The National-Socialist Song under Hitler

Even before Hitler came to power in 1933, his National Socialist Labor Party (NSDAP) used songs as a political instrument. A uniformed, singing SA group irresistibly drew public attention and made a strong impression. Bystanders soon picked up the melody and with that the political message.

(Source: NIOD/WWII Image Bank)
(Source: NIOD/WWII Image Bank)

Songs were sung about a Germany that had to be roused from its sleep, about the Führer who would lead the nation to a new era, about sacrifice and heroism, blut und boden (‘blood and soil’), and about unassailable symbols such as the flag. Thus the ideology filtered through the ears to the mind and heart. Systematically yet unobtrusively, the youth was indoctrinated through musical rhymes.

Song enhances hero status and solidarity
The youth loved the sense of heroism, superiority and invincibility, and found unity in a shared xenophobia. Many surrendered wholeheartedly to the national-socialist injunction of ‘sacrifice for the people’. By investing their ideology with the sacred concept of ‘Reich’, the authorities elevated the state to a higher religious plane. Hitler virtually attained sainthood. Singing moreover reinforced the sense of solidarity while making marching less strenuous.

Ceremonial role
After Hitler’s ascension to power in 1933, the song acquired a further role as a permanent component of national-socialist ceremonies. Thus, in addition to the familiar Deutschlandlied [link naar pagina met tekst], the Horst-Wessellied also acquired the status of a national hymn, sung at official events. Suitable songs were also created for funerals, swearing-in ceremonies, and national-socialist holidays. Every ritual adopted its own song repertoire. This structure was visible in almost every individual national-socialist organization, which each cherished its characteristic treasury of songs. Singing instruction also acquired a prominent role in schools. Under Hitler, Germany truly evolved into a singing nation.

Singing lessons for the Wehrmacht
Soldier’s songs boosted battle morale and raised the soldiers’ spirits. They drove off the monotony of long marches and fostered nostalgia, such as the song Lili Marleen, sung by friend and foe alike. Particularly at first, Wehrmacht soldiers bellowed their soldier’s songs with full faith in final victory. The triumphant Engella ndlied or Frankreichlied could be heard everywhere in Europe. When Hitler inva(Source: NIOD/WWII Image Bank)
(Source: NIOD/WWII Image Bank)
ded Russia, propaganda chief Goebbels personally ensured that there was an appropriate song ready to accompany the troops: Vorwärts nach Osten. Every military unit moreover had its own songs to celebrate its own weapons. There were songs for the infantry, for the cavalry, the artillery, mountaineers, parachutists, engineers, the air force and the navy. The Wehrmacht appointed special song leaders to help recruits learn to sing the songs well, and time was reserved in the roster for singing lessons.

Author: Gerard Groeneveld