The Latymer School History Magazine - page 28

Nazi propaganda
against jazz music
Hitler used music as an
effective propaganda tool;
once in power Hitler
controlled the music that
was composed and
performed throughout
Hitler was especially proud
of the music of Germany’s
history. Hitler believed that
'Aryans were the bearers of
human cultural
development' and that the
best art was rooted in the
traditions of Germany. He
considered three
composers in particular to
be the ‘musical greats’ of
the Reich – Beethoven,
Wagner and Bruckner. His
favourite composer and the
one most associated with
his dictatorship was
Wagner, of whom he said, 'I
recognise in Wagner my
only predecessor…I regard
him as a supreme prophetic
figure'; for someone to
understand the Nazi party
they had to 'first know
Wagner'. In fact Wagner
was a keen anti-semite; he
wrote an essay called The
Jew in Music in which he
argued that Jewish people
were inferior and had no
place in European culture.
Wagner was a dramatic
composer and Hitler
borrowed this oratorical style
of addressing rallies of his
supporters. Neuschawer
argues that Hitler created
compelling drama and
spectacle by using elements
from grand opera and
communal singing, and
repetitions of ‘Heil’. Other
historians note the
comparison between the
repetitious phrases Hitler
used and the leitmotifs in
Wagner’s music.
Hitler had very clear views
about which music was
Aryan. He disliked discordant
and atonal music and was
even rather unenthusiastic
about Wagner’s more
chromatic music.
Musicologists were tasked
with defining what and what
was not ‘pure German music’,
which largely depended on
the race of the composer
and the interpretation of the
listener. Goebbels said,
'Jewry and German music,
those are opposites, which
by their nature stand in
harshest contradictions to
each other.' Music by such
great composers as
Mendelssohn and Meyer
were banned because they
were Jewish, while
Schoenberg was not only
Jewish but his music too
radical for Hitler as well.
Famous Jewish conductors
such as Otto Klemperer fled
Germany for their lives and
immediately after Hitler
came to power he
encouraged Nazis in the
Combat League for German
Culture to disrupt musical
performances that had
Jewish musicians playing in
them. In April 1933 the Law
for the Re-establishment of
the Civil Service was
introduced which banned
Jewish conductors, singers
and music teachers, but
beyond racial classification,
the Nazi Party found it hard
to determine exactly what
defined music as
degenerate. An exhibition of
‘degenerate music’ in
Dusseldorf in 1938 was
particularly controversial
because some of the pieces
included were widely
popular in Germany.
Mendelssohn’s A
Midsummer Night’s Dream
continued to be performed.
The Nazi Party wanted
Germany to be seen as a
nation rooted in musical
history, and saw music as a
means of emotionally
controlling the people, whilst
Party officials wanted to be
seen as musical connoisseurs
and explained the need to
ban Jewish music on the
grounds of its inferiority.
Some favoured composers
such as Strauss had deeply
conflicted views of the Nazi
Party. Hitler was a fan
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