The Schmooze

Singing Despite Tyranny: The German Jewish Culture Association

Readers of the moving family memoir “The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany” by Martin Goldsmith (Wiley, 2001) will recall how in 1933, a German Jewish Culture Association (Kulturbund Deutscher Juden) was formed with Nazi permission, which two years later was renamed the Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Culture Association), omitting the word “German” to underline the increasing disenfranchisement of Jews.

For eight years until 1941, the Kulturbund offered plays, operas, orchestral and chamber music by Jews and for Jews in Berlin and Frankfurt, as well as Hamburg and Cologne. Now a new study from the University of Michigan Press, “A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany: Musical Politics and the Berlin Jewish Culture League” by Lily Hirsch, further examines the complex cultural and political significance of artistic expression under the yoke of tyranny.

Hirsch, an Assistant Professor of Music at Cleveland State University, discusses how the Kulturbund was a propaganda tool for the Nazis, much like concentration camp orchestras, giving the illusion to some naive foreign observers that life for Jews under the Nazis was a cultural dream. Still, performances allowed Jews the possibility to express internal resistance.

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Singing Despite Tyranny: The German Jewish Culture Association

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