The Power of Music
Music can be one of the most memorable parts of life; it can cause our bodies to release dopamine—a ‘feel good’ hormone. Music can teach us, increase retention, alter our mood, and even bring forth memories that we, without it, couldn’t remember.
A single song can give hope and help us remember who we are. Without a doubt, there is tremendous power in music. Throughout history, the power of music has been used to help or hurt—and this is why the Nazis so strictly censored certain forms of it.
The Nazi Party:
The Nazi party—formed with less dangerous intentions than it finished with—was founded in 1920, many years before WWII or the Holocaust began. Yet, it was during the years of the Holocaust that Nazi ideals reached their climax and with WWII’s threat to the ‘German way of life,’ implementation was seemingly effortless. Still, the early to late 1930’s laid important groundwork for Nazi action.
The sudden momentum behind the Nazi movement began in 1933 with the rise of Hitler, Goebbels, and other German influencers to positions of power. It is with this rise that seemingly simple, but highly effective methods of altering culture, morality, and outlook began—through fear, manipulation, and selective media/arts.
Yet, the Holocaust, in which millions upon millions of people around the world suffered—none more so than the Jews—was the climax of the Nazi party’s implementation of their ideals. It was the Nazi’s time to rule, a time when their ideals would change the world for generations to come.
The Holocaust, usually agreed to have lasted from 1939-1945—excluding six years prior of hardships, reforms, and small scale-murders—was a time of great struggle. The Nazi party and others, such as conservative nationalists of the time, were not only against those who did not fit with their ideals—from Jews, to Gypsies, to the disabled—but was also against ideas, words, and expression.
Specifically, the Nazis were against books, poems, music, and other expressive art forms that might be termed as ‘dangerous’ to their views or labeled as being crafted by ‘less than worthy’ peoples. These ‘dangerous’ art forms were major targets of Nazi suppression.
One of the Nazi party’s particular focus was on the suppression of artwork.
Hitler, before rising to power, had been an unsuccessful painter. He was a traditionalist in his own work and hated artwork that was not in line with his ideals, taste, or style—modernist art in particular being an abomination to him. Hitler even went so far as to create two exhibitions with stolen, ‘donated,’ and purchased art. One exhibit showing the ‘German ideal’—the ideal shared by Hitler and the Nazi party—and the other exhibit showing ‘degenerate’ or ‘anti-German’ art. Oddly, much of the art for the Nazi/Hitler approved museum was stolen from supposedly anti-German, anti-Aryan sources, such as Jews.
Ironically, Hitler’s ‘degenerate’ exhibition is one of the reasons why many pieces of art survived the war and Nazi destruction. Yet, the Nazi party was more than eager to destroy that which did not hold to the ‘German ideal.’
Thousands upon thousands of paintings alone were destroyed. Thousands upon thousands more of sculptures, carvings, lithographs, and other media were torn apart or burned. Additionally, thousands of pieces of art that were acceptable to German ideals were confiscated from Jewish and other anti-Nazi homes to not only fill Hitler’s museum, but the homes of various high ranking Nazi officials.
As with art, books too were often a source of destruction.
Hitler and the Nazi party believed that books written by Jews, Bolsheviks, Africans, and other non-Aryan sources were not only anti-Nazi, they were anti-German. Many of these books were viewed as being against Aryan superiority and the unique German way of life. Books written by or about those who did not fit the Aryan/German ideal threatened to ‘corrupt’ the young, particularly, taking them away from their heritage.
Millions of books were piled high, torn to shreds, then set ablaze. Yet, perhaps, what is most unbelievable is that many of the students attending major German universities with the intention of learning from those books, often engaged in this practice! It wasn’t merely Nazis in uniform who burned books, it was everyday people who had allowed fear and propaganda to dictate their actions.
Music, while not so easily stolen or destroyed, was another heavily guarded art form in Germany—and a sore topic for the Nazi party.
Many famous classical composers such as, Mozart, Wagner, Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert were German, and while most had died long before the party was in being, the Nazis were swift to view music as one of the heights of ‘German ingenuity.’ Because of this and the radical way that music was changing, there was a great fear of music and its power. Jazz, for instance, was viewed not only as anti-German, but as a disgrace—a way to lure the young away from their German heritage into a commercial and degenerate world.
The Nazis firmly believed that German music wasn’t supposed to be mass market, nor was it to be crafted by Jews, Bolsheviks, Africans, Gypsies, or any other supposedly anti-German parties. Because of this, music—even a single song—could easily fall under categories of degenerate, anti-Nazi, and anti-German origins.
Hitler and Goebbels were two of Germany’s strongest and most powerful proponents of this ‘anti-German' view and with their influence combined with the Nazi party, it quickly spread to newspapers, media, and of course, further into the conscience of the fast-growing Nazi party.
In the Hitler/Nazi Regime the mediums of art, literature and music were dangerous and powerful—anything the Nazis labeled as ‘anti-German' was not allowed to remain.
The Power of a Song:
Knowing what we now know of the power of words, poems, music, songs… the Nazi fear of music was perhaps not as inconsequential to the super-power as we might think. Nor was it merely a matter of wounded pride. Music was, in its own small way, a very real threat. Like art and books, music also could shape the way people thought, the way they acted, and what they believed.
It is because of the power of music that one Nazi leader, Goebbels, said, “Music affects the heart and emotions more than the intellect. Where then could the heart of a nation beat stronger…”
Goebbels and the Nazis, despite the lack of scientific studies we enjoy today, realized that if they controlled the music—just as they controlled media and art—they could manipulate nearly everyone within their sphere into a belief system chosen for them. They could regulate the sound released to the people. Through controlled music and visuals such as art, literature, media and movies, the Nazis could find the ability to bring about a national pride and slowly kill anti-Nazi movements and people—taking away hope and dignity.
Music was a covert weapon. A weapon of hate, pride, hope, or courage.
Because the Nazi party had begun controlling media, art, and music as early as 1933, by the start of the Holocaust in 1939, the German people and all those under Nazi control had already undergone many changes in their views. A simple war was all it took to bring about the fear required to push the masses to true pro-Nazi standing.
In Part Two of this two-part series, we will examine the utilization of music by victims and survivors of the Holocaust during WWII. We will explore the legacy of victims and survivors of the Holocaust who used music, or simply a song, to bring hope and courage to people who had none left. Finally, we will see how the Gentile Believers of today can learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters and what we can do to help in this hour.