Of course the Nazis didn't like jazz

13.5.2017 kl. 13:22 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Totalitarian governments typically don't like sexy music. Too much fun, too transgressive. Sombre folksy stuff is usually more to their liking, Soviet and Nazi alike.

Alfred Rosenberg's declining influence in the cultural sphere during the mid-1930s could not rescue the most excoriated and most defamed form of music under the Third Reich, namely jazz. Regarded by the Nazis as degenerate, foreign to German musical identity, associated with all kinds of decadence, and produced by racially inferior Jews, jazz, swing and other forms of popular music were stamped on as soon as the Nazis came to power. Foreign jazz musicians left or were expelled, and in 1935 German popular musicians were banned from using the foreign pseudonyms that had been so fashionable under the Weimar Republic. Jazz clubs, tolerated to a degree in the first year or so of the regime, began to be raided more frequently, and by larger numbers of agents from the Gestapo and the Reich Music Chamber, who intimidated the musicians by calling to see the papers that certified their membership of the Chamber, and by confiscating their scores if they were playing music by blacklisted Jewish composers such as Irving Berlin. Tight control over radio broadcasts made sure that light music did not swing too much, and the newspapers announced with a fanfare of publicity that `Nigger music' had been banned from the air-waves altogether. Brownshirts patrolled summer beaches frequented by young people with portable wind-up gramophones and kicked their fragile shellac jazz records to smithereens. Classical composers whose music made use of jazz rhythms, such as the young Karl Amadeus Hartmann, found their music totally pro-scribed ... [However,] imported jazz records could always be purchased discreetly from back-street shops, while even Goebbels was conscious enough of the popularity of jazz and swing to allow some to reach the air-waves in late-night broadcasts. And if it could not be heard on German radio stations, then jazz could always be found on Radio Luxemburg, where, Goebbels feared, listeners would turn also for political news.