Musik im Dritten Reich - Music in the Third Reich - 1933-1945

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
GERMAN  MUSIC - 1933-1945

In the years 1933-1945, Hitler’s National Socialist Workers Party used music as a tool to forge political unity among Germans.
Hitler and the senior NSDAP leadership instinctively grasped that among the arts, music was the most readily laden with ideology, and could inculcate both the youth and the masses with state-serving Bildung.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
National Socialist music education, promoted heavily by and among the Hitler Youth, expanded along with concerns of “cultural Bolshevism,” and served as a counterpoint to “degenerate music.”
Once in power, Hitler moved to purge music and music scholarship of Jews, in an effort to promote the unique origin of the German Volk, and further saturate citizens with racial theories.
In keeping with origin myths and racialism were the Romantic works of the composer Richard Wagner, a prominent anti-Semite who would assume supreme musical status in Hitler’s Germany.
In such a personalized regime as Hitler’s, the dictator’s tastes virtually defined official aesthetic norms. 
Throughout the period of Hitler’s chancellorship, the musical bureaucracy of the NSDAP would struggle to balance the tensions between art music (symbolized by Wagner) and popular demand for music such as jazz. 
Justified by vague  memos from their Führer, Hitler’s close associates carved out their own personal spheres of influence.
Hitler’s unwillingness to clearly lay out lines of command, combined with his intense personal interest in artistic policy, resulted in an administrative situation in the arts which was exceedingly complicated.
In 1933, competing National Socialist entities separately claimed control of all musical theaters in the Reich, proclaimed jurisdiction over all state musicians, pronounced guidelines for publication of musical materials, and sparred over administration of musical culture generally.

Alfred Rosenberg
A key figure in these struggles, and a key figure in any study of Nazi cultural policy, was Alfred Rosenberg.
For all of his failings - from inflating Hitler’s trust to vacillating administration in the occupation of the East - Rosenberg undeniably possessed a keen awareness of the power and potency of art forms as a means of ideological struggle.
In response to electoral defeats in 1928, Rosenberg had fashioned a political contingent upon the arts that would attract the German middle class to the NSDAP.
He also established the 'Nazi Society for German Culture' [Nationalsozialistische Gesellshaft für deutsche Kultur].
In keeping with the administrative entropy that characterized Nazi operations, Rosenberg’s Society for German Culture spawned still more organizations.
'The League of Struggle for German Culture' [Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur], founded in 1930, became an important offshoot.
This organization consisted of departments for music, cinema, visual arts, and radio, and effectively served as the forerunner of Goebbel’s 'Ministry for Enlightenment and Propaganda' [Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda].

Berlin Philharmonic
Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur (KfdK), was a nationalistic anti-Semitic political society during the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. It was founded in 1928 as the Nationalsozialistische Gesellschaft für deutsche Kultur (NGDK) [National Socialist Society for German Culture] by Alfred Rosenberg, and remained under his leadership until it was reorganized and renamed as the Nationalsozialistische Kulturgemeinde in 1934. The aim of the association was to make a significant imprint on cultural life in Germany based on the aims and objectives of the inner circles of the NSDAP. Upon its reorganization, the club was merged with the association Deutsche Bühne (German Stage). This was connected with the establishment of the official body for cultural surveillance, the "Dienstelle Rosenberg" (DRbg), later known as the Amt Rosenberg.

In 1933, Rosenberg’s adjutants took control of German music Radio and Recording during the Third Reich, which amalgamated popular and traditional music history.
Membership in the Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur shot upwards.
From a membership of one thousand in 1932, the Kampfbund saw more than 20,000 new members join up in the first eight months of Hitler’s Chancellorship.
Music thus functioned not only as an emblem of German distinctiveness, but served as a magnet for mass involvement in party activities.
Rosenberg was the early architect of National Socialist cultural policies, but he was not their ultimate champion.

 Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels
On July 20, 1933, only months after the Gleichshaltung, Hitler arrogated far-reaching oversight over state culture to Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.
A philologist and writer, Dr Paul Josef Goebbels welded the whole of German artistic culture to the aims of the National Socialist  state.

Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous orations.
Goebbels earned a PhD from Heidelberg University in 1921, writing his doctoral thesis on 19th century romantic drama; he then went on to work as a journalist. He also wrote novels and plays. Goebbels came into contact with the National Socialist German Worker's Party (NSDAP) in 1923 during the French occupation of the Ruhr and became a member in 1924. He was appointed Gauleiter (regional party leader) of Berlin.

Goebbels would have lasting impacts on German musical culture.

Berlin Philharmonic
The ease of Goebbels’ first task - the co-opting of arts organizations - had been facilitated by the financial devastation of the preceding Weimar Republic.
The Weimer era may have produced some significant cultural figures, but a period of fiscal abundance it was not.
Orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic among them, were actively seeking state support and patronage from any party in 1933.
Guided by Dr Paul Josef Goebbels the National Socialists supplied the Philharmonic with operating funds and in the process armed themselves with a significant tool that conferred the Party additional legitimacy among German elites.
Not only symphony orchestras fell under National Socialist sway.

Dr Paul Josef Goebbels 
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
On September 22, Dr Paul Josef Goebbels established the Reichsmusikkammer (Reichs Chamber of Music).
The Reichsmusikkammer promoted "good German music" which was composed by Aryans and seen as consistent with Völkisch ideals, while suppressing other, "degenerate" music, which included atonal music, pop music such as jazz and country, those experimenting with electronics and music by Jewish composers as they were seen to be of non-artistic merit and produced solely for popularity and financial gain.
The Institute was founded in 1933 by Joseph Goebbels and the Reichskulturkammer (State Bureau of Culture), and it operated until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945.
One of the Institute's primary goals - that of extolling and promoting "good German music", specifically that of Beethoven, Wagner, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, Pfitzner and the like - was to legitimize the claimed world supremacy of Germany culturally. These composers and their music were re-interpreted ideologically to extol German virtues and cultural identity.

Peter Raabe
Richard Strauss
Although Richard Strauss was the president of the RMK, real power lay in the hands of the organization’s chair, Peter Raabe, a musicologist.

Peter Raabe (27 November 1872, Frankfurt an der Oder—12 April 1945, Weimar) was a German composer and conductor. Graduated in the Higher Musical School in Berlin and in the universities of Munich and Jena. In 1894-98 Raabe worked in Königsberg and Zwickau. In 1899-1903 he worked in the Dutch Opera-House (Amsterdam). In 1907-20 Raabe was the 1st Court Conductor in Weimar. Raabe has been giving performances in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands etc. On 19 July 1935 Raabe superseded Richard Strauss as the president of Reichsmusikkammer. For almost ten years Raabe directed the music activity of the Third Reich.

Franz Liszt
He was the first to provide a complete Chronology of Franz Liszt works.

By 1934, the organization consisted of seven departments for composers, performing musicians, concert managers and publicists, choral and folk singers, music publishers, music dealers, and music instrument manufacturers, respectively.
The high degree of organization indicated also that the RMK was not free to set its own course in the arts.
In keeping with his desire to see the Propaganda Ministry become the cultural arbiter for all of society Goebbels would provide the RMK with direction from above.
As scholars would later note, “the Reichsmusikkammer and German musical life were to become a single entity.”
Although orchestras suffered purges of their Jewish personnel, orchestral programming was not immediately brought into harmony with the Aryan party line.

Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn, Berlin’s wunderkind of the early 19 century, initially escaped censure, and his celebrated Violin Concerto remained on the programs of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Stravinsky, another problematic Jewish genius, enjoyed a 1935 performance of “Firebird” in Berlin.
In the autumn of that year, however, the NSDAP cultural apparatus initiated more codifie efforts to end the performance of music even marginally associated with Jews.
On September 1, 1935, Gobbels’ Propaganda Ministry issued a document for internal circulation, outlining a “blacklist” of 108 composers whose works could no longer be played in the Reich.
Of the composers listed, most were Jewish.
Goebbels clearly attributed high importance to both classical music and the elimination of the “Judenfrage” (Jewish Question) within the community of musicians.
After this,  little would be left to chance in the sphere of high culture.

Undoubtedly the two greatest German composers of this period were Richard Strauss and Hans Pfitzner.

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was undoubtedly the leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.
His significant works of the period were:
'Film music for Der Rosenkavalier' (1925), and the operas 'Die Frau ohne Schatten' (1919), 'Intermezzo' (1923), 'Die ägyptische Helena' (1927), 'Arabella' (1932).
'Olympische Hymne', for chorus and orchestra (1934)
Horn Concerto No. 2 in E flat major (1942) and Oboe Concerto in D major (1945)
At the end of this period Strauss wrote the incomparable 'Metamorphosen, for 23 Solo Strings' (1945)

Hans Pfitzner
Hans Erich Pfitzner (5 May 1869 – 22 May 1949) is undeservedly less well known.
He was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist - ('modernism' being the atonal work of Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern)
His own music - including pieces in all the major genres except the symphonic poem - was respected by contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss.
Pfitzner's works combine Romantic and Late Romantic elements with extended thematic development, atmospheric music drama, and the intimacy of chamber music.
His greatest work of the period was the romantische Kantate 'Von deutscher Seele' (Of the German Soul) (1921).
During this period he also composed a 'Sonata in e-minor for Violin and Piano' Op. 27 (1918), and his 'String Quartet [Nr. 3] in C-Sharp minor' (1925).
Other Orchestral works composed during the period include the 'Piano concerto in E-flat Major' (1922), the 'Violin Concerto in b-minor' (1923) and the Symphony in C-sharp Minor (1932).
Small Symphony in G major, Op. 44 (1939).
Symphony in C major, Op. 46 (1940).
Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 52 (1944).
Music and Youth

Trommeln und Trompeten - Hitler-Jugend
With the inception of National Socialist rule in Thuringina and across Germany, the NSDAP conspicuously sought legitimacy through the promotion of German music.
The National Socialists thus merged their ideology with a deeply ingrained German song culture in a successful bid to assume a leading role in the music education of the youth.
Such a perspective is particularly necessary when one considers Germany occupied an elite position at the end of Weimar period as a world leader in the realm of music education.

Carl Orff
In the free-wheeling mélange that preceded Hitler’s accession to the Chancellorship, a number of German music educators and pedagogues had experimented with various pedagogical approaches.
The emerging pedagogical canons promoted Carl Orff and J.E. Dalcroze, however, were eventually overwhelmed by the ideologically-driven National Socialist party machinery.
Working from the basis of German tradition, German music educators were inevitably co-opted by the state. 
German music educators also had to pay obeisance to the racial theories of the National Socialist leadership. 
While music historians were looking selectively for examples of “Musik im Judentum,” the task of music educators became similarly wrapped up with the National Socialist cause.

Fritz Jöde
One National Socialist music educator, Fritz Jöde, wrote of the important role played by music in Kindergarten, a level he clearly believed should mark the beginning of overt state control over children.

Fritz Jöde (* August 2 1887 in Hamburg , † October 19 1970 ) was a German music teacher and one of the leading figures in the youth music movement .

Jöde wrote of Kindergarten as “a conclusive break from children’s reliance on their mothers” and the beginning of “going their own way…to fulfill their goals and dreams as adults.
Kindergarten marked a clear opportunity for the state to sedulously promote National Socialist through ideological texts.
Wolfgang Stumme, an educator and editor, became one of the most prolific advocates of National Socialist music education.
His 1944 essay “Music in the Hitler Youth” reveals much about the climate for arts education under National Socialism.
Stumme enthusiastically cited over nine hundred musical groups united under the banner of the Hitler Youth, including all manner of youth choirs.

Hitler-Jugend Trommler
To this list, Stumme noted the presence of “orchestras, instrumental groups, groups of wind-playing comrades, music teams, sport and fanfare teams, song playing and puppet shows, and radio groups,” all sponsored by the Hitler Youth.
Stumme, in a plea for resources in the waning years of the Second World War, linked the expansion of music groups to the war effort:
This high number of musical groups has arisen from the progress of the war, the beginning of which saw only one hundred unified Hitler Youth music groups.
These groups evidence the foundational emotions of gratefulness that Germans hold toward all cultural efforts of the Hitler Youth; they also prove that political leadership and music education are intimately unified.
The war has established itself as the father of music practice, and formed an explicit antithesis of the old Latin saying that during the war the muses must have silence. The rich number of Hitler’s words [zahlreich Führerworte] on the “importance” of art are like the deepest kernels which the youth, in their action, transform into a constant state of fulfillment.
Throughout the war effort, Hitler Youth raised flagging morale by singing at community events, hospitals, and factories.
In the words of one Hitler Youth executive, performances of the “Hitler Youth Cultural Circle” simultaneously supported the war effort and “exposed the boys and girls to our nation’s most valuable cultural heritage.”
German musical traditions thus fused with party-centered patriotism.
The music of the Hitler Youth played an important role in state indoctrination and public morale, and the visual arts thus validated and eulogized the idea of musical youth.

 Jürgen Wegener - Hitlerjugend Wandmalerei
A mural by Jürgen Wegener shows the ideal musical setting for the boys of the Hitler Youth.
The centerpiece of his triptych shows six boys in a circle, grasping bugle and drum, joining in the anthem entitled “For us the sun never sets.”
Such images were infused with the National Socialist desire to unite the nation through the martial music of the youth.

Leni Riefenstahl 
It was not merely by coincidence, after all, that Leni Riefenstahl chose to highlight group musical activities of German youth in her film apotheosis of the NSDAP, 'Triumph des Willens' (Triumph of the Will).

Triumph des Willens
Beyond mere imagery, National Socialist musical curricula dipped deep into the stream of German folk tunes, creating a base of easily-retained tunes onto which nationalist texts could be sedulously placed.
The National Socialists thus used the classic model of music education first promoted by Plato, while simultaneously drawing upon theories of Martin Luther in order to improve the efficacy of their musical indoctrination.
In an age proliferating with radios and jazz, however, these techniques would be severely tested.
The National Socialists were not alone in their efforts to secure the loyalty of the youth.
Music was a battleground through which the NSDAP endeavoured to wrest control of children’s hearts and minds from Germany’s established churches.
While manoeuvring to separate the youth from the churches, the National Socialist Party also moved to counter secular rivals in the sphere of music education.
As became apparent in Vienna, the NSDAP expanded its influence among the youth by establishing 'Hitler Jungend Music Schools'.
The Anschluss of 1938 had not resulted in the immediate National Socialist control over the musical apparatus; indeed, Vienna’s relative cultural autonomy in the early months of the Anschluss was reflected in the independence of all twenty-seven of the city’s youth music schools.
As part of political consolidation in 1938, the National Socialists opened two branch schools [Zweigschule für Volk und Jungend].
The first of these schools was planned for and administered by the Hitler Youth.

Hitlerjugend Musikschule
By 1942, the Hitler Youth music school had attracted sufficient numbers of students to close down six of Vienna’s non-Nazi youth music schools.
Administrator Othmar Steinbauer, the head of the Hitler schools, celebrated this triumph in a statement flecked with Austrian dialect “Now only the Party is the force for progress.
In strenuous cooperation with the community of Vienna, we set out to create a school fully new in form, through which the Volk, the youth, the industrious classes, and the artistic elite will unite and train for music.”
The unity that had eluded Germans during the Weimar period could now be achieved through dedication to a common musical culture.
Epitomizing this common musical culture was folk music, a genre which took on renewed importance in the Third Reich.
Although Germans had been drawing inspiration from their linguistic and mythical origins since the early nineteenth century, the National Socialists enacted a particularly forceful turn to this product of the Volk.
A 1934 essay by Fritz Stein, a music professor in Bremen, directly illustrates the connection between National Socialist ideology and folk music.
Stein’s essay “On the Nature of German Music” posited that folk music was the key method of unifying a fragmentary people.

Hitler-Jugend Trompeter
Moreover, as long as it remained undiluted and true to its German roots, folk music was an essential means of gaining respect abroad.
The purity of German music, the sacred symbol of the Volk, was also a means of national cultural defense in a hostile world.
Stein described the responsibilities of the musician in the Third Reich: The task of the German guardians of music is to be the intermediaries between art and the Volk. Our experience with German musical culture allows us to understand uniquely; we are the defenders of our highest musical inheritance, of its fullness and fulfilling purity. To further this defense, we must win over the Volk through orderly plans of education [Erziehung]. Our foundational work strives for unity, and we must strive to complete the desired and worthy goal: to create the great musical unity of Germans and to further struggle for the world recognition of German music.
With “world recognition of German music” came the possibility of German music serving as the glue for a new German empire.
Indeed, military campaigns into such regions as Poland and Ukraine prompted German musicologists to press hard for folk music education as a means of cementing the consolidation of the newly acquired Eastern territories.

Hitler-Jugend Trompeter
As the Germans knew from their own experience, political consolidation could be considered complete only when broad masses of citizens could raise their voices to the same tunes and words without fear of reproach. 
National Socialist efforts to guarantee the loyalty of German youth, however, inevitably clashed with ecclesiastical tradition.
Up until the forceful emergence of youth movements in the early twentieth century, German churches had held a monopoly on ritualistic rites of passage.
A regional report from a National Socialist Party Chancellery in April 1943 outlined several difficulties confronting the party in its competition with the churches.
The report stated that although induction ceremonies for new Hitlerjungend had followed all guidelines issued by the Propaganda Ministry, progress in recruiting new members remained slow.
The report complained: These Hitlerjungend ceremonies are still not accorded the importance which they deserve, particularly in those districts where the churches are strong. The fact that a large number of those being inducted had already participated in a corresponding church ceremony was particularly invidious.
The report went on to highlight the importance of the “musical background of the ceremonies,” criticizing wartime conditions for the lack of “appropriate musical backing.”

Wagner and National Socialist Culture

Richard Wagner
In their drive towards legitimacy, the NSDAP took pre-existing elements of German nationalism and amplified them.
In this period, therefore, the philosophical underpinnings of musical culture increasingly rested upon Wagnerian ideals.
The composer’s well-known writings and compositions accorded with Hitler’s ideology, and the cult of Wagner grew prodigiously under the National Socialists.
Wagner Societies, already a fixture of bourgeois [Bürgerlich] German life, further proliferated across the country.
Individuals joined for divergent reasons: some were prompted by Hitler’s nationalistic awakening, others by careerist desires, while others desired to display ideological conformity.
Among artistic circles, Wagner formed the centerpiece of Germanic musical rhetoric.

Walter Abendroth
In an essay in the prominent journal 'Die Musik', critic Walter Abendroth decried recent products of modernism while upholding Wagner as the attainable paragon of German musical expression: Avant-garde music was a foul, anti-Volk bacillus that denigrated the cultural body through cynicism and calculation.

Walter Abendroth (29 May 1896, Hanover – 30 September 1973, Fischbachau) was a German composer, editor, and writer on music

Wagner, in other words, served as a correct model from whom proper inferences could be drawn.

Hitler’s personal connection to the cult of Bayreuth made Wagner’s image all the more powerful during the Gleichschaltung.
Hitler’s intense interest in Wagner’s ideals stemmed from the Austrian’s adolescent self-perceptions as an artist in Linz and Vienna, - cities where he attended many operas.
Some have speculated that Hitler’s failings as a young man en-flamed his deep desire to use the arts, particularly opera and the visual arts, as a means of propelling him to a position from which he could “save Germany.”

A performance of Wagner’s Rienzi in 1906 had called forth visions of grandiosity in the young man. Wagner’s musical architecture, his ideals of Gesamtkunstwerk, and his heroes had influenced Hitler profoundly.

Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (WWV 49) (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes) is an early opera by Richard Wagner in five acts, with the libretto written by the composer after Bulwer-Lytton's novel of the same name (1835). The title is commonly shortened to Rienzi. Written between July 1838 and November 1840, it was first performed at the Hofoper, Dresden, on 20 October 1842, and was the composer's first success.

August Kubizek
The opera is set in Rome and is based on the life of Cola di Rienzi (1313–1354), a late medieval Italian populist figure who succeeds in outwitting and then defeating the nobles and their followers and in raising the power of the people.

The youthful Adolf was "overwhelmed by the resplendent, dramatic musicality" of the opera, as well as deeply affected by the story therein; that of Cola di Rienzi, a medieval rebel who was an outcast from his fellows and was "destroyed by their incomprehension".
After the opera ...
"... Hitler began to orate. Words burst from him like a backed-up flood breaking through crumbling dams. In grandiose, compelling images, he sketched for me his future and that of his people".

Thirty years later Hitler would remark: "It all began at that hour !".

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Moreover, Hitler’s intimate connections to Wagnerian art forms profoundly influenced the artistic direction of state policy in the Third Reich.
This influence extended beyond Hitler’s table talk about the undoubted supremacy of German tenors. 
Wagner’s opera was accorded the highest respect by Walter Abendroth, in “Kunstmusik und Volstümlichkeit” in 'Die Musik', März 1934.
A recent source-book on the Third Reich accords Wagner a great deal of influence, including an excerpt from the 1850 essay “Judaism in Music.”
Celebrations of Wagner’s genius (and, by extension, the creative potency of the German people) were undertaken at tremendous state expense.

In December 1938, for example, Hitler’s adjutant personally authorized a payment of 150,000 DM for Clemens Kraus to direct 'Tannhäuser' (Richard Wagner) and 'Arabella' (Richard Strauss) in the Munich State Theater.

'Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg' - (Tannhäuser and the Singers' Contest at Wartburg Castle) is an opera in three acts, music and text by Richard Wagner, based on the two German legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg. The story centres on the struggle between sacred and profane love, and redemption through love, a theme running through most of Wagner's mature work.

Arabella is a lyric comedy or opera in 3 acts by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, their sixth and last operatic collaboration. It was first performed on 1 July 1933, at the Dresden Sächsisches Staatstheater. The beautiful but proud Arabella is the daughter of the Waldner family, who face financial ruin unless Arabella marries a rich husband. Arabella hopes to marry for love, not money; but when a loving suitor unexpectedly appears, her happiness is threatened by a web of misunderstanding and deception.

Naturally, the NSDAP leadership could justify such expenses with arguments about culture superiority and the need to instil the German Volk with the myths of their origins.

Winnifred Wagner and Adolf Hitler - Bayreuth 
Hitler’s birthday celebrations were typically Wagnerian affairs, although Verdi’s operas were sometimes performed in a concession to the alliance with fascist Italy.
Hitler’s devotion to the annual festival in Bayreuth was such that in late 1944, Hitler insisted that the Wagner festival scheduled for July 1945 proceed as usual.
Hitler ultimately saw the fundamental political gain to be reaped by declaring himself as the paladin of a reinvigorated and authentically German culture.
From his position at the pinnacle of the National Socialist hierarchy, Hitler used cultural to enhance the legitimacy of the National Socialist weltanschaung.
Richard Wagner’s music would serve a vital function in this endeavor.

In 1923, just before the abortive "Beer-Hall Putsch", Hitler presented himself at Wahnfried, the home of the Wagner family.
There he met Siegfried Wagner, (Richard Wagner's only son), and Siegfried's English born wife Winifred (*see below). He is said to have sought out the Master's study, and, deeply moved, stood before Wagner's grave in the garden for a long time. 
Afterwards, he was introduced to Houston Stewart Chamberlain (see'AN ENGLISHMAN AT THE COURT OF THE KAISER'), (Richard Wagner's English born son-in-law), who was of advanced age and could not speak. Chamberlain later wrote a letter to Hitler voicing his support for Hitler's goals and ideas. 
Hitler valued this letter greatly, almost as if it were "a benediction from the Bayreuth Master himself".

Hitler continued in his contacts with the family of Wagner, and it is rumoured that he had a relationship with Winifred after Siegfried's death.

Hitler also became a favourite 'uncle' (uncle Wolf), to the Wagner's two sons, Wieland (left) and Wolfgang (right).
His idea of the supreme expression of opera was the final scene in 'Götterdämmerung', and, when in Bayreuth, whenever he witnessed this finale, he would turn around in his darkened box, seek out the hand of Frau Winifred Wagner, and "breathe a deeply moved Handkuss upon it".
By this time he had seen all of Wagner's operas countless times, and boasted of having listened to 'Tristan und Isolde' and 'Die Meistersinger' over a hundred times each.

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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Degenerate Music

Clearly, National Socialist officials wished to use music didactically, using opera and symphonic music to heighten the sense of Teutonic identity among the listeners.
Yet National Socialist musical policy was not immune to popular pressures and public demand.
Goebbels and his subordinates could never escape the necessity of providing light entertainment for the masses.

Weimar Jazz Club
This contradiction between high and middlebrow culture became markedly apparent after 1942.
The free flow of largesse for opera performances was one arm of a Nazi musical policy within which leaders used enormous amounts of discretionary funds.
When a Japanese violinist toured Germany in 1942, Goebbels personally presented her with a priceless Stradavarius. 
While Goebbels wanted to strengthen the backbone of the populace with extravagant paeans to sacrifice, such as the film “Koblenz,” German citizens increasingly demanded distractions.
Like filmmaking, opera was expensive, but National Socialists were willing to pay the price.
Ultimately, however, distracting citizens with popular broadcast music became more important than engaging them in a polemical musical discussion of Germany’s racial origins.
American music, particularly jazz, had flooded into Germany in the 1920s.
Nationalist responses to this music focused on the negative African origins of jazz, while combining fears of American occupation of the Rhineland.
Entarte musik,” or “degenerate music,” became a frequent target for the National Socialists. 
The National Socialists endeavored to steer Germans, particularly the young, away from such degenerative effects.
In a directive to his propaganda ministry, Goebbels stated: “Publications should be produced in a popular style aimed at the masses and, in particular, at young people, and should demonstrate that the uncritical adoption of certain American activities, such as jazz music...shows a lack of culture.” 
Extending on this theme, Goebbels instructed his subordinate to refer explicitly to “the grotesque distortions which occur, for example, in the transposition of Bach’s music into jazz.”
Germanic music, like the Volk itself, had to remain pure.
Also dangerous to national morals was the music of the new avant-garde, which had reached a heyday during the free-wheeling Weimar period.
Individuals like Paul Hindemith, scarred by the experiences of World War One, had freely released their angst, and in so doing, had vented their distaste for the political and artistic order.

Under the new life of the National Socialists, potentially dissenting voices were more or less silenced.
In a 1934 essay from the newly co-opted NS musical organ, 'Die Musik', a musicologist discussed the orthodox view of the avant-garde:
Everywhere in Europe, we Germans have released the immediate products of cultural decay, which fall under the name “New Music.” This “music” devours our Volk’s living and characteristic art music, directly attacking our healthy origins that presently and by all means long to recover the smallest Lebensraum. This 'New Music's' spririt and essence, is antithetical to the people [unvolkstümlich] because it releases every natural dissatisfaction. Worse yet, it both knowingly and unconsciously denigrates the possession of the healthy feelings and desires felt by the strong, self-knowing Volk, whose music is a singular medium of expression, alert and humorous.
Faced with such pabulum in the mid-1930s, cutting-edge composers like Hindemith and Krenek had left Germany.
Clearly, however, the National Socialists could not stem the tide toward escapism in German musical life. 
Strauss’ 'Arabella', a three-act comedy set in nineteenth-century Vienna, was the most well known opera of the National Socialist period.
The opera’s libretto is devoid of political content, and there is nothing particularly Germanic about the story, other than the Viennese setting.
But given the circumstances, the work functioned as a display of normalcy in a faltering domestic economy. 
Even in the prior period, Goebbels had shown some flexibility toward popular music, remarking: Not all music suits everyone. Therefore that style of entertaining music that is found among the broad masses also has a right to exist, especially in an epoch in which the task of the state leadership must be, next to the difficult concerns that the times bring with them, to intervene on behalf of the Volk’s recuperation, support, and refreshment.
Acknowledging “difficult times,” Goebbels could justify sponsorship of music that might otherwise have verged on the “degenerate.”


German-speaking lands have always enjoyed a special connection with music.
Germanic composers were a dominant creative force in classical music from the eighteenth century.
The National Socialists wielded the legacy of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, Richard Strauss and Pfitzner precisely to justify the defence and expansion of German culture against “cultural Bolshevism and Jewish degeneracy”

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013