Musikschulen für Jugend und Volk…

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

Soldier Songs in the Third Reich…

As I soon came to discover when producing Tomahawk’s comprehensive & very varied catalogue of original WW-II Two German military & civilian music,  including the Military Music of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-45, nothing in life is ever really new, for many of the so-called classic Nazi party songs & tunes adopted by the Sturmabteilung, Hitler Youth, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Heer, Afrika Korps and so on, were in many cases, simply old Imperial German marching songs or classic German folk songs adopted and adapted with much military pride or fanatical fervour by the Third Reich.

Many traditional soldier songs, from Als die Goldene Abendsonne & Ein Heller und ein Batzen, to pre-WW-1 One songs like Lippe Detmold, & Strassburg O’ Strassburg date as far as the 1700s rule of Friedrich the Great. In fact Wenn alle untreu werden, the official anthem of the SS, dates right back to 1568.

However, under the aegis of the Third Reich, many of these traditional Prusso-German military songs & tunes were now adopted by individual military units and regiments as their own official corps songs; as such, they were sometimes known either by their original historical name or, more commonly, as the song of the particular unit that had adopted it.

For example, ‘Ritter der Nordsee’ was adopted by the Kriegsmarine and became known officially as the Lied der E-Boots (or Song of the E-Boats), whilst the traditional ‘Argonnerwald’ became the Song of the Pionierkorps. Elsewhere, the Luftwaffe’s flak crews adopted ‘Leb Wohl, Irene’ as their own, ‘Es War ein Edelweiss’ became known as the Lied der Gebirgsjäger (Mountain Troops), and ‘Rot Scheint die Sonne’ became the favourite and stunningly evocative tune of Hermann Goering’s paratroopers and henceforth known as the Lied der Fallschirmjäger.

The creation of new and stirring songs to accompany the battle campaigns were also encouraged by the Reich; as such the great German marching song composers of the time, Prof. Herms Niel, Norbert Schultze and Hermann Löns were to flourish through the writing of such stirring songs as Wir fahren gegen Engelland (for the planned assault of mainland Britain), Das Frankreichlied (to accompany the German assault on France), and Vorwärts nach Osten (to eulogise Hitler’s eastern campaign against Stalin’s Russia).

In some cases, new politically inspired words were simply set to old & well-known German melodies, such as the new Hitler Youth march, ‘Durch deutsches Land marschieren wir’, penned by Herbert Hammer, which was dropped onto the tune of the old World War One favourite, ‘Argonnerlied’! 

However, despite Germany’s awesome strength as a military nation and the undoubted prowess of its individual fighting men, the actual subject matter and contents of quite a large number of the newer marching & folk songs penned, with the full encouragement of the Third Reich leadership, were surprisingly gentle and non-militaristic.

Many more tunes now spoke longingly of dearly loved and much missed mothers & girl friends (the names of Gerda, Ursula, Rosemarie, Monika & Annemarie being extremely popular with songwriters and soldiers alike!), and of the varied  regions of the soldiers’ beautiful German homeland, with many fond references to the nation’s abundance of mountains & heathlands, flowers & trees, rivers & oceans, towns and hamlets!

The re-vitalised German film industry, now flourishing under the patronage of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, was to also introduce a number of well-known Third Reich military songs, including ‘Soldaten sind immer Soldaten’ from the film ‘Der Westwall’ and the very popular naval tune, ‘Wenn das Schifferklavier an Bord ertönt’, which was written especially for the film ‘Das Wunschkonzert’ (the movie story of the German Armed Forces radio request show Wunschkonzert fuer die Wehrmacht), before being enthusiastically taken up by the German military and civilian audiences alike.

Strangely, many of the new marching songs, although written by many differing lyricists, appeared to share many common words, sentiments and even choruses, so making it not uncommon to come across songs bearing exactly the same main title, with often only the sub-titles distinguishing them upon first glance..!

In addition, this sudden re-emergence of German songwriters & composers in the 1930s and early 40s, from both the ranks of the professional civilian musician and the trained soldier from the armed forces, also gave rise to more than one version of a song actually staking its claim to be the official Korpslieder for a particular unit, which caused confusion!

This resulted in differing lyrics & arrangements appearing across a range of official military song-books under the same title, as in the case of both the U-Boot Lied and the Lied der Afrika Korps, where at least 2 different songs claim to be the ‘official’ D.A.K. anthem, whilst there were 8 separate songs devoted to the U-Boot arm in the Kriegsmarine song-book Blaujacken-Lieder’..! 

         Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

 

Songs of the Waffen-SS Veterans…

During my career as a producer with Tomahawk Films I have been blessed to receive much help & generous support for my on-going work with the German Soldier Song, not least of which was from the Waffen-SS Old Comrades association in Germany, a very proud organisation unashamed of both its musical inheritance and tradition of being widely regarded as the finest fighting soldiers the world has ever seen.

Sadly it is no longer as once was and despite there being no specific German military musical veterans associations in place today there were, when I last specifically checked, just 33 surviving musicians from the Musikkorps der SS-Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler‘which was quite some number, given their ages…

Obviously a number have passed away since I began my work and studies including, at the end of last year, their spiritual leader Obersturmbannführer der ehemalingen Waffen-SS 1.Generalstabsoffizier der 12.SS-Panzerdivision “Hitlerjugend” Hubert Meyer, but of the remainder who are still with us, some are still able to meet up each year to relive the old days when they served as bandsmen in the Hitler’s elite SS-Bodyguard Division. In fact a number of former SS-LAH bandsmen went on to have post-war musical careers in West German theatres and orchestras, though none of them play today, for as late SS-Musikmeister Gustav Weissenborn remarked to me during our time together in Germany, “their teeth are now like the stars, they come out at night…!”

HIAG, the official German umbrella organisation of the Waffen-SS Veterans Association, though no longer active, very much strove to keep the musical aspect of their short military history alive and back in 1975 their SS Veteran’s Soldatenchor in Minden, comprising former soldiers with the elite Waffen-SS units ‘Das Reich’, ‘Germania’, ‘Wiking’ ‘Der Führer’, ‘Totenkopf’, ‘Deutschland’,Hitlerjugend’ and the SS-Leibstandarte’ Adolf Hitler’, all under the driving leadership of Willy Casselmann, set about recording on tape some of their most favourite Waffen-SS Marschlieder in their true, unaccompanied fashion.

During the research for my book The Military Music & Bandsmen of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-45, Willy kindly shared their story with me:

‘At the age of 76 I have been chairman of the Minden HIAG Association for some 45 years, and as much as my age permits, I manage to hold & keep all the comrades drawn from former Waffen-SS units (and many now in their eighties) together. In addition, and along with the late editor of the German Munin publishing house, I was the main driving force behind the making of our record  ‘Lieder die wir einst sangen’ (Songs we used to sing).

Over the years, and with the help of amateur choir-masters, we rediscovered our love for military songs and at the end of almost every monthly meeting of our Waffen-SS Old Comrades Association there would be an informal sing-song, and again whenever we met up in the beer hall. However, it took us a while to gather up all of our courage before we were able perform our songs for the entertainment of other old soldiers’ associations!

It took many hours of practice, discipline and hard work before we were able to raise our singing to a recordable quality, but we did and then found ourselves gathered in a small room above a beer-hall in Minden to record some of our favourite old songs. Mind you, the function room above the beer hall had a creaking floor, so no-one was allowed to move their feet during the recording; we were also very nervous and our amateur choir-master present had some difficulty in getting the fifty veterans present under control!

However, we were very fortunate that we had with us on that day, along with our Munin editor, a musical expert in the shape of SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritz Bunge, who was not only the former Chor-und Musikmeister with the elite Waffen-SS regiment ‘Deutschland’, but had written the Munin-published book ‘Musik in der Waffen-SS’. He took charge of the session; all went smoothly and everybody was very happy with the end recording, which we released on a limited record run under the title ‘Lieder  die wir einst sangen…”

Sadly Fritz Bunge died shortly after that famous recording session in the room above the beer-cellar, but several choir members, despite their great age, are still singing just as lustily today!

That original recording was to lay untouched for many years until 1998 when, by chance I unearthed an old copy and, re-naming it ‘Die Waffen-SS Alte Kameraden Singen!, was able to have it digitally re-mastered by the legendary Simon ‘Woody’ Wood up at Dubmaster Studios and released, by kind permission of Willy Casselmann and the SS-Veteran’s Soldatenchor Minden, first as a 14 track cassette and thence onto to CD through an exclusive arrangement with the Tomahawk Films World War Two German Archive.

This then led to a second Veteran’s recording that Tomahawk Films were additionally granted exclusive rights to. Released under the title: Soldatenlieder und Hornsignale der Waffen-SS it featured more superb acapella choir recordings interspersed with original Waffen-SS bugle calls performed by former SS-Hornist Arthur Schulte.

In addition, following the SS-Veteran Soldatenchor’s local success with their recording venture,  Willy Casselmann and his Minden comrades placed an advert in the Waffen-SS Association’s in-house magazine ‘Der Freiwillige’ (The Volunteer), appealing for readers and fellow old comrades to send in any German Marschlieder lyric & music scores they might still have in their possession.

Their plea was well received, and from the numerous replies received, the HIAG Association was able, through their publishing company, Munin Verlag of Osnabrück, to compile, print and publish their own individual and very personal song-book (also entitled ‘Lieder, die wir einst Sangen’, after their record title), a copy of which I was given during my book research and which, Tomahawk Films were given kind permission to re-print in 2000.

Interestingly the preface written by Karl Cerff  read: ” The collected songs of a nation are an expression of its attitude to life. The Germans are amongst the most song-loving of peoples and their treasure of songs is varied, widely known and sung wherever German people live.

The soldier’s song plays an important role within these songs as it represents a part of the soldier’s life. It recalls memories of comradeship, of home and family, of a soldier’s love and a soldier’s death. Those who have been in the armed forces themselves will particularly know the strength of a soldier’s song. Such a song had the power to raise a whole company after a great action and enable them to renew their efforts. Ex-servicemen will also remember many a day in the barracks, in the quarters, in the field or on exercise, that was brightened by both sad and cheerful songs.

Of equal importance as the soldier’s song is the folk song. It reflects the soul of our people, it is part of traditional lore & the beauty of the German mother tongue resonates from its verses & melodies: natural cheerfulness or pensive earnestness, joy of life or deep sorrow. They all find expression in folk songs as the feelings of a people from the same way of life.

Even if the hardship of the past decades has dampened the joy of singing, we are encouraged by a re-awakened longing, which in print one only dares to refer to as nostalgia, to publish this small collection of songs that we once sang.The collection is incomplete and worth completing.

We would like to thank all our comrades and friends for their co-operation and we hope that the Songbook will give some pleasure and that it will become indispensable at old comrades’ meetings, at celebrations, on hikes, even at gatherings of friends or families. Let song become a bridge between generations..!”

Looking through it, all the old classics were there: ‘Im Feldquartier’, ‘Deutschlandlied’, ‘Lebe wohl du kleine Monika,’ ‘Mein Regiment, mein Heimatland’, ‘Ich hatt’ einem Kameraden’, ‘Wenn alle untreu werden’, ‘Im Grünen Wald’, ‘Es ist so schön, Soldat zu’ sein’, ‘Drei Lillien’, ‘Schwarzbraun ist die Haselnuss’ and ‘Jawoll das stimmt’ (which appears under a different name as ‘Nordsee’).

Certainly the former members of the Waffen-SSand indeed those  of Germany’s equally famous Afrikakorps need no encouragement before bursting unselfconsciously into song at any given opportunity. But the question often arises in my mind: what happens when the last of the World War Two German veterans are no longer with us to carry on this fine military musical tradition..?

                    Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

Military Music of the Bundeswehr…

Continuing the theme of widening out Tomahawk‘s WW-II German Archive to just before the First World War, then coming forwards to the German Democratic Republic up until the Fall of the Berlin to complete our story of that county’s military music, along with our post-war East German  CD ‘Behind the Iron Curtain’, we also released an exciting a CD containing military music from the West German Bundeswehr’s first Musikkorps and its maiden studio recording from 1957 to keep the balance:

The new German Federal Republic was created 8 years earlier on September 7th 1949 with the formation of the Bundestag under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer but it wasn’t until 6 years later that this new West German state was permitted by its former enemies to raise its own independent Armed Forces. However the first West German military in-take did not take place until November 12th 1955 and that primarily comprised volunteers from the Federal Border Guard, with all candidates pre-screened to prevent former Third Reich-era Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS members from re-enlisting in the new post-war military.

Nevertheless, I know from my various discussions with senior Bundeswehr military musicians that despite this tight screening, at least four former musicians from Hitler’s bodyguard division, the Musikkorps SS-Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler’ and a number of younger Wehrmacht musicians were known to have ‘slipped though the net’ and it was these experienced WW-II veterans that would help continue Germany’s famous military musical traditions into the early days of the fledgling Bundeswehr in the late 1950s and so keep the ‘Janissary’ feel of their pre-1945 counterparts, at least for a few more years.

However it would, sadly, eventually be the Germany’s Greens and their allies who would, in later years, almost single handily destroy the whole historic might & pomp of West Germany’s Prussian military music by watering everything down to an almost unrecognisable image of its former self.. and indeed it was those self-same politicians that were behind the decision to remove the most obvious German Military musical uniform accoutrement, the Schwallbennesten (bandsmen’s swallowsnests), as well as also initially banning the other great totem of the German Musikkorps: the Schellenbaum (’Jingling Johnny’) and of course the ‘goose-step’ with all its Third Reich connotations

So it was odd that their East German counterparts, (who had a pathological hatred of the Nazi era), retained not only the Schwallbennesten & Schellenbaum but also the ‘goose-step’.. in fact  NVA Musikkorps even retained the distinct-sounding musical instrument, the Schalmei that was a favourite of early Sturm-Abteilung & Hitler Youth bands of the 1930s… but whenever this was raised, the brusque answer was always: “these are Prussian Traditions, not National Socialist!” )

However back to 1957 and that early, brief window when the newly formed West German musical arm could still perform in its proud, pre-1945 janissary style and the creation of the Stabsmusikkorps der Bundeswehr (Staff Band of the Army) on February 16th 1957 under a training designation, or Lehrmusikkorps, at Rheinbach near Bonn, initially with 16 musicians.

Some 4 months later, on June 16th 1957, Hauptmann Friedrich Deisenroth took over musical command and just a month after that increased this new musical strength to 50 bandsmen, with their first duties being to play alongside the Bundeswehr’s Wachbataillon Honour Guard in the new capital city of Bonn. In September the Stabsmusikkorps gave its first  performance in public and then in November 1957 it undertook its maiden studio recording session…

Tomahawk’s stirring CD Mit Trommeln und Pfeifen..! is that very recording, played in the true, pre-war Janissary style that harked back to the musical glory days of the Third Reich and includes the wonderful Der Badenweiler and a differing rendtion of the newly de-nazified German National Anthem or Nationalhymn as it was known then.. and as I say a rare and very short-lived window in time before the Germany’s Green Party got their hands on the Bundeswehr’s re-built musical arm and, (according to those former West German musicians I have spoken with), totally neutered and effectively wrecked what was always a very proud tradition within the German’s military psyche…

Indeed when the ‘dust had finally settled’ after the massive upheaval surrounding the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a number of former East German NVA musicians enlisted in the Bundeswehr, but were absolutely horrified at how far their janissary style of music had slipped and were appalled at the ‘lightweight’ music they were now expected to perform in the musikkorps of the newly reunified Germany… and so it is that this 1957 West German recording lives on as a well-preserved example of how military music would still have been played in todays’ Bundeswehr, but for political interference…

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

Third Reich Music in ‘Operation Daybreak’…

Good to see another airing for this excellent Lewis Gilbert-directed 1975 movie over the weekend… I must admit it is a very long time since I last saw this Warner Brothers’ docu-film based on the Alan Burgess novel ‘Seven Men at Daybreak’: the dramatisation of the assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Hitler’s Reich Protector of Bohemia & Moravia..

Featuring the late German actor, Anton Diffring, as the ill-fated Nazi officer and three very young-looking British & American actors Martin Shaw, Timothy Bottoms & Anthony Andrews playing 3 young Czech soldiers, (Karel Curda, Jan Kubis & Josef Gabcik), parachuted into their German-occupied country in 1942 under the operational code-name of ‘Operation Daybreak’  this is that real-life story lying behind the Czech & British combined operation to eliminate ‘The Blonde Beast’!

This gripping movie very much mirrored the actions of the Second World War’s Special Operations Executive-trained ‘Operation  Anthropoid’  that, with the full backing of the Czechoslovakian Government-in-Exile in London, was ultimately successful in ambushing Reinhard Heydrich whilst driving in an SS-escorted convoy in the capital city of Prague on May 27th 1942.  Though surviving the Czech operatives’ grenade attack on Heydrich’s open-topped limousine, ‘The Blonde Beast’ finally succumbed to his appalling wounds days later on June 4th dying, it is said, as a result of subsequent blood poisoning resulting from shrapnel and horse-hair from his car’s upholstered seats having been driven into his body by the force of the grenade explosion..

Though the military operation was deemed a success in terms of actually achieving its assassination aim, Shaw’s character in the movie, Karel Curda, subsequently betrays the other members of his team to German security forces and a terrible denouement to the film occurs, with a siege situation that involves huge loss of life on both sides. However this was to be almost dwarfed by the resulting viscous retribution handed out by the German occupying Forces in terms of the merciless execution of many hundreds of innocent Czechs, including the infamous razing to the ground of the villages of Lidice and Ležáky and the murder of all  their inhabitants in a truly barbaric act that will be forever remembered as the tragic outcome of the  assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler’s effective Head of all Occupied territories in the East.

The film itself, whilst having one of the bleakest of ends I can ever recall in a World War Two drama, is actually a very gripping war-time movie that offers two highly authentic German musical performances: the first being a very evocative rendition of the German Christmas Carol: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht  (Silent Night, Holy Night), performed by a young group of actors portraying Hitler Youth and Adolf Hitler School pupils in front of Diffring’s character, Heydrich. All the more impressive because most of the carol is happily sung in almost its entirety rather than just the odd frustrating snippet that the viewing audience is very often only treated to..!

Elsewhere in this very effective movie is an excellent scene depicting  the arrival of Heydrich’s train in Berlin which is met on the platform by The Führer and the Musikkorps of the Leibstandarte-SS ‘Adolf Hitler’ and again the actor-musicians give a very impressive performance of the ‘Deutschlandlied’, albeit it more than likely dubbed on in post-production..

Like many people I suspect when watching such historic films & documentaries, one thing that usually gets my goat are the ‘anoraks & know-alls’ who immediately take-pen-to-paper to complain about some minor mistake or other that they, (but often nobody else), has noticed, though as a producer myself accept that it is always the gamut we have to run after we have put ‘heart & soul’  (and usually not an inconsiderable amount of our own money into a production or publication), but nevertheless we all still dread the subsequent letter or helpful ’phone call pointing our our error..!

However for once in my life I have to, (somewhat embarrassingly), break my own personal rules about not levelling any criticism at another producer’s work to say that, though I enjoyed this movie very much, sadly the sight of over-sized, gaudy (and plain wrong), Waffen-SS decals pasted on the wrong side of the prop German helmets, plus an additional close-up shot of a purported Waffen-SS infantryman actually wearing an ‘army-decalled’ prop helmet, rather disappointed me and took a little of the edge from my overall enjoyment of this fantastic film.

It’s an easy mistake to make, but I say ‘disappointed’ because it still amazes me that when you’ve bought a book’s rights, invested millions of dollars turning it into a superb motion picture by commisoning the screen-play, brilliantly cast believable actors, shipped the whole production to an overseas location to get the ambience just right and had a brilliant stab at getting the uniforms broadly correct… to then trip yourself up by not investing a few bob more to add a German military uniforms’ specialist to your massive payroll to ensure that a glaring costume error, (that would have many knowledgeable folk in the audience shouting at their screens), isn’t made, is such a real shame..! But it happens, (though we constantly pray it isn’t a goof made on ‘our watch’), and of course it’s very easy to be wise after the event… but even so!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013