Campaign against Hindemith
In the late 1920s music critics and politicians with a nationalistic orientation already began to direct ever more vehement attacks against Hindemith. In 1930 a performance of the one-act opera Sancta Susanna planned in Dresden had to be cancelled at the last minute because of threats to disturb the performance.
After the National Socialists took over power in January 1933, Hindemith's position in Germany was increasing difficult to comprehend. He was designated a «standard-bearer of decay» by reactionary circles surrounding Alfred Rosenberg because they considered his music «culturally Bolshevist», because he continued to play in a trio with his colleagues Simon Goldberg and Emanuel Feuermann, both branded as Jews, and because his wife Gertrud was considered a Half-Jewess. On the other hand, other cultural politicians of the Third Reich tried at first to claim Hindemith for themselves as one of the «flag-carriers of the future» in the field of music.
In the beginning Hindemith, like many others, was unimpressed by these events for the most part: «With everything going on here, I don't believe that we have any reason to look into the musical future with concern. We just have to get through the next few weeks», he wrote to his publisher in April 1933. His view was that «courage and steadfastness» in taking one's stand could guarantee political integrity.
Indeed, conditions soon seemed to change in his favour. In February 1934 he was elected to the Leadership Council of the Reichsmusikkammer. However, the successful premiere of the «Mathis der Maler» Symphony by Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic sparked off an intense controversy in March 1934 that not only dominated the specialist press but also the daily newspapers. The campaign finally peaked in a scandal when Furtwängler publicly tried to come to the composer's defence on 25 November 1934 in his newspaper article «The Hindemith Case.»
The occurrence caused an international sensation, and Joseph Goebbels now saw reason to take a definite stand. In a speech before the Reichskulturkammer on 6 December 1934 he denounced Hindemith as an «atonal noise maker» and stated: «National Socialism is not only the political and social conscience, but also the cultural conscience of the nation. [...] That has to be said in order to create clarity in the conflict of opinions». Hindemith quickly drew the consequences from the quarrels surrounding him: already on the day before Goebbels's speech, he requested from the Director of the Berlin Music Academy to be «given leave for an indefinite period of time due to the events of the last few days».