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In the late 19th century, a handful of German families settled in a remote jungle of Paraguay, where they intended to create a racially pure utopian settlement called Nueva Germania.
The experiment was a colossal failure.
The settlers were unprepared for the devastating diseases and other hardships of jungle life, and their descendants — some of whom intermarried with the darker-skinned locals — are among the poorest people in one of the poorest countries in South America.
But now they have an unlikely champion: a Wagner-loving San Francisco composer who is mounting a determined crusade to rebuild the Aryan dream and has sought assistance from Vice President Dick Cheney, two U.S. philanthropic groups, a Southern California town council, Bay Area artists, and a U.S. filmmaker best known for the underground movie “Scorpio Rising” and the book “Hollywood Babylon.”
“As an artist who is fed up with much of the pretentious nonsense that has come to define Western culture, I am drawn to the idea of an Aryan vacuum in the middle of the jungle,” says David Woodard, who lives on Mount Davidson and studied musical composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Woodard, who is also the musical director of the Los Angeles Chamber Group, a 14-member ensemble that specializes in playing at memorial services, insists he is not a white supremacist, but rather a man driven by a vision of his musical hero that happened to bear fruit in a patch of land located about 120 miles north of Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay.
“Nueva Germania represents an aesthetic sanctuary conceived by Wagner; a place where Aryans could peaceably go to experience life and pursue the advancement of Germanic culture,” he said. The Germans currently populating Nueva Germania number about 100 families, most descended from the original colonists, who arrived in 1886.
Among the pioneers was Elisabeth Nietzsche-Foerster — sister of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche — who sailed to Paraguay with 14 German families to start a socialist, vegan utopia along the Aguaraya River. She got the idea after reading an 1880 essay by Richard Wagner called “Religion and Art,” in which the composer ranted against Germany’s 1871 emancipation of the Jews.
But the colonists were unable to get crops to grow, and many fell victim to malaria, tuberculosis, snakebites and sand fleas. After two years, Nietzsche-Foerster’s husband, a notorious anti-Semitic propagandist named Bernhard Foerster, committed suicide by swallowing poison after a drinking binge. His widow returned to Germany in 1893.
Today, the Nietzsche-Foerster home in Nueva Germania lies in ruins, the original Lutheran church and the German school have been closed for more than a decade, while the German-speaking descendants barely eke out a living as subsistence farmers.
(Posted on March 31, 2005)