Chopin’s Antisemitism

Chopin’s Antisemitism

His anti-Semitism-if we can call it that-may not have been as bad as his hypocrisy.

Frederic Chopin (1810-1949) was a composer of genius as well a legendary pianist. He wrote letters prolifically, and among his favorite derogatory terms were “Jew”-and “Hun.” Especially “Jew.”

“I didn’t expect such Jewish behavior from Pleyel… If we have to deal with Jews, let it at least be with orthodox ones…. Jews will be Jews and Huns will be Huns-that’s the truth of it, but what can one do? I’m forced to deal with them….”

A biographer of Chopin, Jeremy Siepmann, comments: “To put such deeply unattractive behavior in context, it must be said that, however repellent, the thoughtless, casual anti-Semitism evidenced in his correspondence was in no way peculiar to Chopin. It was common change among Poles of almost every class and political stripe.”

He continues: “More revealing of Chopin’s own character, and in some ways more disturbing, is his readiness to address the unsuspecting recipients of his abuse in terms of sincerest friendship.” A letter to Pleyel, written at the same time as the once just quoted, concludes with, “Au revoir, then, my dearest friend. Yours devotedly, F. Chopin.”

He had grown up in Poland-his father was French, hence the French name.

Poland, indeed, has historically been a font of anti-Semitism. There was even a pogrom in Poland AFTER World War II.

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