Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nazi Jazz Propaganda

Back in the Nazi years (1933 to 1943) Jazz music was labeled “Neggernmusik.”  Attributed (rightly) to blacks and Jews, it was considered pollution to German sensibilities.  Jazz lovers, jazz musicians, and swing dancers were all sent to concentration camps.

When it comes to World War II propaganda, everybody probably has heard of “Tokyo Rose.” But do you know about Charlie and His Orchestra? This was a German jazz band put together by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

Charlie and His Orchestra recorded jazz standards, but changed the lyrics to “anti-British, anti-American, anti-Communist or antisemitic messages. The songs were broadcast via medium-wave and short-wave radio to Great Britain and North America. It was all about taunting and demoralizing the Allies… and trash-talking Winston Churchill and F.D.R. by name.

Jazz was banned in Nazi Germany as “degenerate art.” But Goebbels figured he could weaponize the music and screw with British and American minds.
So Charlie and His Orchestra recorded versions of many popular songs – from “St. Louis Blues” to “Stardust.” And they swung. These performances always began with the original lyrics in tact. But midway through, singer Karl Schwedler (a.k.a. “Charlie”) would deliver anti-British, anti-American, anti-Communist or antisemitic messages straight from the Ministry of Propaganda.
The songs were broadcast via medium-wave and short-wave radio to Great Britain and North America. It was all about taunting and demoralizing the Allies... and trash-talking Winston Churchill and F.D.R. by name.
Charlie’s rap might seem just plain weird, or even a little comical, today. But what if you add some Jew-baiting? Click here and listen to “You’re Driving Me Crazy.”

Okay, now... ready to turn the bad vibes up to 11? Click here for the Nazi version of “Makin’ Whoopee,” which includes these lines, sung from a Jewish point of view:

We throw our German names away
We are the kikes of U.S.A.
You are the goys, folks
We are the boys, folks
We’re makin’ whoopee

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog has downloadable MP3s of these tunes and others by Charlie and His Orchestra.
Interesting footnote: Charlie and His Orchestra were also known as the “Templin band”; the conductor was Lutz Templin (pictured above). After the war, with the U.S. Army controlling part of West Germany, Lutz Templin and his orchestra were put to work at Radio Stuttgart, broadcasting swing music for the entertainment of American soldiers.
Templin’s band performed on West German radio through the mid-1960s.

How Django Reinhard survived Word War II
Reinhardt was a Roma jazz musician. During World War II both Roma and jazz musicians were targeted by the Nazi regime. Over a million Roma were exterminated for presumed racial inferiority and jazz was believed to combine the worst of Blacks and Jews (i.e., “musical race defilement”). Just listening to a jazz record could get you sent to a concentration camp.

Reinhardt, however, enjoyed the most lucrative period of his career during the war, while living and playing openly among Nazi soldiers.
Reinhardt biographer Michael Dregni, recently interviewed by NPR, explained:The Germans used Paris basically as their rest-and-relaxation center, and when the soldiers came, they wanted wine and women and song. And to many of them, jazz was the popular music, and Django was the most famous jazz musician in Paris… And it was really a golden age of swing in Paris, with these [Romas] living kind of this grand irony.
Reinhardt, then, survived because the Nazis loved jazz music, even as Hitler censored the music and, on his orders, people who dared to listen to, dance to, or play it were encamped and members of the groups who invented it were murdered.  Irony indeed.

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