Hitler's Airwaves: The Inside Story of Nazi Radio Broadcasting and Propaganda Swing

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9780300067095: Hitler's Airwaves: The Inside Story of Nazi Radio Broadcasting and Propaganda Swing

Jazz was banned from German broadcasting as soon as the Nazis came to power in 1933. Yet throughout World War II, American jazz and swing were core components of the Third Reich's propaganda. Jazz classics such as W.C. Handy's famous "St. Louis Blues", their lyrics neatly tampered with, came over the airwaves, alongside the famous "Germany Calling" programmes directed at Britain and allied forces around the world. "Hitler's Airwaves" sets Goebbels' propaganda orchestra, a swing band fronted by the crooner, Karl ("Charlie") Schwedler, within the context of the Reich Ministry for Propaganda. This book-length study of the full extent of the Nazi propaganda effort, it draws on a vast array of material: interviews with contemporaries and treason trail transcripts, the private archive of Roderich Dietze, wartime head of German radio's English-language service, reports of the BBC's monitoring service, recently declassified FBI and M15 files, and documents in the Bonn Foreign Ministry, the Bundesarchiv and the former Berlin Document Centre. Bergmeier and Lotz explore the origins of subversive radio broadcasting, describe the establishment of Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry and the rapid growth of its foreign-language broadcasting division, and provide a detailed anatomy of its organization, operation and personnel. They examine the workings of the so-called "Secret Stations", ostensibly run by opposition groups broadcasting from inside target countries, but actually based in the Berlin Olympic stadium. And they reveal the scam of Radio Arnhem which, for several months in 1944-5, the Germans passed off as a genuine Allied forces programme. Interwoven with the narrative are biographies of key figures and leading foreign expatriates in the service of the Reich, including William Joyce ("Lord Haw Haw"), John Amery (son of a minister in Churchill's war cabinet), Norman Baille Stewart, Midge Gillars ("Axis Sally") and Douglas Chandler. The book is illustrated with diagrams and illustrations, and includes a CD sampler featuring rare tracks of "Charlie and his Orchestra" and other contemporary broadcast material. A comprehensive account of the range, dexterity and ingenuity of Nazi public relations, it should provoke anyone interested in the history of World War II.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The previously untold story of how the Nazi war machine used jazz and swing for propaganda. Independent scholars Bergmeier and Lotz have succeeded in crafting a work that will appeal to both a specialized audience and the general public. Most people know that jazz and swing were immediately banned upon Hitler's ascension to power in 1933. Swing represented the decadent society of America, while jazz threatened the racial purity of the Aryan race. A deep-rooted anti-Semitism underlay these attitudes: Swing was one component of modernism (``the refuse of a rotting society''); and jazz was being used by the Jews to corrupt the Aryan race through ``musical race defilement.'' Music at the home front had to conform to the traditionalist tastes of Hitler and the Nazi elite, but when it came to propaganda aimed at foreign countries, swing and jazz seemed the perfect bait. Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels was always sensitive to the enormous influence of the radio, which he viewed as second only to the press as the ``most effective weapon in our struggle for existence.'' Strictly speaking, the book's title is misleading; only one of the eight chapters deals with jazz and swing radio propaganda. Four chapters offer a historical introduction to the propaganda ministry and the development of radio in Germany after WW I. An additional chapter reviews the well-known rivalry within the Nazi hierarchy over propaganda; and the final two chapters deal with Nazi radio broadcasts over Europe. The authors have made good use of previously unseen documents to reconstruct the Nazi effort to use music as propaganda. The CD accompanying the book includes catchy tunes (such as a jazzy ``Onward Christian Soldiers'' with new, anti-Semitic lyrics) and original radio broadcasts. A fascinating footnote to the history of the Nazi propaganda machine. (40 illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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