A California composer honored the Oklahoma City bomber and a key neo-Nazi. Now he's promoting a Paraguayan 'Aryan' colony.
They wanted their very own settlement — a place where they could create a kind of miniature Aryan utopia, raising their children in a Jew-free society and ensuring for all time the racial purity of their descendants.
Inspired by an anti-Semitic essay by Bavarian composer Richard Wagner, this group of German families in 1886 joined Elisabeth Nietzche-Förster, sister of the famous philosopher Friedrich Nietzche, in inaugurating an all-white society as part of their quest for "purification and rebirth of the human race." And where did they plant the seeds of their brave new world? The malarial jungles of Paraguay. They called their "promised land" Nueva Germania.
Fast forward some 120 years, and the promised land isn't much. Illness, snake bites, the oppressive heat and monsoon-like rains drove many of the original settlers scurrying back to Germany. Neitzche-Forster returned home, too, after her husband committed suicide. Today, the descendants of Nueva Germania residents who stayed live in squalor, many of them dark-skinned as a result of intermarriage.
But that hasn't turned off David Woodard.
A composer from San Francisco — and the music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Group, which specializes in memorial services — Woodard wrote and conducted a paean to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who, he told a reporter in 2001, "deserves some kind of tribute." The next year, Woodard wrote an "original memorial suite" to honor William Pierce, leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, after Pierce died unexpectedly that summer.
Now, Woodard is into Neuva Germania.
Upon arriving in the settlement for a visit last year, Woodard reportedly found most of the colony's 100 or so German-speaking descendants living in homes with no indoor plumbing or electricity. He wants to see the Aryan dream rebuilt.
"As an artist who is fed up with much of the pretentious nonsense that has come to define Western culture," he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I am drawn to the idea of an Aryan vacuum in the middle of the jungle."
To fulfill his quest, Nueva Germania's would-be Messiah is seeking help from philanthropic groups and at least one high-ranking politician — Vice President Dick Cheney. He got one humanitarian group to donate $12,500 in medicines, the Chronicle reported. One of his Web sites, which opens to music by Wagner, offers Woodard-guided tours of "the forgotten fatherland." And Woodard already has written a musical tribute to Neuva Germania, "Our Jungle Holy Land."
Woodard has told reporters that he's no white supremacist and that McVeigh's murder of 168 people was a "horrible crime." But the name of his tribute, a part of which was performed as a "prequiem" shortly before McVeigh was executed, is "Ave Atque Vale" — translated literally, "Hail and Farewell," but named by Woodard in English as "Onward, Valiant Soldier." McVeigh wrote Woodard shortly before his execution to say the composer was the only person he knew of who understood McVeigh's attitude toward those he murdered. "Maybe," McVeigh wrote in response to a Woodard letter, "there is hope yet for this species!"
Woodard did not respond to requests for comment.
Woodard has toyed with unconventional ideas for years, and he was friendly with Beat Generation writer William Burroughs before his 1997 death. Woodard has promoted Burroughs' "Dreamachines" and similar imagination-boosting gadgets like so-called "Wishing Machines" and "Feraliminal Lycanthopizers," and he says he is interested in immortality, divination and teleportation. At least one critic has suggested that his performances seem to be "elaborate pranks."
Is Woodard serious about the Aryans? In a July 31, 2002, e-mail to National Alliance leaders, he certainly seemed to be. It was "with the most profound regret," he wrote in the communication, that he had learned of the passing of Pierce, a man who has called for locking Jews into railroad cattle cars and sending them to the bottoms of abandoned coal mines. Pierce's death, Woodard said, was a "tragedy."