Political Embarrassment in Bavaria: Folk Music Prize Funded with Nazi Inheritance

A think-tank linked to Chancellor Merkel's Bavarian sister party inherited money from the estate of two former Nazis in the 1980s and organized a folk music competition in accordance with their wishes, SPIEGEL has learned. The annual event has now been suspended pending a closer inspection of the late benefactors.

The headquarters of the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Wildbad Kreuth in Bavaria Zoom
DPA

The headquarters of the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Wildbad Kreuth in Bavaria

The annual "Day of Folk Music" has been a cheerful celebration of Bavarian culture ever since it was launched in 1984. Oompah bands and choirs in lederhosen and dirndls compete for prize money from a substantial private estate bequeathed by Max and Maria Wutz, a married couple, to the Hanns Seidel Foundation, which is closely linked to the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

The Wutzes passed on their financial assets, including a villa on Lake Starnberg, to the foundation on the condition that it organize a folk music competition, which it duly did.

Now SPIEGEL has learned that the Wutzes were among the first supporters of Adolf Hitler. Max Wutz donated money to the Nazi propaganda newspaper Völkischer Beobachter. He joined the German Workers' Party DAP, the predecessor of the Nazi party NSDAP, in September 1919 and wrote in an NSDAP form that the first secret talks to set up the Nazi party took place in his flat, SPIEGEL research showed.

On July 29, 1921, he became the Nazi party's second treasurer. His wife Maria once said that she decided to join the party because of the "overbearing impudence of the Jews." Max wrote that she had taken singing lessons "at the express wish of the Führer."

In 1933, on the 10th anniversary of Hitler's failed Beer Hall Putsch, Maria Wutz had the honor of performing as Elsa in Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin at a ceremony in Munich attended by Hitler.

After the war, Wutz said he had been against the Nazis. "I have contributed to the fight against the NSDAP wherever the opportunity arose," he wrote during the de-Nazification process. The available files show that after the Nazi party was briefly banned in 1923, he didn't rejoin it because of a row with a party member.

"Research is needed into whether there was a possible opposition to partial segments of National Sociailsim, or if the Wutzes were just losers in internal power stuggles," said historian Susanne Meinl, who is writing a book about Hitler's first supporters.

Troublesome Discoveries

After Maria Wutz died in 1983, visitors to their house on Lake Starnberg found Nazi memorabilia such as pistols and daggers. "On the inside of a cupboard, so that one couldn't see it from outside, hung a Blood Medal of the NSDAP, the honor awarded to participants in the 1923 putsch," said the former director of the German Historical Museum, Hans Ottomeyer, who inspected furniture in the Wutz house for the Munich city museum after Maria's death.

That didn't appear to bother the Hanns Seidel Foundation. According to Ottomeyer, staff from the foundation took the weapons and the medal, and the next year the foundation dutifully launched the "Day of Folk Music" in honor of the Wutzes.

The foundation even kept on organizing the festival when the background of the sponsors had been pointed out to it. In 2010 Meinl, the historian, contacted the foundation about the matter. She said she received a brief answer and that the foundation removed the names of the two benefactors from its competition announcements after that. It took no further action.

Senior members of the foundation's board, Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer and CSU honorary chairman Edmund Stoiber, told SPIEGEL they had not been made aware of the matter.

In the wake of the SPIEGEL story, the foundation said it would suspend the competition until independent researchers had shed more light on the Wutz family history.

Reporting by Fidelius Schmid

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