Monday, March 08, 2010

Nazi Music

This is a difficult subject to broach because musical tastes differ so much from person to person. While there is some music that has near-universal appeal (some of the arias from "Carmen", for instance), it also seems to be true that no two persons have exactly the same musical preferences. This is a matter of some personal significance to me as I seem to be unusually strongly moved by music. Fortunately, there have been and still are some women in my life who do have largely similar feelings to mine about music. One dear friend once said to me: "I could forgive you anything because of the way you feel about music"

So in a field that is so bound up with emotion it is both difficult and dangerous to attempt the sort of objective comments that should characterize any discussion of history. After many years of avoiding the issue, however, I think I am now at the stage where I should take a stab at it. It seems to me that everything about Nazism should be open to discussion. We gain nothing by any hobbling our understanding of what Nazism was and how it came about and wreaked such destruction.

And the first thing I want to say is that it is a grave omission to neglect music as an element in the historical appeal of Nazism to Germans. Wherever they marched, Nazi formations sang -- be they Hitler Youth, brownshirts or the armed forces. And being German, their music was very good. Germany is the home of good music. German-speaking people are responsible for something like two thirds of the classical repertoire -- from Bach and Handel to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Wagner, Schumann etc.

As a libertariian, any form of Fascism is anathema to me but I think it was William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army) who noted that the Devil had all the good songs. And the Nazis, just because they were German DID have many good songs. There were many Fascist movements worldwide in the first half of the 20th century but none of them were remotely as musical as the Nazis.

So good music had great power to move a musical people and it seems clear to me that music was one of the things that made Germans march for Hitler. Music is however a form of communication that transcends time and space so it seems to me that there is one way that I can support my contention of the importance of music to the appeal of Nazism: I can actually play you some of the music and you can judge it for yourself. I start with the Badenweiler march. This is actually a First World War march but Hitler made it his own. It was normally played only in his presence. It announced his arrival at rallies etc. As an aside, note in the accompanying video that the German army was still using horses to some extent in WWII

The famous song of the S.A. (Brownshirts) was of course the Horst Wessel Lied. It refers to prewar street fighting with the "Reds". There is no rivalry like sibling rivalry, though after Hitler came to power, many of the Reds simply joined the Nazis. There are some interesting shots of WWII military equipment in the video.

The English translation is a poor thing but I give it below for those who understand no German.

The flag high! The ranks tightly closed!
SA march with calm, firm steps.
Comrades shot by the Red Front and reactionaries
March in spirit in our ranks.
Clear the streets for the brown battalions,
Clear the streets for the stormtroopers!
Already millions look with hope to the swastika
The day of freedom and bread is dawning!
Roll call has sounded for the last time
We are all already prepared for the fight!
Soon Hitler's flag will fly over all streets.
Our servitude will soon end!
The flag high! The ranks tightly closed!
SA marches with a calm, firm pace.
Comrades shot by the Red Front and reactionaries
March in spirit in our ranks.

The original is much more moving:

Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig, festem Schritt.
Kam'raden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen,
Marschier'n im Geist in unser'n Reihen mit.
Die Straße frei den braunen Batallionen.
Die Straße frei dem Sturmabteilungsmann!
Es schau'n aufs Hakenkreuz voll Hoffnung schon Millionen.
Der Tag für Freiheit und für Brot bricht an!
Zum letzten Mal wird schon Appell geblasen!
Zum Kampfe steh'n wir alle schon bereit!
Bald flattern Hitlerfahnen über alle Straßen.
Die Knechtschaft dauert nur mehr kurze Zeit!
Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig-festem Schritt.
Kameraden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen,
Marschieren im Geist in unseren Reihen mit.

Then there is Vorwärts, Vorwärts -- the quite wonderful song of the Hitler Youth. It absolutely EXUDES dedication and heroism. The power of it may perhaps be judged from the fact that it is still illegal to play or sing it in Germany today. The words are actually quite simple and that may be the reason why some commenters describe them as banal -- but those who sang it certainly did not see it that way. They lived it during the closing stages of the war -- displaying great heroism in defending their country. The idealism is probably one of the reasons why those survivors of the Hitler Youth who are still alive today often have warm memories of their time in the Hitler Youth.

I could not find a translation online so I have done a rough translation myself. I have been translating German poetry into English poetry since I was 15 but I don't have time for that at the moment. Refrain and first verse only in the video above.


Uns're Fahne flattert uns voran. Our flag flutters before us
In die Zukunft ziehen wir Mann für Mann We trek into the future as man for man
Wir marschieren für Hitler We march for Hitler
Durch Nacht und durch Not Through night and need
Mit der Fahne der Jugend With the flag of youth
Für Freiheit und Brot. For freedom and bread
Uns're Fahne flattert uns voran, Our flag flutters before us
Uns're Fahne ist die neue Zeit. Our flag is the new time
Und die Fahne führt uns in die Ewigkeit! And the flag leads us into eternity
Ja die Fahne ist mehr als der Tod! Yes the flag is more to us than death

Vorwärts! Vorwärts! Forwards, forwards
Schmettern die hellen Fanfaren, Blare the bright fanfares
Vorwärts! Vorwärts! Forwards, forwards
Jugend kennt keine Gefahren. Youth knows no danger
Deutschland, du wirst leuchtend stehn Germany, you will brightly stand
Mögen wir auch untergehn. We also wish to go down
Vorwärts! Vorwärts! Forwards, forwards
Schmettern die hellen Fanfaren, Blare the bright fanfares
Vorwärts! Vorwärts! Forwards, forwards
Jugend kennt keine Gefahren. Youth knows no danger
Ist das Ziel auch noch so hoch, No matter how high the goal
Jugend zwingt es doch. Youth will achieve it

Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Wir sind der Zukunft Soldaten. We are the soldiers of the future
Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Träger der kommenden Taten. Bearers of noble deeds
Ja, durch unsre Fäuste fällt Yes, through our fists fall
Wer sich uns entgegenstellt Anyone who opposes us
Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Wir sind der Zukunft Soldaten. We are the soldiers of the future
Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Träger der kommenden Taten. Bearers of noble deeds
Führer, wir gehören dir, Leader, we belong to you
Wir Kameraden, dir! We are your comrades

There is of course much more but the above will hopefully give you the idea. My apologies to any Jewish readers who may be offended by this post but Wagner is performed in Israel these days so I think the time has come when music can be judged as music, regardless of its appalling associations.


Consider "IF"

George W. Bush had been the first President to need a teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how he inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes?

If George W. Bush had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take Laura Bush to a play in NYC, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had reduced your retirement plan's holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVDs, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought this embarrassingly narcissistic and tacky?

If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia , would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent "Austrian language," would you have brushed it off as a minor slip?

If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, would you have winced in embarrassment?

If George W. Bush had mis-spelled the word "advice" would you have hammered him for it for years like Dan Quayle and potatoe as proof of what a dunce he is?

If George W. Bush had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he's a hypocrite?

If George W. Bush's administration had okayed Air Force One flying low over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown Manhattan causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually get what happened on 9-11?

If George W. Bush had failed to send relief aid to flood victims throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in New Orleans , would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue with claims of racism and incompetence?

If George W. Bush had created the position of 32 Czars who report directly to him, bypassing the House and Senate on much of what is happening in America , would you have approved.

If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved?

If George W Bush had proposed to double the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?

So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive? Can't think of anything? Don't worry. He's done all this in less than a year -- so you'll have three years to come up with an answer.



Iceland: Voters reject plan to bail out British, Dutch bank customers: "After more than a year of watching helplessly as the Iceland financial crisis caused their government to collapse and their economy to crumble, many Icelanders woke up Sunday feeling that they finally had something to celebrate. With more than 98 percent of the ballots from Saturday’s nationwide referendum counted, more than 90 percent of voters have resoundingly rejected a $5.3 billion plan to pay off Britain and the Netherlands for debts spawned by the collapse of an Icelandic Internet bank.” [I can't for the life of me see why the ordinary citizens of a country should pay the debts of a failed commercial business]

Defiant Iraqis vote despite intimidation, killings: "The voting is done. Now comes time for counting. Officials at Baghdad’s Data Entry Center have begun counting the millions of votes that will decide which of the 6,200 candidates will fill Iraq’s 325 parliamentary seats and who will become Iraq’s next prime minister. The government imposed an 8 p.m. curfew for Baghdad.”

ACLU ad calls Obama “Bushlike”: "The possibility that President Obama could send the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks to a military tribunal has earned him the highest insult from the left — that he’s another George W. Bush. A full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times left no doubt as to how the American Civil Liberties Union feels about the possibility of the president reversing the decision to send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators to civilian court. ‘What will it be Mr. President?’ the ad asks in boldfaced type. ‘Change or more of the Same?’ In the middle of those words are four photos that show Obama’s face morphing into Bush’s.”

TN: Tea party gets GOP candidates’ attention: "Tea party activists have helped a Republican win Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat. They have propelled the Texas governor to a third nomination. And they have shaken up races in New York, New Jersey and Virginia. Can they do it this summer in Tennessee? With more than one in four Tennesseans expressing sympathy for the goals of the movement, the Republican primary for governor — and possibly also the general election — could turn on who tea party voters support in August. … Meanwhile, the movement has given hope to at least one dark horse candidate."

Busting the well-endowed: "In the face of crushing deficits, is Washington finally serious about curbing its profligate ways? The clearest indication that the answer is ‘no’ is the continued existence of the three national endowments and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Together, they constitute no-brainer cuts — not only because the original rationale of these programs was daft but because their impact is so negligible that nixing them requires no forethought.”

Your congressman, shaper of souls: "Aristotle’s remarks in his Politics struck me as quaint and almost silly when I first read them in college: The statesman or legislator must mold his subjects like a potter molding a vase (book 7, part 4), and must shape future citizens by prescribing their education, even down to what kind of music they should be taught (book 8, part 3). The goal of politics is to perfect virtue (book 7, part 1) according to the constitution (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy) that is best suited to the basic temperament of the citizens (book 3, part 7). At the time I laughed, thinking that the state was just an impartial referee. It caught criminals and fought our enemies. Boy, was I wrong, on both counts: The legislator of course is not an impartial referee, and the laws do shape citizens, down to their very character.”

Road to ruin: "We invented the federal Highway Trust Fund in 1956, promising motorists and truckers that all proceeds from a new federal gas tax would be spent on building the interstate system. They aren’t. Congress has expanded federal highway spending beyond interstates to all types of roadways. And ever since 1982, a portion of those ‘highway user taxes’ have been diverted to urban transit. Today, the federal role in transportation includes mandating sidewalks, funding bike paths, and creating scenic trails. As a result, spending exceeds gas-tax revenues and the Highway Trust Fund is broke. Some claim this is because the 18.3-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax needs to be raised. But drivers can fairly put the blame on the fact that 25 percent of gas-tax funds are diverted to non-highway uses.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)



Librarian said...

I'm Jewish and have no problem with the article on Nazi marching songs. I think that kind of music is stirring even if it was for a bad cause.

Anonymous said...

Ah...of course! Utterly fascinating.