Saturday, January 12, 2008

Nazis and Jazz

The Nazis were hostile to jazz on racist grounds and various restrictions were placed on it. A complete ban was impossible to enforce, partly because it was difficult to define exactly what it was: "Americano nigger kike jungle music... The quote is from Joseph Goebbels, who had banned jazz, along with foxtrots and the tango. Although repulsed by the 'terrible squawk' of jazz, he soon realized that swing between the harangues held listeners. The extent of the ban and the definition of the music had both been vague anyway".

An example of racist anti-jazz propaganda is an article 'Swing and Nigger Music Must Disappear' by 'Buschmann' from the 6 November 1938 edition of a Stettin newspaper: 'Disgusting things are going on, disguised as 'entertainment'. We have no sympathy for fools who want to transplant jungle music to Germany. In Stettin, like other cities, one can see people dancing as though they suffer from stomach pains. They call it 'swing'. This is no joke. I am overcome with anger. These people are mentally retarded. Only niggers in some jungle would stomp like that. Germans have no nigger in them. The pandemonium of swing fever must be stopped… Impresarios who present swing dancing should be put out of business. Swing orchestras that play hot, scream on their instruments, stand up to solo and other cheap devices are going to disappear. Nigger music must disappear'.

The nazi stance was admired by racists elsewhere in Europe. In Denmark Olaf Sobys wrote 'Jazz Versus European Musical Culture' (1935) arguing: 'Jazz was not born in nor has it ever been integrated into European culture. It was introduced from the violent need of a primitive race for rhythmic ecstasy and cannot grow organically here. It repre­sents mankind's lowest bestial instincts. Jungle jazz rhythm is an expression of the primitive Negro's erotic ecstasy... The fact that the white race tolerates this sort of thing indicates our culture's decline. Denmark should follow Germany. When Hitler banned jazz, it was a great idealistic act.'

In countries under Nazi occupation, and indeed Germany, jazz sub-cultures survived in the face of official hostility and persecution. In France, there were the Zazous:

'Zazou boys wore pegged pants with baggy knees, high rolled English collars covered by their hair, which was carefully combed into a two-wave pompadour over their foreheads, long checked jackets several sizes too large, dangling key chains, gloves, stick­pins in wide neckties with tiny knots; dark glasses and Django Reinhardt moustaches were the rage. The girls wore short skirts, baggy sweaters, pointed painted fingernails, hair curled to their shoulders, necklaces around their waists, bright red lipstick... They spent a lot of time in cafes, on the Champs Elysees or in the Latin Quarter... On Sundays they took portable gramophones to little exurban restaurants, played their swing records loud and danced...

The Zazous took nothing seriously. They opposed the regime by ignoring it, which was a political act whether they knew it or not. Wearing long jackets with wide collars and plenty of pleats is a political provocation during a highly publicized campaign for sartorial austerity. From time to time the police would raid a Zazou cafe and take them to the prefecture. They would be questioned and have their papers and addresses checked. Some were sent to the countryside to help with the harvest, after a haircut of course. One newspaper wrote: 'We are of the opinion that when the rest of the continent is fighting and working, the Zazous' laziness is shameful. The young men without their hair or collars now are going to get healthy sweating in the July sun, the girls will soon have thicker ankles, freckles on their sweet noses and calluses on their dainty hands. And then the world will be back to its natural order.'

'Danish "Swing Crazies" wore the same costume and hair-dos as the Zazous, they jitterbugged and were described by one journalist as 'an example of the depraved upper class and the result of too much permissiveness on the part of parents and teachers'.

All quotes from 'La Tristesse de Saint Louis: Swing Under the Nazis' - Mike Zwerin (London: Quartet, 1985). See also: The White Rose and Zazous

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

another article about Jazz in Nazi Germany,that I read earlier,censored Goebbels negative speech against it.His speech was politically corrected,in this other article.Like in Tom Sawyer ,recent republished,,the word nigger was cut out.This article refer Goebbels saying it was jungle music only.We need to keep historical speech uncut, to show that's how that person felt