Third Reich Military Concerts…

During the years of the Third Reich 1933-1945, public concerts & radio performances given by the military orchestras and bands of the elite Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS Musikkorps, particularly by Adolf Hitler’s Bodyguard Division band, the Leibstandarte-SS, were very much a feature of civilian life in both pre-war & war-time Germany and as such were deemed a vitally important part of the propaganda morale-boosting of the German Home Front…

The co-ordination of these  important social and inherently propaganda events came under the control of the ‘Kraft durch Freude’ (Strength through Joy) organisation, a department of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront that oversaw and promoted public entertainment and holidays for the people throughout the Third Reich.

So it was that this KdF organisation took responsibility for promoting all of the pre-war military concert tours that regularly took place right across Greater Germany, plus all of the major musical events staged by the elite bands of theSS-Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler’ and the Wehrmacht’s leading Musikkorps, such as the ‘Grossdeutschland’ Musikkorps within Berlin’s Wachbataillonen...

When rostered to perform concerts in public as part of their normal everyday military service, Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS soldier-musicians were governed by either the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht or the SS Reichsführung Hauptamt, and were paid in exactly the same manner as ordinary enlisted personnel, which was once every ten days at the rate of 25 Pfennig per day.

However, when they were booked to perform at a specifically-staged high profile concert or national event… or were out ‘on the road’ on tour across Germany for the Kraft durch Freude organisation, a separate deal would be struck directly with the Musikkorps in question, which proved to be a very valuable source of additional private income for all of the musicians involved…

Permission would be sought of the band’s unit commander by the KdF organisation to perform, and a fee of some 5% of the concert or event takings would be paid directly into the unit’s military account; thereafter, pay for the performers was carefully divided up, with the conductor/band-leader earning three shares and each individual musician, regardless of his rank, earning one share apiece…

It was not always possible for the full band line-ups to appear, however strict band rotas were operated to try to make sure that all the band’s musicians received the opportunity to play at these outside concerts and earn a little extra, and to ensure that musicians were specifically selected for certain concerts according to their required musical skills.Indeed the Musikkorps of the SS-Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler’ had, within its line-up of musicians, a superb dance-band (right) that was always in demand to perform at private parties for the well-to-do in and around the German capital, Berlin…

By way of further prospects for additional earnings over and above their normal military pay, all of the top Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS military orchestras in fact were also readily available (and much encouraged by their separate High Commands) to perform at private functions, weddings, family celebrations and myriad gatherings laid on by senior ministers, dignitaries, government officials and the military Top Brass.. an opportunity these highly-trained, professional musicians never missed when offered… their day-to-day military duties permitting. of course!

All Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS Musikkorps performances that were tightly organised and overseen by the Kraft durch Freude, also included those live performances broadcast on Greater German radio, such as the most important Sunday night Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht, (Request Concert for the Armed Forces, broadcast from Reichssender Berlin).

In addition the KdF also took on overall responsibility for organising the regular professional studio-recording sessions that many of the leading Musikkorps, (such as the Musikkorps LAH & ‘Grossdeutschland’) had with the leading German music labels, including Telefunken, Electrola, HMV & Gloria, where these varied musical activities would also result in a similar division of additional pay amongst the participating musicians, plus vital contributions to the individual band’s military fund…

           Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2014

Die Musikkorps der Wachbataillonen-Berlin…

Some while ago several Tomahawk Films’ customers contacted us, actually with the same query, regarding a new CD that had been released in the US which they had bought, purporting to be a compilation of military music tracks all performed by the band of the army’s elite Regiment, ‘Grossdeutschland’, (the army’s Wachbataillon during the era of the Third Reich)… but were bit confused when they discovered that this album also contained a number of tracks performed by the Luftwaffe’s Wachbataillon as well, and should this be the case..?

Despite not having heard this album myself, nevertheless from the track listings & credits read out to me over the ‘phone, my personal thoughts were, ‘absolutely not’..! The ‘Grossdeutschland’ was the army’s Berlin-based Wachbataillon or Honour Guard only, (as well as being the Wehrmacht’s elite combat unit in the field), whilst the Luftwaffe’s Wachbataillon was a totally separate elite Honour Guard belonging to Herman Goering’s powerful German Air Force so providing some of the best Luftwaffe musik ever heard in the capital.. thus being a case of: ‘never the twain shall meet’..!

However, it was certainly the case that from time-to-time certain military musicians within the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS Musikkorps did actually change their arm of service and transfer over to another Musikkorps, if a suitable musical vacancy came up within another regimental band or orchestra… and very often this was directly as the result of a Situations Vacant advertisement posted for the player of a certain required instrument in the pages of the German entertainment magazine ‘Variety’.

But such a move would be deemed a complete change of uniform & service regulations as these career-musicians were joining a completely new branch of the German Armed Forces: so as far as the ‘Grossdeutschland’s’ superb band was concerned, its full-time professional musicians may have moved in and out on odd occasions, but it was always an Army Musikkorps, and in turn the Luftwaffe Musikkorps stayed completely separate as an Air-Force military band..!

So I have to agree with those callers in that whilst this American-produced ‘Grossdeutschland’ CD offers some military music tracks performed by the Army’s elite Honour Guard Musikkorps, to then also include other tracks performed by the Luftwaffe’s Honour Guard does seem a little erroneous..!

I must admit our Production Office ‘phone only started ringing with these customer queries after Tomahawk Films had produced & launched our specific Berlin Honour Guard CD which combines the performances by both of the capital’s elite Musikkorps of the Luftwaffe & Army Wachbataillonen… and thus its title Die Musikkorps der Wachbataillonen-Berlin…The Wehrmacht’s Elite Guard Detachments 1937-1945...as it contains an exciting blend of seven tracks performed by the Musikkorps der Wachbataillon ‘Grossdeutschland’ supported by six from the equally skilled Stabsmusikkorps Wachbataillon der Luftwaffe..

But this whole question of Berlin’s Honour Guards during the period of the Third Reich is a quite fascinating one, for it was actually in 1921 that Berlin’s first Guard Detachment since 1918 was created with the Reichswehr’s Kommando der Wachtruppe, together with a Musikkorps der Kommandantur-Berlin led by the very famous military Musikmeister: Friedrich Ahlers.

Tasked with Honour Guard duties at the Neue Wache, (or New Guard House), in Germany’s capital city, manpower for it was drawn on a rotational basis from army battalions across the country and with the coming of the Third Reich in 1933, it was re-named Wachtruppe-Berlin.

Nazi Germany then re-armed in 1935 and the Wehrmacht was subsequently created and with it, a new three-battalion Wachregiment-Berlin came into being in 1937, with the band re-designated Musikkorps der Wachregiment und Kommandantur-Berlin and whilst peacetime military bands averaged 28-38 musicians, this elite army band now boasted some 48 members.

Nazi Germany’s new Air Force was also created in 1935 and a similar Luftwaffe Wachbataillon, tasked with guarding Goering’s Berlin Air Ministry, also found itself deputing, once a week, for the army as it stood in for the Wachregiment as the Wehrmacht’s Guard Detachment at the Neue Wache.

Meantime, Luftwaffe Inspector of Music, Prof. Hans-Felix Husadel had appointed the highly talented Stabsmusikmeister Hans Teichmann to head and lead a new Stabsmusikkorps der Wachbataillon der Luftwaffe which was only too eager to show off its prowess and panache at many open-air concerts around the Capital and also to the massed German audiences via the Sunday night Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht radio shows.

In addition, this superb Air Force military band was also an important staple of Germany’s wider commercial music industry and regularly recorded at Telefunken’s famous Berlin studios with many subsequent schellack 78rpm recordings produced on their label actually surviving through to today, if you can hunt them down!

Meanwhile yet further changes came in April 1939 with the army’s Wachregiment, still under the direction of Stabsmusikmeister Friedrich Ahlers, being renamed Infanterie Regiment ‘Grossdeutschland’ and its band, the Stabsmusikkorps der Wachbataillon Infanterie Regiment ‘Grossdeutschland’ und Kommandantur-Berlin; (rather unwieldy and something of a real mouthful, so not surprisingly many record labels simply shortened the name to simply Musikkorps ‘Grossdeutschland’..!)

At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, many Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS bands were disbanded ‘for the duration’ and the musicians transferred to their war-time roles of radio operator, despatch rider or combat-medic. However, the army’s prized Musikkorps Infanterie Regiment ‘Grossdeutschland’ (along with just two other elite bands, Musikkorps SS-Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler’ & Musikkorps 12.SS-Panzerdivision ‘Hitlerjugend’), remained in operational… and in fact played almost up until war’s end in May 1945.

Today, some nearly 70 years on from their last performances, it was a real pleasure, (and another yet another fascinating history lesson), to produce & re-master Tomahawk’s Wachbataillonen-Berlin CD which, in my humble opinion, contains some of the very best Third Reich musicianship so expertly performed by the leading military performers of the day….just superb!!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012