Winifred Williams (1897-1980)
Winifred Wagner, the daughter of the journalist John Williams, who lived at Castledown Terrace lost both of her parents before reaching the age of two. After being raised in several different homes, she was adopted at the age of 10 by a distant German relative of her mother, Henrietta Karop, and her husband Karl Klindworth, a musician. Her adoptive father, Karl was a close friend of the composer Richard Wagner and was the organiser of the Bayreuth Music Festival.
Wagner's son, Seigfried was secretly bisexual, so it was arranged that the then 17-year-old Winifred would marry the then 45-year-old Seigfried in the hope that this marriage would put an end to his secret liaisons. Following the marriage, the couple produced four children; Wieland (1917-1966), Freidelind (1918-1991), Wolfgang (1919-2010) and Verena (1920–2019). After Siegfried died in 1930, Winifred took over the running of the Bayreuth festival until the end of WW2
During 1923, she met Adolf Hitler, who was a fan of Wagner's music leading to them becoming close friends throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The friendship extended to her even sending him provisions and stationery (on which the draft of his work Mein Kampf may have been produced) when Hitler was jailed for his role in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch. She also acted as a translator when negotiations took place between Hitler and Britain during the treaty negotiations of the late 1930s. It is noted however that she was opposed to the persecution of Jews and several prominent Jewish individuals spoke on her behalf post war
A rumour soon started that she and Hitler were to marry[notes 1]. Following WW2, she was banned from organising the music festival as part of the 'denazification' of Germany, so this passed to her sons.
Maintaining her support for Hitler's far-right politics, she died in Uberlingen Germany on the 5th of March 1980.
References & Notes
- It is also recorded that she was in love with the English novelist Hugh Walpole
- The Hastings Chronicle: 1980 onwards – The Hastings Chronicle, accessdate: 10 January 2020
- The Argus: How Adolf Hitler fell in love with Sussex orphan | The Argus, accessdate: 10 January 2020
- Wikipedia: Winifred Wagner - Wikipedia, accessdate: 10 January 2020