The Politics of Music in the Third Reich

By Michael Meyer | Go to book overview

1933: Nazi Power, Purges and Revolutionary Promise

The Nazi assumption of power in January 1933, though not inevitable, signaled not an alien experiment, but was rooted in a dynamically interrelated combination of political, socio-economic and intellectual-ideological circumstances.1 Links between nineteenth-centuryvölkisch cultural ideals and artistic expressions with Nazi music policy were especially clear. What had begun in the Romantic age as a völkisch intellectual and artistic opposition to formal academic standards until its turn later in the nineteenth century in favor of affirmative art and sentiment against radical negativism and as the positive projection of a militant and expansionist national community-- the Volksgemeinschaft, had broadened into a comprehensive political ideology, reflecting, justifying and sustaining the Nazi drive to power.2 Völkisch and like-minded intellectuals and artists welcomed the events of January 1933 as the necessary precondition for national and, especially, cultural reconstruction in realization of their dreams about rooted and meaningful art, an expression of the national community it would thus help revitalize--which of course is not to suggest that Nazi power was rooted in aesthetics. The thinkers and artists who had articulated völkisch ideals were not involved in the machinations which brought Hitler to power, while the military, business and political power brokers who figured prominently in those fateful events were otherwise preoccupied. However, the star of those days, as of the next twelve years, consistently presented himself as both programmatic thinker and politician. His genuine love and respect for the foremost embodiment of völkisch ideals, the great artist-polemicist Richard Wagner and his celebrated music dramas--with the heroes of which he was identified in myth-making efforts, such as Leni Riefenstahl's cinematic Triumph of the Will--is thoroughly documented. Adolf Hitler indeed bridged the worlds of "blood and soil" and "blood and iron," of myth and deed. A practitioner of Realpolitik of the highest order, he impressed the world with his ability to turn the table quickly on those reactionaries who had thought to manipulate him, and by the consolidation of his power, reassuring the culture-ideologists who stood to benefit by his success.

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The Politics of Music in the Third Reich
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Glossary of Select Terms and Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Endnotes 15
  • 1933: Nazi Power, Purges And Revolutionary Promise 19
  • Endnotes 79
  • Music Organization (1933-1945) 89
  • Race, Folk Hero and the New German Musician 253
  • Endnotes 321
  • Wilhelm Furtwängler: Collaboration And a Struggle of Authority 329
  • Endnotes 388
  • Index 395
  • Ullustrations 417
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