From John Ray's shorter notes




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





Another performance here:



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.



Another version here:




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 Straáe frei den braunen Batallionen.
Die Strasse frei dem Sturmabteilungsmann!
Es schau'n aufs Hakenkreuz voll Hoffnung schon Millionen.
Der Tag fuer Freiheit und fuer Brot bricht an!
Zum letzten Mal wird schon Appell geblasen!
Zum Kampfe steh'n wir alle schon bereit!
Bald flattern Hitlerfahnen ber alle Straáen.
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 Vorwaerts, Vorwaerts -- 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.



See also here: https://archive.org/details/u_20210416 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB5pXqs1b2k

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:

Uns're Fahne flattert uns voran. Our flag flutters before us
In die Zukunft ziehen wir Mann fuer Mann We trek into the future as man for man
Wir marschieren fuer Hitler We march for Hitler
Durch Nacht und durch Not Through night and need
Mit der Fahne der Jugend With the flag of youth
Fuer 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 fuehrt 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

1).
Vorwaerts! Vorwaerts! Forwards, forwards
Schmettern die hellen Fanfaren, Blare the bright fanfares
Vorwaerts! Vorwaerts! Forwards, forwards
Jugend kennt keine Gefahren. Youth knows no danger
Deutschland, du wirst leuchtend stehn Germany, you will brightly stand
Moegen wir auch untergehn. Even if we fall
Vorwaerts! Vorwaerts! Forwards, forwards
Schmettern die hellen Fanfaren, Blare the bright fanfares
Vorwaerts! Vorwaerts! 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


2.)
Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Wir sind der Zukunft Soldaten. We are the soldiers of the future
Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Tr„ger der kommenden Taten. Bearers of noble deeds
Ja, durch unsre Faeuste faellt 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
Traeger der kommenden Taten. Bearers of noble deeds
Fuehrer, wir gehoeren 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 article 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.



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