Tag Archives | jazz

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.

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The Strange Story Of Nazi Jazz

Nazi-propaganda-posterJazz aficionados may think they know cool jazz, bebop, hard bop, and every other style, but what about Nazi bop? Though they had already passed laws criminalizing “Jewishly gloomy lyrics”, drum and horn solos, “Negroid excesses in tempo”, and plucked bass lines, the party realized that dance music was needed to reach the masses. Via Smithsonian Magazine:

Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels’ strangest effort was the creation of that oxymoron in four-bar form: a Nazi-approved, state-sponsored hot jazz band known as Charlie and His Orchestra [headed by] Karl “Charlie” Schwedler, an employee of the German Foreign Ministry, who discovered he had a talent for crooning.

As “Charlie,” Schwedler—who at least posed as a convinced Nazi—penned lyrics that generally followed a fixed pattern. The first verse of each song would remain untouched, perhaps in the hope of luring in listeners. But the remainder of the lyrics would veer wildly into Nazi propaganda and boasts of Aryan supremacy.

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