1924. Turkey. Kurdish music and Whirling Dervishes
Despite the 1924 constitution’s claim that “in Turkey, from the point of view of citizenship, everyone is a Turk without regard to race or religion”, an official decree in March 1924 banned all Kurdish folklore and gramophone recordings of Kurdish music were destroyed. Turkey has decided that Kurds and their music did not exist. Ataturk’s secularist cultural revolution banned the Whirling Dervishes who practice a 700-year-old mystical Sufi brand of Islam, and other behavior he perceived as Islamic fundamentalism. After Ataturk died in 1938, Turkey allowed public performances accompanied by music, including by the fabled Galata Mevlevi group
1930s. Germany. Eta Harich-Schneider
The harpsichordist and musicologist Eta Harich-Schneider signed a solidarity letter for the composer Paul Hindemith, whom in 1934 the Nazis started a virulent campaign against. She was the first lecturer of the music conservatory of Berlin, who signed the letter and all lecturer retracted their signatures again with her as exception, after Mr. Stein who was appointed by the Nazis as director called everybody who have signed “rebels”. Furthermore she offended the pride of her male colleagues by publishing an article about the bad habits in performing practice. Musical and political agitation against her followed and in 1940 she received the dismissal without notice, because of her hostile stand against the Party and the fact, that she gave lessons to Jews and performed together with Jews publicly. According to this matter she wrote: “It became serious with my persecution. That a woman daring to forthright distance herself from racism, now additionally excels the partisans in artistic success, no, that could not be tolerated! A curious mixture of political agitation and artistic degradation was systematically launched. The teacher for music history, formerly my avidest admirer, sarcastically said to me, it was quite so, if a small girl was given a telling-off for its saucy criticism on highly qualified experts” (Eta Harich-Schneider: ‘Charaktere und Katastrophen. Augenzeugenberichte einer reisenden Musikerin’, Berlin, 1978).
Source: Eva Rieger: ‘Frau, Musik und Männerherrschaft – zum Ausschluβ der Frau aus der deutschen Musikpädagogik, Musikwissenschaft und Musikausübung’, Frankfurt / M. Berlin. Wien. Ullstein, 1981.
1930–1945. Germany. Ernst Krenek (1900-1991)
Ernst Krenek was considered a respectable German Catholic until he wrote a modern opera called ‘Jonny Spielt Auf’. The storyline of the opera featured a black man as the main character. The opera was a musical mix of jazz, spiritual, and classical. The Nazi government banned jazz music in the 1930s and during the Second World War. Jazz was considered a low decadent art form, a response similar to that of mainstream society in the US during the early jazz era years of the 1920s.
1939–1945. Czechoslovakia. Erwin Schulhoff
‘Ogelala’, a ballet by Czech-Jewish composer Erwin Schulhoff, was performed in 1925 and 1927 before being banned by the Nazis in the 1930’s.
1930–1945. Italy. Jazz
Jazz music was also censored in Italy during Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime.
1930s. Germany. Arnold Schoenberg, Mendelssohn, Mahler, and more
After the race laws of 1933, the Reichsmusikkammer (Reich Music Chamber) required a registry of all German musicians. As a result, hundreds of talented composers had their work deliberately suppressed and careers ended simply because their race or style of music offended the Third Reich.
Nineteenth-century psychologists introduced the term ‘degenerate’ or to describe any deviance or clinical mental illness. Later a broader definition was applied to include scientific literature. By 1933 Hitler’s Third Reich referred to the mentally ill, communists, Gypsies, homosexuals and Jews as subspecies of the human race. The words ‘Jewish’, ‘Degenerate’, and ‘Bolshevik’ were commonly used to describe any art or music not acceptable to the Third Reich. Hitler envisioned the day when German culture would be free of “morbid excrescencies of insane and degenerate men.” By 1938, examples of ‘degenerate music’ were on display at the Entarte Musik Exhibit for the public to view. Famous works by Schoenberg, Mendelssohn and Mahler were used as examples of unacceptable music. A generation of incredibly innovative and promising musicians was virtually excluded from its place in music history. The Reichsmusikkammer registry was completed in 1940 and included all musicians’ race and religion. Those Jews who had escaped detection up until 1940 were now in jeopardy. It was easy to find and arrest Jews based on this list.
The following German composers were considered ‘degenerate’ by the Nazi regime:
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Arnold Schoenberg’s work aroused musical controversy and the composer became the subject of Nazi persecution in the early 1930’s. Though Schoenberg emigrated to the United States just after Hitler came to power in 1933, he understood what it meant to be persecuted and what lay ahead for the Jews who did not leave Germany. He foresaw the decimation of the Jews, and tried to get the public’s attention. Arnold Schoenberg later became known for his powerful anti-fascist compositions.
Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1996)
A prominent Jewish composer and conductor who had experienced harassment as a Jew even before Hitler came to power. He escaped to England in 1935. He stayed in obscurity until the 1980s when his work was again recognized internationally.
Otto Klemperer (1885-1973)
Emerged as one of the leading German conductors of his generation. After conducting Tannhäser in 1933 on the 50th anniversary of Wagner’s death, Klemperer fled to the United States to escape Nazi persecution. He became conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1937. By 1955, after years of health problems, he was appointed the principal conductor of the London Philharmonic.
Bruno Walter (1876-1962)
Was born Bruno Walter Schlesinger. Walter was the conductor of the Leipzig Orchestra and frequent guest conductor of the Berlin Orchestra prior to the Third Reich. In 1933 the Nazi government canceled his concerts due to the “threat to public order.” They could no longer guarantee his personal safety. Walter fled to Austria and then to the United States where he became a well know conductor and music advisor.
Anton Webern (1883-1945)
Was a staunch follower of Hitler, though not a member of the Nazi party. He agreed with Hitler’s writings, and felt that Hitler would moderate his policies concerning the Jews after the first display of power. He was friends with Schoenberg, an exiled German Jew whose music had been classified as ‘degenerate’ and thereby banned. This friendship along with his advocacy of atonality in music got his works listed as ‘degenerate’ as well. The Nazis burned his writings and forbade performances of his music after Hitler took over Austria. He retired to a life in the country toward the end of the war. Source: ‘A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust’ – fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust – produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida, 2005.
1939. Germany. Lale Andersen
Norbert Schultze was a successful German composer of songs, opera and film music. He put music to a poem by Hans Leip, and a successful German singer named Lale Andersen made a recording of it just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Its sales were lacklustre. Nazi politics nearly sent the song into oblivion.
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler‘s propaganda chief, was reported as hating the song for not being ‘military’ enough. He wanted it changed into a stirring march. To loyal Nazis, the song seemed to be anti-war, even close to treason, and singer Lale Andersen was believed to be sympathetic towards Jews. The song was banned and both Andersen and Schultze were charged with ‘moral sabotage’ of the nation’s aims. She was placed virtually under house arrest and he was ordered to compose music praising Nazi ideals.
By 1941, the Germans were broadcasting to their troops in North Africa from a radio station in Belgrade. When the station was shelled, most of its records were smashed and the station was desperately short of music to play. One day the station’s military director, Lieutenant Karl-Heinz Reintgen, came across a dusty box in which a few records had survived – and right at the bottom was ‘Lili Marlene’.
Officially the recording had been banned, but Reintgen knew that a buddy of his in the Afrika Korps had liked the song, and they had precious little else to play, so ‘Lili Marlene’ was broadcast.
It was a turning point. The German troops asked for the recording over and over again, and non-military people also requested it. Field Marshal Rommel didn’t agree with Goebbels and asked Radio Belgrade to play the song every night. Goebbels was forced to retract, and to pretend that the Nazis welcomed the song. Schultze and Andersen were brought in from the cold and sent around Germany to perform the song.
Allied troops in Africa could also hear the German broadcasts, and the plaintive song soon crossed enemy lines and became a favourite with the Eighth Army, who sang it with its original German words. American troops followed suit.By 1943 German-born anti-Nazi Marlene Dietrich was singing the song throughout war-torn Europe, and continued to sing it for the rest of her career, as did Vera Lynn. The song was translated into 48 languages.
1940. Austria. Alexander von Zemlinsky
The Austrian-Jewish composer Alexander von Zemlinsky had been a major figure in pre-World War II Europe. But then the Nazis banned his music, and Zemlinsky was forced to flee to the United States, where he fell into obscurity, suffered a series of strokes and ceased composing.
1936–1950s. Soviet Union / USSR. Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Today known as one the most fascinating of Dmitri Shostakovich’s symphonies, his fourth symphony has become known as the ‘censored symphony’ after being banned by Stalin. It was finished in 1936 but wasn’t performed until 25 years later because Stalin banned it from being performed.
Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera, ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’, was praised by critics at its premiere in 1934, and was said to reflect “the correct policy of the Party.” But in 1936 Stalin attended a performance of his opera which pictured the police as bumbling fools, and the next day Dmitri Shostakovich was denounced as an “enemy of the people” in the official Soviet newspaper, and his popular opera was banned from further performance for the next two and a half decades.
The opera elicited violent condemnation in Pravda (including accusations of “left deviationism” and appealing to “the depraved tastes of bourgeois audiences”).
Dmitri Shostakovich was among the most popular Soviet composer of his generation. He lived his entire adult life as a citizen/subject of the Soviet regime and was at various times honored, vilified, encouraged or threatened, depending on who happened to be in power and the vagaries of the political climate.
In 1948, Shostakovich was again denounced in Pravda and fired from his position at the Moscow Conservatory. He was denounced for “formalism” in the Zhdanov decree. Most of his works were banned, he was forced publicly to repent, and his family had privileges withdrawn. Children were taught in schools of the “great harm” his works had done to art. At this time “he waited for his arrest at night out on the landing by the lift, so that at least his family wouldn’t be disturbed”.
After Josef Stalin’s death he was gradually rehabilitated, and in 1959 he was made first secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers.
Even during the periods when he was promoted as a Soviet hero, Shostakovich lived in fear that the gulag was only a knock on the door away. But he never left the Soviet Union – or was never able to leave.