Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Nazi War On Jazz

Interesting Thing of the Day once again brings us something that I'd never heard of before but which I find fascinating. Jazz music was verboten in Nazi Germany--easy enough to understand, with its American origins and deeper African roots. Simply to be caught listening to jazz could put one in a concentration camp. But as part of their propaganda, Goebbels assembled a swing band:
The group's primary M.O. was to take well-known American swing tunes and alter the lyrics--often after the first verse so that listeners didn't catch on to the deception immediately. These alterations, which ranged from subtle to blatant, included criticisms of American and British leaders, anti-Semitic messages, and other dispiriting comments. Schwedler's English was excellent, and since the Nazis were careful to conceal the source of the broadcasts, their hope was that American and British listeners would enjoy the music, start singing along, and with any luck actually believe some of what they were singing.

But of course, while making the music freely available overseas, the Nazis did their best to keep it from the German public. Despite the pro-Nazi lyrics, the government could not be seen promoting a form of music it had gone out of its way to repudiate. So although all swing music was forbidden to Germans, the music of Charlie and his Orchestra was the most forbidden, with extremely severe penalties for those caught listening. Naturally, this increased the band's popularity within Germany.
Ah, the philosophy of facism!