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A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany

Musical Politics and the Berlin Jewish Culture League

Lily E. Hirsch

Publication Year: 2010

Offers a clear introduction to a fascinating, yet little known, phenomenon in Nazi Germany, whose very existence will be a surprise to the general public and to historians. Easily blending general history with musicology, the book provides provocative yet compelling analysis of complex issues. ---Michael Meyer, author of The Politics of Music in the Third Reich "Hirsch poses complex questions about Jewish identity and Jewish music, and she situates these against a political background vexed by the impossibility of truly viable responses to such questions. Her thorough archival research is complemented by her extensive use of interviews, which gives voice to those swept up in the Holocaust. A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany is a book filled with the stories of real lives, a collective biography in modern music history that must no longer remain in silence." ---Philip V. Bohlman, author of Jewish Music and Modernity "An engaging and downright gripping history. The project is original, the research is outstanding, and the presentation lucid." ---Karen Painter, author of Symphonic Aspirations: German Music and Politics, 1900-1945 The Jewish Culture League was created in Berlin in June 1933, the only organization in Nazi Germany in which Jews were not only allowed but encouraged to participate in music, both as performers and as audience members. Lily E. Hirsch's A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany is the first book to seriously investigate and parse the complicated questions the existence of this unique organization raised, such as why the Nazis would promote Jewish music when, in the rest of Germany, it was banned. The government's insistence that the League perform only Jewish music also presented the organization's leaders and membership with perplexing conundrums: what exactly is Jewish music? Who qualifies as a Jewish composer? And, if it is true that the Nazis conceived of the League as a propaganda tool, did Jewish participation in its activities amount to collaboration? Lily E. Hirsch is Assistant Professor of Music at Cleveland State University.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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p. v-v


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-15

...popular novelist, wrote, “I am a German, and I am a Jew, one as intensely and as completely as the other, inextricably bound together.”1 In the years preceding Hitler’s rise to power, such open embracing by a German Jew of his dual identity was far from the controversy it would soon become.2 At the time Wassermann’s declaration appeared—toward the beginning of the Weimar Repub-...

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1. Why the League?

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pp. 16-36

...studied at the University of Halle with Arnold Schering and followed him to Berlin when he succeeded Hermann Abert at the Berlin University (now Humboldt-Universit

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2. What Is Jewish Music? The League and the Dilemmas of Musical Identity

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pp. 37-59

...background, thought she would be a natural fit for the newly formed Jewish Culture League. She became an opera singer with the organization in 1937 and occasionally appeared with Anneliese Landau. However, earlier, she had approached one of the League’s leading men and explained that she wanted to sing Yiddish and Hebrew songs. She remembers his response: “No one is inter-...

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3. Performing a "Jewish Repertoire": Weill, Schoenberg, and Bloch

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pp. 60-86

For a fresh start, Singer went so far in this publication as to solicit advice directly on the upcoming program. This experiment in public diplomacy was unique and, after a limited response (only thirty replies), abandoned.2 The repertoire debate would continue, as would other challenges to program formation: the League’s economic need as well as simple errors and inconsistencies...

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4. "German Music," Lieder, and the Austrian Franz Schubert

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pp. 87-106

...on Jewish music, both in theory and practice. But, in some ways, the performance of music by German composers was more complicated. The search for Jewish music gave audiences a framework for their interpretation of music by Jewish composers. Music by German composers, on the other hand, was wide open and interpreted in a variety of ways. Determined to keep the League out...

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5. Handel, Verdi, and National Pride

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pp. 107-130

Growing up in Nazi Germany, Martin O. Stern experienced the flexibility of Handel in reception. For him, Handel’s music was entangled with Judaism, but also, after this visit to Sunday services, the Lutheran Church. Nazi ideologues, however, could not tolerate this overlap. Handel was going to have to pick a side. Music was no longer a universal language, if it ever was one, but rather an aid in the struggle of race against race, nation against nation...

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6. Beyond Ethnic Loyalties

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pp. 131-147

...imagining nation, group integration, asserting national worth, consolation, catharsis, escape, and hope, to name a few. With such flexibility, it is no surprise that there were contradictions in ideas of nationalism in music during the Third Reich. The various roles of music created competing narratives in music reception. Not only that, these narratives could change rather quickly over...

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Epilogue: The Legacy of the League

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pp. 148-158

...and cofounder of the Jewish Culture League, was visiting his sister and lecturing at Harvard University.1 Ernest Lenart, the Tempelherr in the League’s inaugural performance (1933) of Lessing’s Nathan the Wise and émigré since 1938, visited Singer during his trip. Lenart told him about Kristallnacht and urged him to remain in America. Singer replied: “Dear Lenart, I must go back.”2...


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pp. 159-213

Sources Consulted

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pp. 215-239


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pp. 241-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025404
E-ISBN-10: 0472025406
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472117109
Print-ISBN-10: 0472117106

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 14 musical examples, 3 tables, 7 figures
Publication Year: 2010