Music and the III Reich

Guillermo Coletti

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.jpg

Of all the difficulties that the National Socialists had to confront in 1933, upon their coming to political power in Germany, perhaps the most challenging was restoring to Germany a cultural life of its own. The preceding political order, referred to as the Weimar Republic, had brought the racial life of the Aryan to sinking levels. Non-German, and even worse, non-European elements, had shown a tremendous ability in infiltrating outlets dedicated to information, art and culture, and, not surprisingly, their allegiance was not exactly placed in saving, protecting and enhancing the traditionis of the German people.

Statistics can effectively speak of the alienation the Germans suffered in their own homeland: 3 out of 4 newspapers were owned by individuals of Jewish ancestry, 70% of the movie houses were also under Jewish proprietorship; in 1931 Jews wrote 119 film scripts of the total production of 144 feature films and Jews were in charge of producing 77% of all the movies. Semites were using their heavy influence in the media and the Arts to advance their anti-National agenda. Raceless aesthetic expressions, like Dadaism and crude Eroticism, were made fashionable and promoted, while Classicism, in all of its forms, was submerged in ostracism and many times, even censorship. The rejection and displacement of Classicist expressions was the manifestation of a more subversive attitude: that of rejecting Traditionalism. Berlin theaters, for example, were performing renditions of “William Tell” in which all the original mention to honor and loyalty to the Fatherland had been deleted with surgical precision. That state of affairs, translated to modern day, can find its parallel in the Disney production of “Hercules”, where the ancient Aryan hero was made to look like a sodomite on steroids. To put it in current politically-correct terms, Germany needed some cultural and social ‘healing’. In this regard, Adolf Hitler had announced the cultural task of National Socialism in a speech given back on April 27, 1923. On that occasion the Führer said:

“Clear away the Jews! Our own people has enough genius; we need no Hebrews. If we were to put in their place intelligences drawn from the great body of our people, then we should have recovered the bridge which leads to the community of the people. (…) Finally we need a reform in the sphere of art, literature, and the theater. The government must see to it that its people is not poisoned. There is a higher right which is based on the recognition of that which harms a people, and that which harms a people must be done away with.”

At a later date, on March 23, 1933, Adolf Hitler stated:

“(about the) … Political purification of our public life the Government of the Reich will undertake a thorough moral purging of the body corporate of the nation. The entire educational system, the theater, the cinema, literature, the press, and the wireless; all these will he used as means to this end and valued accordingly. They must all serve for the maintenance of the eternal values present in the essential character of our people. Art will always remain the expression and reflection of the longings and the realities of an era. The neutral attitude of aloofness is rapidly disappearing. Heroism is coming forward passionately and will in the future shape and lead political destiny. It is the task of art to be the expression of this determining spirit of the age. Blood and race will once more become the source of artistic intuition…”

A Germanic Renaissance

At an unprecedented pace, the German Renaissance was becoming visible in all its splendor. A once defeated society, marginalized under humiliating conditions imposed by the winning nations of World War I, experiencing the most rampant inflationary period recorded in Western history, beaten by unemployment and sociopolitical chaos, had turned into the most dynamic and productive nation of its time. Optimism replaced pessimism, Volkish art replaced degenerate art. The Aryan was about to live one of the most creative and exciting times of his history.

There was no doubt that a new, fresh breeze was blowing in the cultural life of Germany. The nonsense of such anarchic art concepts as “if you like it it is art” (as Pablo Picasso loved to repeat) were to be part of the past. As a key part in this new era full of vitality, Alfred Rosenberg, leading National Socialist philosopher, stated that “the ultimate goal of Western art creation is the awakening of the spirit”. A diametrically opposed concept today rewards the likes of Snoop Doggy Dog, Tupak Shakur and Niggers with Attitude, to name but a few.

Wagner, Odin and Race

Richard Wagner, as few other Classical composers, understood the value of Volkish-rooted art forms. By centering his operas around myths and heroes from an era when the Aryan world was closer to its purest state, Wagnerian operas are frequently appropriate scenarios for Odin, Thor, Valhala, Valkyrs and other Pagan entities, thus keeping alive the oldest of traditions of a very distinct racial way of life. Just as many Skinhead Rock bands today hail the natural vitality of the Aryan man, Wagner’s heroes were masculine, warriorlike and driven by the forces of Nordic-Western ancestral legends. This racial awareness, and its powerful presence throughout his masterpieces, combined with his political consciousness, created a musical treasure that well transcended his times. How timely was to be Max Lorenz’s 1944 performance of Siegmund in the Act I of Die Walküre (available from Historic Records), “So let the Volsung blood increase!”. For many, the Allies’ victory over the forces of the Axis was just a real life Ragnarok (Asgaard had succumbed to the forces of the creatures of the underworld in 1945). The great German composer has demonstrated to have extensive knowledge not only of the German character, but also of the Jews’. About them, he said: “the Jew is innately incapable of enouncing himself to us artistically… emancipation from the yoke of Judaism appears to us the greatest of necessities” (Judaism in Music, available from Liberty Bell Publications). As if enjoying a pan-Historical kinship, Adolf Hitler also was cognizant of such Jewish artlessness: “(The Jew) has never founded any civilization, though he has destroyed civilizations by the hundred. He possesses nothing of his own creation to which he can point. Everything that he has is stolen. Foreign peoples, foreign workmen build him his temples, it is foreigners who create and work for him: it is foreigners who shed their blood for him. He knows no ‘people’s army’: he has only hired mercenaries who are ready to go to death on his behalf. He has no art of his own: bit by bit he has stolen it all from the other peoples or has watched them at work and then made his copy. He does not even know how merely to preserve the precious things that others have created: as he turns the treasures over in his hand they are transformed into dirt and dung”, (from a speech given on July 28, 1922). During the twelve years of life of the Third Reich, Wagnerian works were performed countless times. Hitler, himself a faithful Wagner ‘fan’, was to attend concerts regularly. According to memoirs of many men who worked close to Hitler, and other men in government, the Führer’s inclination for Wagner was so strong, that sometimes it “gave the appearance that for him there was nothing else in the musical world” (according to the book Wer War Goebbels?, by Wilfred von Oven). Hitler favored in particular those performances by Wilhelm Furtwängler, by all accounts his favorite conductor. Furtwängler’s understanding with the Berlin Philharmonic was so intense, he called the orchestra his ‘right arm’.

Music Treasures on CD

I’m frequently asked for advice on what Classical compact discs to buy. I generally recommend my friends to stay away from performances of Wagner by Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboim or some other non-European superstars of the entertainment “industry”. The selection of excellent material is enormous; there is no real need to subsidize music of inferior quality. Today, due in part to the advancement of recording and remastering techniques, many of the greatest musical performances from the Third Reich are available for us to enjoy on Compact Disc. The high quality of these Compact Discs would happily surprise even the most refined and demanding audiophiles. The only flaw that I’ve found in some live recordings is an occassional repetitive sneezing or coughing, which in any case only stimulates one’s own imagination to speculate who was the jerk who didn’t just get up and leave, or perhaps to quickly blame an overly enthusiastic brownshirt who had a few too many beers on his way to the Opera House; brownshirts seem to get the heat for a lot of things, anyway. When the Berlin Wall fell, some seven years ago, independent recording companies (largely Italian and German) had the unprecedented opportunity to market this unique legacy. Until then, most of this precious material was just collecting dust in archives in Eastern Germany. Today we have plenty of opportunities that we should take advantage of.

For many years it has been easy to obtain cassette or vinyl copies of NSDAP marches, as well as marches from the SS, the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the Kriegsmarine, etc. I will assume that the reader is already familiarized with these works or that, at least, they don’t need introduction. There is something new in addition to the traditionally obtainable musical productions of the III Reich. From Classical music to top radio hits, a massive repertoire of musical production of the National Socialist era is now available for all of us to enjoy. Some of these recordings are witness, not only to the dedicated idealism of the times, but also to the heroic fighting. An excellent example of that is Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto’s” version by pianist Walter Gieseking (available from Music & Arts Records); during certain moments of this recording heavy antiair gunfire can be heard, as fighting developed between the Allies and the NS warriors who defended Berlin in 1944 (most likely French volunteers from the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen-SS). Perhaps to that singular circumstance may also be attributed the reason of the unusually energetic character of this version. Although the Third Reich seemed to have put particular interest on producing the works of German composers, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that the production of music during the III Reich was exclusively that way. Cultural exchange with Italy was quite busy, Italian Opera singers had starred in German feature films, and television, still in its very early days, displayed entertainers from diverse European backgrounds. Also, a good example of illustrating the pan-European character of the artistic activity is a well elaborated live production of “Carmen”, composed by Bizet, a Frenchman; it has been suggested that Dr. Josef Goebbels himself was directly involved in this project, in which the stage appearance of soldiers was represented by men in SS uniforms. Unfortunately no film was taken of that show, so we have to content ourselves with eyewitness accounts. At this point it may come to one’s mind, what were they doing playing Beethoven, and experimenting with stereo recording techniques, while the invading hordes were nearing, in a recent statement (around 1994) by baritone Hans Hotter: “There was not enough food. It was difficult to travel. One concert I sang was interrupted by air raids three times… I went through 160 air raids… There was a mentality among people that helped to create special things… This was the only way we could prove that we were doing the best we could for culture”. Although not a National Socialist himself, Hans Hotter could not escape the exciting creative spirit of the days. The commitment of the musicians in particular, and also of people involved in other artistic expressions, was so strong, that the term “romanticism of steel” was commonly used as a very accurate description of the idealism in determination that was inspired by the National Socialist ideals which had triggered the German Revolution. But of course, not only Classical music was produced, recorded and performed during the years of the Reich. Factually, popular music was more abundant yet. The making of music for movies, live musicals, and radio broadcasting kept busy thousands of people, as the music industry in Germany grew to become one of the most productive in the world. Contrary to what the mainstream media wants us to believe, the III Reich was also fun. People had a wide range of choice when it came to entertainment.

All these changes reflected a greater shuffling taking place in Germany. One of those things that really changed during those twelve years was the social status of the workers, who until then could not afford attending live entertainment. It must be put into consideration that until the III Reich came into effect, Germany was a country with very little social mobility, not only if we were to judge by today’s standards, but also by the standards of that time. For the poor the chances were they were going to remain poor; if one’s father was a baker it was also quite likely that one was going to be a baker. Blue collar workers had little aspiration to obtain significant changes in their social status. Certain things which were not of immediate necessity were not in the aspiration of many people. The Reich brought a lot of social changes to the German, made it possible for blue collar workers and their families to see large productions on stage, the kinds with dozens of dancers forming caleidoscopic choreographies, that were later imitated by plagiarists in Hollywood. On many occasions, big shows were presented at factories where hundreds of workers were entertained, with the best performers, for free. On several occasions the Berlin Philharmonic, while conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, played lunch-time concerts at factories, for the listening pleasure of the workers during their breaks. Thus, in those twelve years, for the first time high quality art was within reach of all German workers. Germany was proud of this Renaissance, and didn’t hide it. The lavishly produced musicals and movies were often reviewed in Signal, the for-export National Socialist large size magazine, which many compare to Life Magazine because of its format and heavily illustrated pages. In his speech of July 19, 1940, Adolf Hitler described some of the goals of the Reich as forming “a Socialist state of the highest culture”. It was a true, volkish culture of the people, by the people and for the people.

III Reich Music on the Market

Finding these Classical recordings, although easily available in any well stocked Classical music store, can be tricky. The times I have asked for store assistance I have not found that much desire to assist. The minute it is being sensed that they deal with someone searching recordings from the III Reich, store employees withdraw their usual California friendliness. Don’t be surprised if most of your questions find a cold “I don’t know” for an answer. But, with additional information you should be able to help yourself and to make your own discoveries. I’d suggest to start by checking at CDs under Wagner and Beethoven, interpreted by Furtwängler, Max Lorenz primarily, also Von Karajan. Koch Schwann has released in 1995 two historical stereo recordings of Herbert Von Karajan, dated late 1944, stereo recordings don’t get much older than that. Once these CDs are found, look for the date of recording, most classical CDs are accurate enough to list the date, month and year of the original recording. If nothing is found in store, then ask to see the catalogs from Preiser, Rudolphe, Acanta, Laudis, and Music & Arts, which are some of the most popular record labels currently carrying this material. Any good size Classical record store will be able to special order from, if not all, at least some of the above listed labels. Now, it’s entirely up to you to have a good time.

SOURCE: Liberty Bell, October 1997

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