Hitler’s Very Own Hot Jazz Band

via Smithsonian Lutz Templin

Amid the collection of thugs, sycophants, stone-eyed killers and over-promoted incompetents who comprised the wartime leadership of Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels stood out. For one thing, he was genuinely intelligent—he had earned a doctorate in Romantic literature before becoming Hitler’s propaganda chief. For another, he understood that his ministry needed to do more than merely hammer home the messages of Hitler’s ideology.

Goebbels knew he needed to engage—with an increasingly war-weary German public, and with the Allied servicemen whose morale he sought to undermine. This clear-eyed determination to deal with reality, not fantasy, led him to some curious accommodations. None, however, were quite so strange as his attempts to harness the dangerous attractions of dance music to Hitler’s cause. It was an effort that led directly to the creation of that oxymoron in four-bar form: a Nazi-approved, state-sponsored hot jazz band known as Charlie and His Orchestra.

By the late 1930s, swing and jazz were by far the most popular music of the day, for dancing and for listening. But, originating as they did from the United States, with minimal contributions from Aryan musicians, the Nazis loathed them. The official party line was that these forms were entartete musik (“degenerate music”), and that their improvised breaks and pounding rhythms risked undermining German purity and discipline. In public speeches, the Nazis put it more harshly than that. Jazz, Goebbels insisted, was nothing but “jungle music.”

Throughout the war years, it was German policy to suppress the music, or at least tame it. This resulted in some remarkable decrees, among them the clauses of a ban promulgated by a Nazi gauleiter in Bohemia and recalled (faithfully, he assures us—“they had engraved themselves deeply on my mind”) by the Czech dissident Josef Skvorecky in the introduction to his novella The Bass Saxophone. They are worth quoting in full:

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  • kowalityjesus

    You just can’t keep a successful form of human expression down.

  • BuzzCoastin

    the Nazi’s weren’t the only psyopers to use popular music to tame the masses
    the number of rockers connected to the CIA
    is a more interesting & relevant story

    e.g. Jim Morrison’s dad was a high level CIA operative
    who arranged the “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” to further the CIA drug war in Vietnam
    or
    Steven Stills, who frequently boasted of being CIA
    Zappa’s dad was a CIA weapons guy
    the list goes on & on

    • echar

      Just because their parents were CIA means diddly squat. Morrison hated his dad, and was a reluctant performer at first.

      • BuzzCoastin

        well if Jimbo was the only CIA kid in the rock mix
        you’d have a point
        most of the 60′s the Laurel Canyon crowd
        was CIA involved
        (the CIA had a much lower & more positive image then)
        Zappa even mentions their activities on Absolutely Free
        and
        the CIA supplied most of the LSD available in the 60′s as well

        Plastic people!
        Oh, baby, now you’re such a drag

        And there’s this guy from the CIA he’s creepin’
        Around Laurel Canyon
        A fine little girl She waits for me
        She’s as plastic as she can be
        She paints her face With plastic goo
        And wrecks her hair With some shampoo

        Plastic people
        Oh, baby, now you’re such a drag

        • echar

          I don’t know maaaan… It’s a fun idea but! If so I’d like to think it was a test that got out of control.

          • BuzzCoastin

            everything those goofs do usually gets outa control
            but as someone who grew-up with that rock & roll shit
            I can tell you that it didn’t help a thing change
            and in many ways
            kept the old media entertrainment thing cooking
            for decades more than it should have gone

            but it’s not the content that has been the deciding factor
            obviously, since nothing really changed for the better
            the medium itself is the massage
            and now everyone needs to carry about electric environments
            disguised as entertrainment & communication devices
            carrying that 60′s around along with every other age
            and the system is kept in place by
            the somnambulism caused by electric dreams

            Do Android Phones Dream Electric Dreams?

          • echar

            As an outsider, it seems that any or all resistance back then not only failed horribly, but gave those with the power an opportunity to scare those who could not be bothered in the first place.

            Take for example the the Weather Underground. Blowing shit up is an awful way to get people interested in your cause. The “Chicago seven” no matter how clever and rebellious didn’t bring much good, but I bet they scare the crap out of some people.

            I bet the drug dealers did well back when, and the there’s some great music. Yet see what the hippy has been contorted to represent? I am amazed people still use the same tactics trying for change.

            I am willing to be wrong about all of this, it’s just what I see from the research I have done. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know.

            Anyhow, real progress is created through community and education. Specifically educating the children to be decent and give them the skills to transform society on every level. Sadly the public education system isn’t interested in that.

            As for electric environments, I am not convinced that they are this poison. I wonder if the environment can be used for progress.

          • BuzzCoastin

            the concept of progress is an effect of technology

            The supreme good is like water,
            which nourishes all things without trying to.
            It is content with the low places that people disdain.
            Thus it is like the Tao.

            In dwelling, live close to the ground.
            In thinking, keep to the simple.
            In conflict, be fair and generous.
            In governing, don’t try to control.
            In work, do what you enjoy.
            In family life, be completely present.

            When you are content to be simply yourself
            and don’t compare or compete,
            everybody will respect you.

          • BuzzCoastin

            The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon
            and the Birth of the Hippie Generation

            http://www.whale.to/b/inside_the_lc.html

  • echar

    The most obvious continuation of this today is Christian Rock music. Adopting the devil music and giving it a pro- Jesus message to indoctrinate the kids.