Obituaries

Verena Lafferentz, last of Wagner grandchildren, dies at 98

NEW YORK — Verena Wagner Lafferentz, the last surviving grandchild of Richard Wagner and one of the last people alive who knew Adolf Hitler intimately, died Friday at her home in Nussdorf, Germany. She was 98.

Her death was confirmed by Horst Eggers, president of The International Association of Richard Wagner Societies in Bayreuth, Germany.

Called by Eggers “the ‘grande dame’ of all Wagnerians” and an “ambassador and representative of the Wagner family,” Ms. Lafferentz was the youngest of the composer’s grandchildren, who included Wieland, Wolfgang and Friedelind, and was distinguished by her lack of artistic ambition.

Advertisement

Except for occasional appearances at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany and other musical commemorations honoring her grandfather, she lived in modest retirement in the family’s summer home in the village of Nussdorf on Lake Constance near the Swiss border.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
A look at the news and events shaping the day ahead, delivered every weekday.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Ms. Lafferentz was the daughter of Wagner’s son Siegfried and his wife, the English-born Winifred, who was a fanatical admirer and a rumored paramour of Hitler’s. She met him at the Bayreuth Festival in 1923.

She and her children frequently mingled with “Uncle Wolf,” as they called Hitler, at Bayreuth, where the Wagner family lived, and at his Bavarian mountain aerie at Berchtesgaden, among other places.

Ms. Lafferentz tiptoed into the limelight herself only twice, both times during World War II. In 1940, she, too, was romantically linked to Hitler, although he was said to have been uncomfortable with how the public would perceive their two-decade age gap. She was known to be both flirtatious and unusually frank in her conversations with him about everything from culture to current events.

In 1943, when she was 23, she was back in the public eye when she married Bodo Lafferentz, who had joined the Nazi Party a decade earlier, had worked for Volkswagen and had since 1939 been a high-ranking officer in the SS, assigned to the Race and Settlement office.

Advertisement

Bodo Lafferentz was interned after the war during the Allies’ de-Nazification program and released in 1949. He died in the mid-1970s.

The couple had five children: Amelie, Manfred, Winifred, Wieland and Verena. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Lafferentz was vice-chairwoman of the Richard Wagner Foundation, which owns the festival hall; a board member of the festival foundation; and an honorary member of a number of Wagner societies around the world.