Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany Essay

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"Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany" by Michael Kater

There has only been one moment in history when jazz was synonymous with popular music in the country of its origin. During the years of, and immediately prior to World War II, a subgenre of jazz commonly referred to as swing was playing on all American radio stations and attracting throngs of young people to dancehalls for live shows. But it wasn't only popular amongst Americans; historian Michael H. Kater, in his book Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany, has turned his eye away from the United States in order to examine the effects jazz had on German culture during the years of swing popularity. In his introduction, Kater explains the
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Ostensibly, the reasons given by Geobbels and other National Socialist culture ministers for the censorship of jazz lay in its moral degradation. Because they believed that America "constituted a corrupt people devoid of sophistication, with a childlike mentality that countenanced fun and games but was incapable of profundity or erudition," it wouldn't be illogical to assume that its own native contribution to music would be sub-par.
Then of course, there was the Jewish problem. There were so many reasons given to the German people by the Nazis to hate Jews. But one particular Jewish attribute created by Hitler's race science fabulists was that Jews had a unique mental competency when it came to reasoning with abstraction. This made them ideal candidates for the roles of managers, agents, and promoters within the jazz world. The race theory that lay behind the National Socialist ideology accused Jews of plotting to poison the Aryan bloodline by marketing "Nigger Musik" to young, impressionable Germans who needed to be focusing on contributing to the Reich.
One of the most threatening aspects of jazz was its heavy emphasis on improvisation. It was a form of democratic and individualistic expression that grew increasingly more attractive to the young Germans who were becoming tired of the dull and orderly German society.
My favorite parts of the Kater's book were the two sections concerning a fairly large group of teenagers in Hamburg (and to a