During the Third Reich, the Hitlerjugend evolved into a very powerful political youth organisation whose leadership, the Reichsjugendführung (RJF), soon began to control & direct every aspect of music, from the recruitment of musicians and the selection of songs & music, to setting & laying down the very strict standards required for German musical education.
However, the RJF realised that to achieve its aims a completely new generation of politically motivated young musicians had to be raised & trained from scratch. So between 1934 and 1936, detailed plans were developed & implemented for the creation of ‘Musikschulen für Jugend und Volk’ (Music Schools for Youth & People).
It was seen as vital that these new musicians be taught by the ‘right’ minds and so this period also saw the creation of a national state music school, the Staatliche Musikschule Berlin, for the training of youth orchestral group leaders in the required subjects: choir schooling, instrumentation, cultural & educational policy and the theory of civilian & military music.
So, in the pre-war years, gifted young people at regional & national levels within the HJ were sent to the Musikschulen für Jugend und Volk and the Staatliche Musikschule Berlin, with many students receiving grants from the Department for Schooling & Culture within the RJF. From this early musical & political education within the Third Reich would come many highly talented future Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS military bandsmen, conductors & musical directors.
In order to show off its achievements, further integrate music into civilian German life and attract additional high quality musical recruits, the RJF regularly organised music festivals at both regional & national level across the Reich! Such national events, known as Reichsmusiktage der HJ, took place at Erfurt in 1935, Braunschweig in 1936, Stuttgart in 1937, Weimar in 1938 and Leipzig in 1939. Now that the Hitlerjugend had established its musical credentials and successfully taken control over all aspects of youth musical education, many well-known and sympathetic musicians & performers were invited to these, by now, famous events.
Guests included pianist Elly Ney, who observed that “music and culture were in the best hands within the HJ because the youth trusts its leaders without reservation and because their leaders have adopted Hitler’s idealistic aims are a living example to those who lead…”
However, whilst not all musicians throughout the Reich were quite as effusive as Elly Ney in their support, most, nevertheless, appreciated the prominence and backing being given to music, the level of instruction and training being offered and the enthusiasm with which it was being received by the nation’s youth! Accordingly many renowned musicians such as violinist Georg Kulemkampff, pianist Edwin Fischer, conductor Hermann Abendroth, and several ensembles including the Dresden String Quartet, were happy to join Elly Ney in performing at a series of Youth Concerts staged by the RJF between 1940 and 1942.
The musical policy of the Hitler Youth was certainly bearing fruit with over thirty per cent of these concerts being performed entirely by musicians, soloists and conductors drawn from Hitler Youth musical schools across the Reich alone.
It is also very interesting to note that a conscious political decision was made that entry to all of these Youth Concerts should not be free, but an admission charge of 50 Pfennigs would be levied, in the belief that ‘German youngsters should learn that culture is something of value’!
By the time of the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, there were over 1200 HJ brass bands (or Musikzüge), orchestras, fanfare groups and marching bands (or Spielmannzüge), totalling some 36,000 members. In addition, a considerable number of Germany’s youth also gained their first ever experiences of music whilst watching and listening to these bands’ regular performances during the maelstrom years of the Third Reich 1933-1945…
Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2014