The Music of Prof. Herms Niel…

During the 12 years in which the Third Reich, or Nazi-era, officially existed, military & civilian music was very much allowed to come to the fore of German consciousness under the paternal guidance of Adolf Hitler… and was particularly encouraged and overseen by his arch propagandist, Reichsminister Joseph Goebbels who had, early on, realised the very positive and uplifting effect that such music could have on a people…

Thus not only did Lili Marleen composer & musical genius Norbert Schultze, emanating from the civilian composer ranks, flourish in this highly encouraging atmosphere ultimately created, (so composing ‘Bomben auf Engeland’and some 25 other German classics such as ‘Wir fliegen gegen Engeland’, ‘Panzer rollen in Afrika vor’and Zwei Panzergrenadiere’), but from the military sphere came an even more prolific writer & composer of military marches & evocative soldier songs: Prof. Herms Niel.

As an eventual Musikmeister with the Reichsarbeitsdienst (German Labour Service), he was born Hermann Nielebock on April 17th 1888 in the small Brandenburg village of the same name and, on leaving school as a young man, he served his musical apprenticeship in the small band of the town of Gethin between 1902 and 1906.  In 1906 he then joined the Imperial German army, and was enlisted as a trombonist in the band of the First Infantry Guard Regiment (1. Garderegiment zu Fuss) at Potsdam, eventually seeing service throughout  the whole of the First World War as an acting sergeant and band-leader, before being finally demobbed, after war’s end, in 1919.

In the very tough years that followed the end of the Great War, Herms Niel managed to earned a living as a civilian band-master and composer until the dawning of the Third Reich, whereupon he immediately joined the fledgling Sturm Abteilung in 1934 as a troop-leader, before receiving his promotion to band-leader of the Reichsarbeitsdienst training establishment which had been established at Potsdam and when his work as a composer of many famous Third Reich soldier songs really took off…

In 1941 he was awarded the academic title of Professor of Music, and throughout the Second World War his musical credits and composition output was completely unmatched and very soon he became Nazi Germany’s best loved composer of military marching songs, remembered for creating some of the classic, and indeed most famous and widely known tunes of all, including: Hannelore, Engelandlied, Es ist so schön, Soldat zu sein, Edelweis, Das Frankreichlied, Jawoll, das stimmt, Jawoll and the Kriegsmarine’s Heut stechen wir ins blaue Meer and the Luftwaffe’s soaring anthemFallschirmjägerlied…

In addition to his obvious prowess as a world-renowned composer, one little known fact was that Herms Niel also invented and devised a fanfare trumpet. Known as the ‘Herms-Niel-Doppelfanfare’ in E & B Flat, it was manufactured in 1938 by Ernst Hess Nachf., a famous accordion factory & musical instrument dealership in the heart of Germany’s musical instrument manufacturing region of Klingenthal.

However it is his for his most prodigious military musical output that he will be forever remembered by legions of very grateful military music enthusiasts the whole world over.

To this end Tomahawk Films were again in action in Germany once again several years back seeking out and acquiring as many of his original & most stirring compositions on pre-war schellack 78rpm records as we and our contacts over there on the continent could find…

Having then let archival audio-engineer Simon ‘Woody’ Wood loose in the Dubmaster studio for a further session of his superbly skilful schellack restoration and renovation, we were delighted to be able to add another evocative & stirring Third Reich ‘soldier song’ CD collection to the Tomahawk Films WW-II German Archive.

Simply entitled: Musik von Herms Niel, this very stirring CD collection features 15 of his most famous compostions & best-loved soldier songs including Gerda-Ursula-Marie, Marsch des Gebirgsjaeger, Matrosenlied & Es geht um’s Vaterland, all of which are performed, under his musical direction, by the professional Third Reich Labour Service musicians of his Reichsmusikzug des RAD….  and course no self respecting Herms Niel collection would be complete without the military music enthusiasts’ most famous & most oft requested WW-II German marching & soldier song of all time… Erika..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

 

Collecting Nazi Song-lyric Postcards…

When I started out on the long road of producing & digitally re-mastering Third Reich/Nazi-era military music over 25 years ago, I never for one minute imagined that, through Tomahawk Films, we would have the pleasure of not only selling hundreds of thousands of such historical important albums to collectors & enthusiasts around the world, but that I would also embark on a personal 7 year journey of study that would result in my reference book entitled: Military Music & Bandsmen of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-45 or indeed a new hobby: The German Soldier Song…!

Basing my reference book around the soldier-musicians of the Nazi era, in the course of my research I happened upon a couple of picture postcards sent back from German soldiers fighting in the icy wastes on the Russian Front in 1941 to their loved ones manning the ‘Home Front’ back in Germany and though I was interested in the military Feldpost stampings on the back, it was the front covers that really captivated me, featuring as they did two popular songs of the day, Rosemarie and the famous Wir fahren gegen Engeland..!

Despite having been a collector of Third Reich militaria since that days of my small museum back in my early teens, I had never come across such cards before and immediately set about trying to find a source and so visited my very first postcard collector’s fair in late 1996, armed with my two Third Reich period song cards, which I proceeded to show to any dealer who could spare the time to talk to me.

Unfortunately the general reaction was one of complete mystery, but undaunted I continued to then trudge around as many postcard fairs as I could; even so I only managed to elicit the odd one or two of these rather lovely Third Reich period lyric cards, (which sadly were usually dog-eared or damaged), and the odd, rather attractive First World War card, but I could still obtain no further thoughts from UK dealers as to just how many types of these specific music-related cards there may have been…

Then a year or so later, with just 20-odd cards to my name, two of my new Third Reich music-collector friends, John in the States and Stuart here in the UK,, found that they too were beginning to pick up similar song-cards and suddenly I didn’t feel quite so alone in my pursuit of knowledge!

Exchanges of the limited information available and sometimes swaps of our precious stock began to take place between my two collector pals, whilst two new American dealers I had located, Tom & Greg, very kindly began seeking out such cards, though with the pencilled Deutsche-Mark prices still left on the back of many, it was becoming obvious that they were mostly coming in directly from Germany!

Several years into my study, I was beginning to see a pattern emerge and even at this early stage, (which was still primarily as a part of my research into German military music), and get a feel for what cards had been  printed during the Third Reich: ornate cards, plain cards, coloured cards, those that were overtly political & propaganda-based, some that were purely military, whilst others of a more civilian nature offered the words to the most famous songs, and others not so well known; indeed some were gentle in their picture content whilst others represented a German people fully committed to the defence of the Third Reich…

In addition the same names of card producers, such as Horns-Verlag of Gotha, Robert Franke of Hamburg, Greishaber und Säuberlich of Stuttgart and Verlag. J. Bottger of Bad Godesberg were beginning to turn up with some regularity amongst the production details on the backs of the cards.

Despite my on-going research, there was still a strange ignorance on this subject and even a well-known publisher of superb works on WW-II who has produced three volumes of Third Reich Propaganda Postcards was perplexed. Apart from a handful of cards devoted to the Horst Wessel Lied he entirely ignored the German Soldier Song postcard as a genre and on questioning him why this should be, received the answer that his work only revolved around propaganda cards, deeming my cards to be purely German military only which I found odd..!

So though no further forward, at least somebody well versed in German postcards had actually categorised my song card collection and knowing that he deemed them to be German military was fine, but where were all the listings (and dealers), for such cards and where were all the wonderful illustrations in other collectors’ written works for me to compare my growing collection?

The other imponderable was the apparent random pricing structure, as  apart from the interest and value attached to the overtly political Horst Wessel Lied song cards with their obvious Nazi link, it often appeared that dealers placed a card value based more on what is/was on the back of the card, i.e. the franking and/or the actual postage stamp, rather than the song & picture details contained on the front; for  example I once paid slightly over the odds for two cards bearing songs that weren’t particularly unusual because both cards, when turned over, bore the imprint of the ‘SS Standort Hospital’ at the Dachau Concentration Camp..!

This as a former school-boy stamp collector myself, I quite understand and this has since played to my advantage when I have been fortunate enough to pick up other cards with Nazi songs and imagery that I considered to be scarce, but because they were unissued and blank on the back I was offered them for merely a couple of pounds each, precisely because the dealer in question had seen nothing on the back, such as a stamp or Feldpost imprint, though which he could value the card higher!.

As with my general Third Reich militaria collecting days, I have built up and then sold several Nazi-era song card collections, and am back on the hunt again but as before  I try only collect mint-to unissued condition postcards where possible, ( a number of which are featured in my III Reich Military Music & Bandsmen Book), whereas dog-eared, damaged or defaced cards do not normally find a permanent in my Archive after they have served their research purposes, though after many years of searching, the number of new cards turning up is much more limited,

However I know of at least one new collector, (Ian up in Scotland), that started acquiring these wonderful soldier song cards as a direct result of seeing those featured in my book, so that is at least 4 of us I now know for sure are collecting such cards… Happy Days!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

Tomahawk’s CD Covers – Pt 1

Our production office received an odd e-mail several weeks ago from a chap saying he wanted to buy some of our beautiful Third Reich period civilian music, and was particularly taken with our very popular 2-CD set: Musik in der Heimat 1934-44, (incidentally one of my favourite collections and the series I probably enjoyed most producing & re-mastering in the studio with our archival engineer Simon Woody’ Wood), but “he didn’t like the ‘1950s  cartoon’ artwork and had we any plans to opt for another design very soon?”..!

I’m not sure if the gentleman in question was seriously expecting us to suddenly re-design two complete new covers, just for him, (though to be honest nothing actually comes as  much of a surprise to me these days, especially after 30 years in this business, so he probably did..but good luck with that one, fellah!!).

However his remarks did raise an interesting question about the two images we incorporated on those Musik in der Heimat Part covers, as they’re taken directly & from 2 original Nazi-era/Third Reich propaganda post-cards from the 1930s & 40s in our archival German Song-lyric postcard collection, (Liederkarten), not as he was suggesting, from a post-war, 1950s ‘comic’..!

During the 1930s & 40s, Nazi propaganda postcards featuring famous and evocative lyrics to Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS marching & korps songs, along with much-loved sentimental songs from the Home Front, were all the rage with many following on from an earlier custom from Imperial Germany &The Great War). Tomahawk Films, as a professional Archive, collects these beautiful cards, some of which can be seen in full colour on a number of pages of my Tomahawk-published book: The Military Music and Bandsmen of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-45.

As confirmed lovers of the old German Soldier-Song, The Tomahawk Films WW-II German Archive has been actively collecting these delightful cards for well over 20 years now, ( around the time I started researching my book in fact), yet after all this time we still have no idea of just how many variations on a theme that there are, or indeed were originally produced back then, as new examples keep popping up when we least expect them..! (In fact have long been thinking of penning a Collector’s book on the subject, but I think I may wait until I get an answer to this particular question!!)

Nevertheless, several German Musik enthusiasts who kindly read my book have contacted us to let us know that they also got into collecting these wonderful historical cards as a direct result of having seen them illustrated across a number its chapters, which was a most heart-warming thing to hear. So there is now quite a healthy little collecting field out there for just these exquisite and often quite heart-rending postcards: some also bearing very interesting unit Feldpost frankings on the rear of those actually postally-used during the war years,  thus underscoring their direct military connection with Hitler’s Armed Forces in the same manner as went before in the time of the Kaiser’s armies!

For a while Tomahawk Films did actually re-print a series of 12 of our favourite Liederkarten, again taken from originals in our German archive, and these sold well for a number of years, so keep your eyes open for them as I dare say a number of sets are still about; they were clearly marked on the back as being a ‘Tomahawk Films product’ so collectors would know to buy them only as a modern re-print.

Very often they were acquired to frame or use as a German language guide to aid their understanding a little better when listening to Tomahawk’s various Soldier Song CDs, such as Die Waffen-SS Alte Kameraden Singen!, and not buy them thinking they were original pre-1945 collector’s items, like the three beauties from our collection featured on this page..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012