Music as Cultural Warfare: How the Nazi’s Co-opted the Orchestra to Serve Their Political Ends.

Art always bows to some greater ideology. There is no such thing as neutral art. It always conveys a message. Most often it is a servant of the strongest principles within a culture. This brief article reviews research to show how the Nazi propaganda machine slowly took over the Berlin orchestra to reinforce ideas of German National Socialism.  The author is clear that the foundations for this were laid many years before. Yet hearing about the actual events is both fascinating and chilling.

This process started with understanding the power of music as a cultural force. Then Goebbels “annexed” the  Berlin orchestra in the same way that Germany annexed land during the war.  But it started when members of the orchestra were willing to sell their autonomy and their souls for more money and other cultural benefits. After that, they were owned by the Nazis.

This kind of research is delightful stuff for history nerds like me. And the great question of history is always, “what does this mean for us today?” I think at present most people are associating fascism with Trump in the US. But to be honest, when I read this, I thought much more about the music and entertainment business in America as supporting the Left. In our country, one of the great weaknesses of the conservative movement has been second rate art. But within Hollywood there is a group-think that preaches leftist (rather than liberal) ideas.  Think I am exaggerating? Just listen to the speeches at the Oscar’s.  Add to this the recent censorship that is happening on University Campuses in the name of having “safe spaces” in the name of avoiding hate speech, and you can see that the Left has a much tighter grip on these cultural expressions.

In any case we need to be aware that culture-makers are trying to recruit us (and at times enslave us) for their view of the world. This is an inescapable reality for good or bad. Dictators who want to hijack culture will always move toward this source of power and it is in the best interest of free people to be aware of the greater agenda. I think the ideal situation is a culture of arts that is both free and reinforces important virtues.

Some tidbits from the article:

 

“The alchemy of the transformation began with a gradual relinquishment of autonomy, especially stark in Berlin. The Berlin Philharmonic, nationalized into a state-owned company in January 1934 under Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda, began to perform in the old Philharmonie on Bernburger Straße under an immense swastika. It was now expected to render service to “the German cause.” (Even Goebbels did not speak of “Nazi music” but of “German music.”) Goebbels, who began to call it “my orchestra,” increased its subsidies and its musicians’ salaries and personally signed letters of exemption from military service for its members. Goebbels also lavishly funded a movie about the orchestra (released in late 1944), which Trümpi calls “the most expensive advertising campaign ever undertaken on behalf of the Berlin Philharmonic.”

And again,

“After the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria in March 1938, things were even worse in Vienna, which liked to think of itself as the “music city” par excellence. Trümpi, the first historian granted full access to the Vienna Philharmonic archives, reports that a blacklist compiled in 1938 named 11 Jewish orchestra members, and ten more who were married to Jewish women. After the Anschluss, an annexation as much cultural as territorial, all were either forced into retirement or dismissed. Seven of them would be murdered in the Holocaust. Close to half of the philharmonic’s remaining musicians joined the Nazi Party.”

Source: The Baton and the Jackboot

When Did Leaders In The West Know About the Holocaust?

This article chronicles the investigation of an important question from history.  Exactly when did the leaders outside Germany have reliable knowledge that the Nazi’s intended, and indeed were in the process of exterminating the Jews?  It obviously contains the kind of details that you would have to include to do reliable detective work of this nature. The answer is this: it seems that a lot of people knew an awful lot, and did nothing.

What strikes me is that this contains an example of what it means to be “on the wrong side of history.”  That term has been bandied around a lot recently.  In the case of the Shoa, there are examples of many leaders, politicians, journalists, and relief workers who knew what was going on, but they did nothing. They failed to speak up. They failed even to acknowledge that this evil was taking place. They failed to take even simple, low-risk actions to save lives.  History is not looking kindly on them, to say nothing of God’s perspective.

“After the war the ICRC [International Committee of The Red Cross] came under much criticism for its unwillingness to make public, however cautiously, the known facts about the murder of the Jews… Eventually, more than fifty years after the event, the ICRC through the head of its archive (not the president of the International Red Cross) admitted that the activities of the organization (or rather their absence) had been less than honorable.” (emphasis mine)

Are there any modern examples of atrocities happening beneath the indifferent eyes of the watchers?  Are there situations where politicians and leaders refuse to acknowledge that bad things are even happening? Where they refuse to speak up, or even watch the videos? Where they refuse to take action to save lives? Where news agencies refuse to cover solid stories of millions of dollars made in exchange for innocent lives?

Ignoring facts is what you do when you want to keep your blood money and maintain plausible deniability.  Investigating the facts and responding courageously is what you do when you care more about doing the right thing than about keeping your job.  I wonder what history will say about our modern-day indifference?

Source: When and How Did Authentic Information About the Shoah First Become Known? – Tablet Magazine

Book Review- First Seals by Patrick O’Donnell

 

Seals book

The First Seals by Patrick K O’Donnell

I have read a number of books about special operations history, it is a kind of a hobby.  Some of these were personal memoirs and others books about unit histories.  The First Seals certainly ranks as one of my favorites.  It tells a believable story that is still amazing. And it does it without too much machismo or chest pounding.  It gives a broad history, but also focuses enough on specific individuals that you can understand the characters.  After reading this one, I want to dig into the rest of O’Donnell’s works.

If you like books about military history, read this book. 

If you like books about World War II, you will love the the back story. There are aspects of the war told in this book that I haven’t read anywhere else. Who knew that the Italians were the best in underwater demolition?

If you like books about sabotage, espionage, and partisan warfare, read this book.

If you like books about entrepreneurship, and people creating new things… If you like the books about people solving problems and taking risks, read this book.  Not all creative people work in business.

If you’re one of those people who likes fiction, but thinks that truth is often better than fiction,  you will enjoy this book.

Toward the end of the book when Lt. Taylor (one of the central figures in the story) is rescued from the Mauthausen concentration camp, I teared up. If I hand’t been driving, I would have cried. It is a great story not only of the units and tactics that would become the US Navy Seals, but a great example of American Heroism in the fight against fascism. What is amazing is that so many of the other prisoners sacrificed their lives to keep O’Donnell alive because they knew that the world would be more likely to believe an American officer.  Taylor would later serve a key role in the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals.

I sound like a fan… I know.  But this was a truly great read. I consumed it on Audible.com and the reader was terrific as well. You can find it here 

You can watch original footage of Jack Taylor’s interview the the US forces liberated the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. He begins talking at 50 seconds into the video.

I first heard of the book in an article by O’Donnell in National Review that you can read here.  “Christmas with America’s First Seal in A Gestapo Prison.”