Music under National Socialism

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Music under National Socialism was music in the German Reich from 1933 to 1945 , i.e. during the National Socialist rule . The definition of an independent National Socialist musical aesthetic is difficult. For political background information, see Art in National Socialism and the Reich Chamber of Culture .

Organizations of the regime

As early as the Weimar Republic , the “ Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur ” (KfdK) campaigned for the new ideology and the suppression of non-conformist artists. In addition to organizing conferences, lectures and iconoclasms, the KfdK incited in its press organs against artists and writers such as Kästner , Tucholsky , Mann , Brecht , Klee , Kandinsky , Schwitters , the Bauhaus , Nolde , Toller , Zweig and many others. In addition, after the change of power, the KfdK particularly distinguished itself in bringing cultural life into line; names like Gustav Havemann or Hans Hinkel should be mentioned .

From September 22, 1933, under the presidency of Joseph Goebbels , the Reich Chamber of Culture (RKK) controlled German cultural life as part of the general alignment of political and social structures. The RKK was divided into 7 individual chambers and monitored the working conditions in the branches under its control, the opening and closing of businesses and content-related provisions on the design of works of art; there was a compulsory membership of all cultural workers in one of the individual chambers. This obligation amounted to a professional ban on all “non-Aryans” and artists who were excluded as “cultural Bolsheviks” and who did not conform to the regime; Almost without exception, they were left with “external” or “internal emigration”: exile or retreat into private life.

Goebbels saw a second task of the RKK in clearing German music of all Jewish and foreign influences and banning so-called “ degenerate music ” from the public. Jewish artists were forced into the " Kulturbund Deutscher Juden ", which was finally dissolved in 1942.

The Reichsmusikkammer , the largest of all individual chambers, controlled the entire musicianship. From November 1933, it was led by the "Reichsmusikdirektor" Richard Strauss , who, however, had to resign from his post in 1935 after hostility from the NSDAP "for health reasons". Strauss' deputy Furtwängler resigned as early as 1934 due to his unsuccessful commitment to the composer Paul Hindemith and the ban on the performance of the opera Mathis the painter and was replaced by Paul Graener .

Until 1935 a member of the Presidential Council was the leading KfdK member Gustav Havemann , who fell out of favor with Goebbels and was deposed because of his support for Hindemith.

Light music

The popular music was never rigorously subjected to the Nazi doctrine - comparable only to the architecture of that time - it had the leeway that Goebbels wanted. Since it was not possible to implement music that was synchronized, borrowings from swing were permitted for light music , but this was referred to with different terms and was never allowed to have English texts.

Swing dancing was never forbidden, although this is often rumored. The U-Musik had the task of entertaining and distracting. Hitler , who saw himself more as a builder, made only non-binding comments on the music. His taste in music was somewhere between Richard Wagner and the Black Forest girl and allowed many interpretations. Jazz was formally prohibited only in Thuringia (even before the seizure of power), in Bamberg and Passau . The world's first jazz class at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main was closed in 1933. Especially at the time of the 1936 Olympic Games, many jazz musicians made guest appearances in the capital. Germany's record industry, at that time the largest in Europe, produced music of the kind undesirable by the regime, bound by contracts and also for reasons of foreign exchange, and thus contributed to its spread.

The anti-jazz radio program “ Vom Cakewalk zum Hot ” was supposed to have a deterrent effect with “particularly haunting music examples”, but it achieved the opposite and unwillingly helped spread the frowned upon music.

The gap in popular music created by the prohibition of Jewish music and “degenerate nigger music”, especially in the big cities of Berlin and Hamburg, was skillfully used by a number of musicians, such as Teddy Stauffer , the pieces with German titles and tried to outwit the stripes - later especially the Hitler Youth stripes - in a game of hide and seek. Since the Nazis did not really know how to identify swing or jazz, it was not too difficult for swing fans to camouflage such music. Only the face up connection some members of the Swing youth to politically active groups (such as the White Rose ) in the final phase of the regime brought a number of people - by the Nazis defamatory called Swing jerks in the - Gestapo (eg. -Haft Emil Mangelsdorff ) or in youth camps, for example in the Uckermark concentration camp for female youth and the Moringen concentration camp for male youth. The concerts in the pavilions on the Inner Alster in Hamburg have become legend . But they lacked any politically conscious commitment.

  • Film music . The sound film , whichappeared around 1930, wasconsistently usedby the Nazi regime and Nazi propaganda to spread its ideas; As a “ good mood maker ” he had freedom. Many of the popular hits were created for this medium.
  • Request concert for the Wehrmacht . A number of artists (such as Claire Waldoff ) were able to appear in this popular program, although they were frowned upon or unpopular with Goebbels. It was about creating a good mood; for this, strict standards were relaxed.

Composers (selection)

Artists (selection)



Musicology in the Nazi era

The role of musicology in the Third Reich has not yet been fully explored. After the forced release of Jewish scientists, convinced NSDAP members or like-minded people took over their institutes and ran them as willing executors in the spirit of the regime. For example, the musicologist Wolfgang Boetticher, as a member of the special music staff in the task force of Reichsleiter Rosenberg, forged Schumann letters to Mendelssohn in the spirit of anti-Semitic ideology. The musicologists Herbert Gerigk and Theophil Stengel worked at the main music department in the Rosenberg office and published the Lexicon of Jews in Music . Joseph Müller-Blattau took over a professorship for musicology in Frankfurt am Main. Since 1933 member of the SA, he worked for the Research Association of German Ahnenerbe of the SS on the Germanic heritage in German music art. In 1936 he played an inglorious role in the removal of Wilibald Gurlitt by the National Socialist rector of the University of Freiburg im Breisgau , Friedrich Metz . In 1937 he was appointed Gurlitt's successor and in 1941 went to the University of Strasbourg . Friedrich Blume , professor in Kiel and the first editor of music in the past and present , published on Das Rasseproblem in der Musik . Further examples of National Socialist musicologists are Heinrich Besseler , Ernst Bücken , Robert Haas , Werner Korte and Hans Joachim Moser .



Works that premiered during the Third Reich


Composers in " inner emigration "

Degenerate music

  • The exhibition “ Degenerate Music ” took place on May 24, 1938 in Düsseldorf as part of the Reichsmusiktage , but had less resonance than the similar picture exhibition in Munich.

Special announcement fanfare

Music in the concentration camp

In almost all National Socialist camps there was music as part of everyday prisoners' lives . One of the first camp orchestras was created in Dachau . Officially organized in camp chapels and choirs, when singing on command (as harassment, mockery and for the psychological destruction of prisoners), but also unofficially in smaller music ensembles, illegal concerts and the singing of forbidden songs. In addition, numerous concentration camp songs were composed which were added to the KZ part in the official songs canon, such as the storage anthem from the Buchenwald concentration camp , the Moorsoldaten song from the concentration camp Börgermoor , the Dachau song or the " song of the holy Caracho " from the camp Sachsenhausen concentration camp .

The musical and cultural life in Theresienstadt , where Viktor Ullmann and other composers worked, was particularly pronounced . In Auschwitz there was a men's orchestra since January 1941 , as well as a camp band in Auschwitz-Birkenau under the direction of Szymon Laks and the girls' orchestra founded by Alma Rosé .

The children's opera Brundibár is a specialty . Composed by Hans Krása in 1938, it was premiered in the Jewish children's home in Prague . After his deportation to Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942, he wrote the score down from memory. There the opera was played 55 times, with the roles repeatedly having to be re-cast, as many actors ended up in extermination camps. The propaganda film “ Theresienstadt ” used an excerpt from the opera to simulate normality to doubters. Krása, like almost all the other actors, was murdered shortly afterwards in Auschwitz.

Other musicians in the concentration camp

See also


Web links