Jazz first became popular in Germany
, after the end of World War I
. During the war, the isolation and blockade that Germany was under prevented significant cultural exchange with the rest of the world, which had become caught up in the new musical sounds that were coming out of America
and the United States
. When jazz began to spread through Germany, many young Germans went to the dances to be entertained by groups of 'interestingly matched' instruments (always dominated by the drums
, especially in Germany).
After the peak of early jazz's popularity around 1928, the German (and indeed, the world's) preference for Jazz music began to move towards more established orchestra
s, with more consistent strong structures, simpler music, more melody, and less improvisation. This led to the now well established big band
format, which really took hold after the beginning of the Great Depression
(which was a global event, and hit Germany as hard as anywhere else).
When they came to power in 1933, the National Socialist
, or Nazi
party immediately began their campaign of systematic marganilization of minorities and dissidents. Jazz, however, was left alone for several years. Joseph Goebels, the Nazi propaganda
minister thought that 'convincing and persuading through anti-jazz
propaganda rather than prohibition' would be best. However, in 1935, Germany passed a law banning the playing of jazz music on German radio stations.
Fortunately, this law was largely ignored by the radio stations. Jazz was simply too popular with the people, who greatly enjoyed the release that they got when they danced to jazz. Furthermore, the Nazis could never really accurately and definitely define what jazz music was. However, the Africa
n and American
origins of jazz caused many of the conservative Nazis to look down on jazz as a product of inferior culture and race. These Nazis could accept jazz (or at least live with it) as long as the players were white
, and not Jewish
The more polished big band jazz music was commonly played in pre-war Germany, especially in movies and in dance halls. Songs from America were often played openly (as long as they fit the neat and nice format of Glenn Miller
, Benny Goodman
, or Tommy Dorsey
). Swing music
was even played by Germans at the 1936 Olympic Games
In 1937, the Nazis created even harsher anti jazz policies, which further restricted the jazz music written by non whites. Duke Ellington
, Count Basie
, and other popular African-American songwriters and bandleaders were prohibited from being played as recordings or 'covered
' by German bands. However, the Nazis were often fooled by having English song titles renamed to German ones (because it's probably impossible to tell the race of a songwriter just from the song). For instance, 'Tiger Rag
' became 'Schwarzer Panther
World War Two began in 1939, with Germany's invasion of Poland. As part of the so-called radio war, Germany set up radio stations to broadcast propaganda to Great Britain. One of the programs on German propaganda radio was that of 'Charlie and his Orchestra', a creation of Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Charlie (whose real name was Karl Schwedler), led his big band playing covers of top hits from the United States, with altered lyrics. These lyrics were full of pro-German propaganda, slander against people like Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and especially against Jews. There were also many false statements concerning the current course of the war, to affect the morale of Allied troops. One of the hallmarks of their music was the way they started many of their songs, with a 'this is the latest song of British Airmen/Winston Churchill/The Jews, or FDR. 'Charlie and his Orchestra' was actually a fairly popular program among Allied troops, considering it was, after all, German propaganda.
Elsewhere in Germany during World War Two, swing music was undergoing a revival. In Germany's occupied territories, such as France, local swing bands often played the hotter and harder swing music that was the current rage in the U.S. Their musical ideas, songs, and style began to pollinate the flowers of German bands, who brought the style back to Germany. The German youth of the time was wild about the new swing style, and embraced it fully. Since the Nazi machine was so busy consolidating their acquisition of Western Europe, they neglected their crushing grip on German culture, and swing music stayed under their radar. Jazz went on to experience a boom in the post-war years, similar to that Germany had after World War One