Cancel Wagner: Munich May Rebrand Street Named After Composer Due to ‘Troubled Past’

Richard Wagner statue
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German composers Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss are among 45 historical figures whose names could be removed from city streets in Munich due to their political beliefs.

Munich has been looking at streets that are named after figures linked to Nazism, slavery, or colonialism since 2016, and have identified 45 individuals out of 372 who could see their names removed from streets across the city, or at least will be subject to further debate on their futures. Another 327 are considered “problematic”, whereby the signs bearing their names will at least “need contextualization”.

Among the names up for potential removal is classical composer Richard Wagner, regarded as one of Germany’s greatest orchestral composers but who has always been controversial due to his beliefs. Wagner’s art was cited as an inspiration by National Socialist leader Adolf Hitler, although some have stated the relationship between the two, who never met, is not a simple one.

According to a report from the French newspaper Le Figaro, members of the Wagner family would later become close to Hitler, such as Wagner’s son Siegfried.

Another name on the shortlist for possible removal is composer Richard Strauss, who wrote the anthem for the 1936 Berlin Olympic games but who also had a somewhat turbulent relationship with the Nazi regime. Aviator Willy Messerschmitt, whose company used political and Jewish prison labour during the Second World War, could also be “cancelled”.

Some have been critical of the lack of transparency in the selection of the names, such as the centre-right Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), who wrote to Munich mayor Dieter Reiter, saying: “The population must not get the impression that there is an exclusive group of experts on street names and that the will of the people, which should be considered here, is not heard and not respected.”

In neighbouring France, left-wing activist groups attempted to get street names changed or removed in Paris last year, claiming they are linked to colonisation and slavery.

In May, the city of La Rochelle decided not to rename streets named for controversial figures, but to erect new plaques “explaining” their links to the slave trade.

Mayor of La Rochelle Jean-François Fountaine justified the move, saying: “This is not repentance, it is knowledge.”

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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