Music of the Holocaust

Some of the most recognizable classics in music literature are of German origin. Handel's Messiah, Bach's Magnificat, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Brahm's Lullaby, Wagner's Ring series, Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, Robert Schumann's Fantasia, and Schubert's Unfinished Symphony are but a few.

This rich musical heritage was used by Hitler to promote Aryan superiority. His ideas concerning music and art shaped the cultural atmosphere and political policies for all of Germany. All compositions written by Jews or by those persons suspected of being sympathizers were banned. It became unlawful for artists and musicians to perform in public without being first a member of the state sanctioned Reichsmusikkammer (Reich Music Chamber or RMK). Anyone who defied the law was arrested.

Many artists and musicians were government employees, hired in various capacities to create and disseminate Aryan culture. By 1939, the RMK leaders spoke of the elimination of the Jews from the cultural life of the people; exceptions were made for performances by prominent Jews from other countries. Jazz music was banned, as it was considered to be "non-Aryan Negroid." Control and censorship of all radio broadcasts were implemented, with only approved nationalistic music allowed. All other music was prohibited and labeled "entarte" or degenerate.

| Ghettos & Camps | Reich Music | "Degenerate" Music | Response | Teacher Resources |

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.

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