old Palo Altan
  44. Bookish1 says:

    Very unfortunate that the german americans were treated as they were after they had contributed so much to this country in culture, education, engineering, etc. The nicest neighborhoods in chicago were all german built areas. The near north side was german and the street names are still german names. It was the best area in chicago to live years ago. Maybe america will find the Puerto ricans, Mexicans and Africans more to it’s natural tendacies.

  45. @Hail

    The 1940 census has them from Poland, which is why I decided upon “Austrian Poland” – Galicia probably.
    The family were clearly keen to assimilate, so I expect you are correct that the author’s mother was uninterested in her partly Jewish ancestry.
    I would be surprised if the daughter were equally so, given how useful such ancestry is these days.

  46. Logan says:

    Obviously some kind of an in-joke, since he was neither Swedish nor Jewish. A nickname given him by fellow-students isn’t exactly genealogical evidence.

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