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

 

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

 

Lale Andersen & ‘Lili Marleen’…

From the early days of Tomahawk Films when I stated to delve deeper into the field of Third Reich music and began to uncover the history and myriad stories that lay behind both the wonderful military & civilian songs, like many such enthusiasts, it was the distinctive war-time voice of Lale Andersen, the German equivalent of our British ‘Forces Favourite’ that soon caught my attention and I have been captivated by her voice and an assiduous collector of her images ever since…

Born Liese-Lotte, Helene, Berta, Bunnenberg in Bremerhaven on March 23rd 1905, the daughter of a dock-worker, she was first married, at the age of 17, to a local painter Paul Wilke, but following their later divorce (and after their third child), she moved to Berlin in 1929. Just two years later she found herself debuting on stage at the famous Kabarett der Komiker and became a regular feature of the city’s famous night-club scene in the immediate pre-war years of the late 1930’s. This was before Radio Belgrade was to catapult her to stardom, thanks to one abiding song that will forever live in the hearts of almost every soldier that served in World War Two.

Norbert Schultze’s Lied eines Jungen Wachtposten’ (better known as ‘Lili Marleen’) became not only an favourite with soldiers of all nations, but was subsequently recorded by many artistes around the world; however such was the power & emotion that Lale Andersen put into each performance of the song, that every German soldier instantly fell in love with her; and not just German soldiers. In the wake of the 8th Army’s success in North Africa, many members of the Afrikakorps found themselves prisoners of the Allies and, as many British veterans will testify, the young German prisoners, now safe from the fighting, well fed & provided with cigarettes, were happy to sing to keep themselves entertained and their spirits lifted.

It was also this world-wide fame with soldiers of all nations that was to save Lale Andersen’s life, for whilst an undoubted favourite with the combat troops at the front, Lale was to fall foul of the Nazi authorities and come close to finding herself sent to one of the German Reich’s many concentration camps.

Just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War Lale, who was living in Zurich with her lover Rolf Liebermann, (a Swiss-Jewish composer in whose pre-war plays she had acted), was asked to perform at a private birthday party for a high-ranking Nazi official at Lübeck as part of a troupe of famous German celebrities. However she was so upset by the anti-Jewish comments made by those present that she left early, totally disillusioned with life under Nazi rule!

Propagandaminister Goebbels, who liked to claim responsibility for all burgeoning show-business careers, ( and was by now well aware that Lale Andersen was becoming successful without his help), was becoming increasingly jealous of her growing fame and now ordered her to be kept under surveillance by the state secret police.

In 1938 the screws then tightened for Lale as she returned to Berlin for another concert, after which Goebbels refused to let her leave, and she was forced to remain in Germany and base her career there.

After recording ‘Lied eines Jungen Wachtposten’ in early 1939 and its subsequent popularity, Lale was  increasingly worried that Rolf Liebermann, left behind in neutral Switzerland, would think she had given up all hope and had thrown her lot in with the Nazis. So she took the risk of writing to him in Zurich, pleading for his help in making an escape from Germany back to Switzerland and both continued an exchange of letters until Rolf came up with a plan: in 1942, whilst entertaining German troops in a military hospital in Northern Italy, Lale would link up with Rolf’s friends who would smuggle her across the Italian-Swiss border.

However, as Lale was about to make good her escape, she was arrested by the Gestapo on Milan’s railway station and escorted back to Berlin; told she would no longer be allowed to sing to the troops and almost certainly be sent to the concentration camps, was allowed home to put her affairs in order where, unnoticed, she managed to take an over-dose of sleeping tablets in an attempt to commit suicide; however her attempt on her own life was spotted and prevented just in time.

But the Gestapo had blundered, for whilst Lale Andersen was a German citizen liable to Hitler’s law, the fictional character Lili Marleen was now an international cult figure, and in most eyes Lale and Lili had actually become one and the same person!

Propagandaminister Goebbels, more than aware of her immense popularity with the combat soldiers, fighting on the various fronts, and realising what a propaganda disaster it would prove if news of her attempted suicide were to leak out, personally intervened realising that she was more use to him alive than dead, though the price she had to pay for Goebbels intervention was a continued surveillance by the Gestapo, to whom she had to report on a weekly basis. But by 1944, she was allowed her to quietly slip away from Berlin for the last time to live with her grandparents on the German Friesian island of  in the North Sea, where she saw out the remaining year of the war.

Not long after the surrender, wrongly thinking that all interest in Lili Marleen had died with the Third Reich, Lale Andersen was invited by British Forces Radio in 1945 to sing for them, and her career was thus resurrected. Lale then made a complete return to the stage and toured the holiday resorts of Southern Germany as a singer with the Lutz Templin, (of ‘Charlie & his Orchestra’fame) jazz band, still very much in demand from the war-time generation and especially with the veterans of the Afrikakorps and the British 8th Army, both famous units having adopted her as their own!

Sell-out tours of Europe, America and Britain were followed in 1952 with a feature film on the story of Lili Marleen, (in which Lale starred), before then embarking on her final farewell tour of Germany in that same year. At the end of what was a truly magnificent musical career, both in war-time and then in peace-time, Lale eventually retired back to the North Sea island of Langeoog to become a rather jolly and much-loved guest-house landlady, before tragically suffering a heart attack on August 29th 1972 and passing away at the premature age of just 67.

Despite her tragic passing, long before her time, her wonderful legend very much lives on and Tomahawk Films and myself are most proud of the beautiful CD collection of her most famous, (and certainly most loved), songs that we have managed to lovingly restore, renovate and release from original war-time schellack 78rpm records we sourced in Germany, under the title:

‘Wie einst Lili Marleen’.. The Songs of Lale Andersen, war-time Germany’s ‘Forces Favourite’ 1939-1943’..

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

 

Gute Nacht Mutter…

In the many conversations we have had with our German musik collector friends around the world it is quite surprising how many, though hugely knowledgeable about this wonderful interest of ours, did not realise the very sad story that lies behind this most famous of German war-time songs that, Wilhelm Strienz ‘made legend’ in the Wunschkonzert fuer die Wehrmacht… and though the full story of both the song and the Wunschkonzert are explained more fully in my book The Military Music of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-1945, I thought I’d share a taste of it with you as it certainly adds some incredible meaning to this song when you then listen to it:

The outbreak of World War Two saw the introduction of the most important and popular light entertainment programme broadcast nationally on Grossdeutsche Rundfunk: ‘Das Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht’ (Request Show for the Armed Forces) and first transmitted on October 1st 1939, it became a regular feature of Sunday afternoon listening…

Opening with Master of Ceremonies Heinz Goedecke’s words of welcome: “This is Greater German Radio: dear soldiers, dear listeners in the home country, dear friends beyond the borders, the fanfare is summoning the Request Concert for the Armed Forces…”  the Wunschkonzert offered an entertaining collection of variety songs, popular hits, stirring instrumental marches, unit marching songs, comic sketches and light classical music, all requested by the fighting men themselves and mailed in from the different theatres of war.

A German ‘Forces Family Favourites’, the Wunschkonzert was the soldiers’ very own show and forged a powerful link between those serving at the front and their families back in Germany and became a show-case for some of the best German music & light entertainment of the day. It was also to become the most important launch-pad for a number of famous and patriotic Third Reich songs, not least Norbert Schultze’s stirring Luftwaffe marching song Bomben auf Engeland’…

This first broadcast was also to include a heart-rending request that was to establish one song at the very heart of the armed forces request show…Gute Nacht Mutter!:

A German mother telephoned the radio station, her heart breaking from the loss of her only son in the Polish campaign. She had sat silently, listening to the names of young soldiers sending greetings and assurances to their mothers that they were fine, the tears running down her cheeks knowing that she would never receive such a comforting greeting from her boy, Walter, whom she had just been informed had been killed in the fighting at Radom in Poland…

His comrades had given him a soldiers’ burial with a birch-wood cross adorned with his steel helmet to mark his final resting place and his personal effects & notebook were sent back home to his mother. As she was now listening to the Wunschkonzert, with a Finnish choir singing a song of home, she opened up his notebook… and then rang the radio station: ”I have in my hand the notebook of my dear son and on the last page there are the lyrics to a song which he liked to sing, entitled Good Night Mother. Now he is dead this must be his last greeting to me…”

The member of the production staff who took the call went straight into the studio to relay the message to host Heinz Goedecke and the whole team went quiet as they took in the utter sadness of the mother’s request, then bass singer Wilhelm Strienz suddenly said. “I know that song..!”

Half an hour later, as the grief-stricken mother sat by the radio listening to the broadcast, along with most of Germany, Heinz Goedecke stepped up to the microphone and quietly related the story of her son’s notebook and his falling in Poland, adding “Walter has died not just for you, but for everyone”… and as the first bars of Erwin Lehnow’s  Gute Nacht Mutter’ filled the radio speaker, a radio legend song was born…. 

 

1. Good night, Mother, good night!

You thought of me at every hour.

You worried, fretted for your boy,

Sung him at night a lullaby,

Good night, Mother, good night!

I’ve caused you worry and grief,

You forgave me, Mother, kept watch.

Good night Mother, good night! 

2. Today a letter arrived from you,

A few short lines in your own hand,

Your love came to me across the miles,

Suddenly you were so close, I at your feet,

Suddenly it felt like home, wrapped in your love.

Now it is late and you are tired,

Worn by worries and care.

Your son is with you, sings you this song,

Sleep now till morning comes. 

3. Good night Mother, good night!

You thought of me at every hour.

You worried, fretted for your boy,

Sung him at night a lullaby,

Good night, Mother, good night!

I’ve caused you worry and grief,

You forgave me, Mother kept watch.

Good night Mother, good night..!

This wonderful song is featured on our 2-CD set the Wunschkonzert fuer die Wehrmacht performed by Eric Helgar, but the world famous version, as you’d expect, is also the final track of our CD:  Gute Nacht MutterThe Songs of Wilhelm Strienz 1935-1945.

I have to admit that when I went into the recording studio with audio engineer Woody to put the finishing touches this album and I prepared to record the ‘producer’s introduction’, I had just learned that my late mum, (and my best friend), had been diagnosed with terminal cancer… so trying to narrate this particular intro with a massive lump in my throat was not my easiest day in the voice-over booth, but somehow I got through it… just!

However when I now hear this song sung so emotionally in Wilhelm’s beautiful bass voice, it has a very personal resonance for me..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012

Battle of Britain Movie Soundtrack…

One of the regular questions, (or perhaps that should be requests), Tomahawk Films receive from our customers is: “do we have the fantastic ‘Battle of Britain’ opening track as featured in the 1969, Guy Hamilton-directed movie?”…and those self-same customers are always amazed or shocked, (usually in equal number), to learn that this ‘original march’, is actually nothing to do with the  pre-1945 Luftwaffe and was in fact a superb piece of modern composition by the English musical film-score composer Ron Goodwin, who actually penned this march especially for the movie…

Far from being performed by an original  Luftwaffe Musikkorps, (for if you think about it, the Luftwaffe actually lost the Battle of Britain, so why would Hitler want a march to celebrate getting his backside kicked by ‘The Few’), this stirring march is in fact a perfect replication of a war-time German air force band; but just goes to show how talented a musician & composer Mr Goodwin was, for he was able to listen to, and professionally deconstruct, Luftwaffe music as created by the legendary Head of Luftwaffe music Musikinspizient Prof. Husadel and then actually write & create, from scratch, a stunning piece of military marching music that the majority now think was a Luftwaffe war-time original!.

Incidentally, the upside of  this ‘modern’ Battle of Britain March is that it is a fantastic way of discerning if the dealer you are buying ‘original’ German war-time music from actually ‘knows his stuff’ or is merely one of the many pirates. There are a number of American companies and individuals offering their ‘Luftwaffe musik’ and who proudly include this piece as The Battle of Britain Marsch, without the faintest idea that it is not an original German, but a post-war British composition.. so you can certainly play ‘spot the faker’ with this one.!

We do actually have a fantastic 4-minute research copy of the late Mr Goodwin’s track in our Archive and we contacted his estate to see if we could acquire the distribution rights to it, to be told the copyright was now owned by EMI. Sadly they have not responded to our polite request to promote it as an ‘interest piece’, so as it stands we can do nothing with this track without the correct permissions, (and I am not actually sure how we would market just a single track anyhow!)

However I am delighted to say that  if you are after one of the truly defining Luftwaffe tracks of the 1935-45 era, the superb Bomben auf Engeland, is on Tomahawk’s Musik der Luftwaffe CD, along with a number of other stirring & evocative Luftwaffe marches &  korpslieder).

This stunning piece of military music was composed by Norbert Schultze for the 1939 Tobis film ‘Feuertaufe’ (Baptism of Fire) which documented German air operations in the Polish campaign and was produced by a serving Luftwaffe pilot, the pre-war film director Hans Bertram..!

On its completion the documentary was shown to Hitler who was so ecstatic he ordered it to go on immediate release, but wanted a different tune from Pruessens Gloria (initially the movie’s final stirring track), and ordered a musical back-drop to reflect his next target: Britain..!

Hitler’s Navy had their signature tune: ‘Wir fahren gegen Engeland’ (on Tomahawk’s CD Musik der Kriegsmarine), and now The Fuehrer wanted his mighty Luftwaffe to also have their very own marching song,  thus Bomben auf Engeland became the new ending for this fantastic piece of Luftwaffe propaganda-documentary film-making and another German military-song legend was born… not long before Hitler’s Air Arm would face its first defeat… and at the hands of the Royal Air Force!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012