Music in Germany from 1933 to 1949

A radio program of the European Institute for Jewish Music hosted by Hervé Roten


On the occasion of the day of remembrance of the Holocaust which is approaching, Hervé Roten invites the musicologist Elise Petit, specialist of the musical politics in Germany before, during and after the second world war.

Co-author with Bruno Giner of Entartete Musik. Forbidden music in the IIIrd Reich (2015), Elise Petit published in April 2018 a new book called Music and politics in the IIIrd Reich Germany at the eve of the Cold War, in which she analyses the use of music for propaganda since the arrival of Adolf Hitler at the head of the country in 1933 and until the denazification undertaken by the allies between 1945 et 1949.

In this program, Elise Petit will show how the notion of purity conditioned musical life and creations, since the aryanization of composers of the great tradition such as Wagner and Beethoven until the search of an impossible "nazi" music. The analysis of struggle of power between the main cultural protagonists of the Reich, in particular the propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, and the ideologue of the nazi party, Alfred Rosenberg, brings to light the very strong incoherences of a system that will forge the concept of "degenerated music", without banishing it totally.

The denazification, that started on May 8th 1945 by the allies, will pass by a purge of artists related to the nazi regime and by a musical politic rehabilitating degenerated music, and in first place: jazz and atonal and dodecaphonic music forged by the Jewish composer Arnold Schoenberg. On their side, the Soviets will put back to light popular German music, as the authentic expression of the German « people-class ». As mentions Elise Petit in her conclusion : « The break is mostly done by the message delivered by music through chosen texts and lyrics, not necessarily by its aesthetics, which brings troubling similarities of some works ordered by [pro-Soviet authorities] with others acclaimed by the nazi regime ».

This broadcast will include musical excepts of works by Ernst Krenek, Charlie and his orchestra (nazi jazz), Carl Orff, Arnold Schoenberg and Hanns Eisler.

La musique en Allemagne de 1933 à 1949

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