Nazi Propaganda Swing Music

The Nazis considered American swing music to be "Entartete Musik" ("degenerate music"), because of what they thought was excessive Jewish and "Negro" influence in the writing and performing of the music, and also because they thought that the music was filled with immoral, sexually-related themes. They, therefore, persecuted jazz musicians and anyone else associated with the music. However, behind the scenes, Joseph Goebbels and his Propaganda Ministry created one of the swing era's most improbable jazz bands, "Charlie and his Orchestra", led by Karl (Charlie) Schwedler and made up of some of Europe's finest jazz musicians.

Goebbels recognized the propaganda value of swing music in reaching foreign audiences. "Charlie and his Orchestra" added pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic lyrics to the latest swing music, which was then broadcast by short-wave radio to mostly British and American audiences, with the hope of demoralizing the British public and weakening the British/American alliance. The broadcasts gained quite a popular following abroad, where they were found to be humorous more than anything else, and they even developed a secret following within the Reich itself.

Most of the orchestra members did not speak English, and so were probably not fully aware of the objectionable nature of the lyrics that were being added to the music that they were playing. When the war ended, orchestra members found themselves in great demand by American occupation forces, and many became respected leaders of Europe's postwar jazz scene.

Below is some of the work of "Charlie and his Orchestra", in the MP3 format. Many of the songs begin with the proper lyrics, but the lyrics in the last part have been changed.

The Horst Wessel Song

The Horst Wessel Song, also known as "Die Fahne Hoch" ("The Flags High"), is based on a poem written by a German SA Storm Trooper, Horst Wessel, who was allegedly murdered by a member of the Communist party in 1930. He became a martyr in the Nazi party's struggle against the Communists in Germany in the 1930s, and his poem was put to music and became the marching song of the SA and later the official song of the Nazi Party.

The Horst Wessel Song became an unofficial second national anthem of Germany during the Nazi period and was the most famous Nazi marching song of World War II, often being sung at public meetings and rallies. Today it is illegal for the song to be sung in public in Germany.