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German hits 1930-42

August 1st, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments


Here is a collection of German hits from 1930-452. It is fascinating stuff, and not only to the German nostalgists. Look at the stars appearing in this collection:

There is the 1936 hit version of “Lili Marleen” by Adolf Hitler’s favourite singer, Lale Andersen (1905-72). “Lili Marleen”, originally composed in 1915 and a hit for Andersen under the title “Lied eines jungen Wachtposten (Lili Marlen)”, was a popular song in World War II across the fronts. At one point, however, the German leadership banned it because it was too morbid. Andersen was used by the Nazi leadership to record English-language “propaganda-jazz”, which would proscribe her post-war activities as an artist for a while. Once her career resumed, she remained a star until shortly before her death.

There is the original version of Marlene Dietrich‘s (1901-92) “Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt” from Der Blaue Engel (filmed simultaneously as The Blue Angel, 1929), which launched her career internationally. Dietrich’s sister ran a cinema near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, frequented mainly by SS guards. Marlene renounced her sister as a result, yet after the war helped her financially. In post-war West Germany, Dietrich was long regarded by many as a traitor on account of her support for the Allies in WW2. At a 1960 concert in Düsseldorf, an audience member threw an egg at her (in fairness, other audience members gave the offender a beating for his troubles). Dietrich’s last movie appearance was in 1979, in Just A Gigolo, with David Bowie. Maximilian Schell’s 1984 documentary Marlene is worth seeing, if not for the subject matter, then for Schell’s ingenuity in illustrating the recorded interviews with Dietrich after she withdrew permission to be filmed.

There is Pola Negri (1997-1987), the famous femme fatale of the silent movies era and former lover of Rudolfo Valentino and Charlie Chaplin. The Polish-born actress had returned to Europe after her career floundered with the advent of the talkies and after losing a fortune in the Wall Street Crash, acted in a few Joseph Goebbels-commissioned films, then fled Germany as rumours of her part-Jewish ancestry appeared.

There is the magnificent diva Zarah Leander (1907-81), who, with her extravagant gestures and deep voice, was an obvious favourite drag queen character in the West Germany of the ’70s and ’80s. Born in Sweden, Leander’s life would make a great biopic. After breaking through in pre-Anschluss Vienna, she became an instant star in Germany when she moved there in 1936 (becoming a particular favourite of Hitler’s). Leander always claimed to have been apolitical; not everybody was convinced of it.

There is Hans Albers (1891-1960), one of the biggest stars in Nazi Germany but who despised the Nazis. The Nazis forced him to officially split from his half-Jewish girlfriend, Hansi Burg, but he continued to unofficially live with her. In 1939, he arranged for her escape to Switzerland. When she returned to post-war Germany, Albers dropped his girlfriend at the time to reunite with Burg, with whom he lived until his death in 1960. A veteran actor of the silent era, Albers is rightly considered a legend. His hit “Auf Der Reeperbahn Nachts Um Halb Eins” continues to be sung by drunk Germans anywhere.

There is the tragic Joseph Schmidt (1904-42), a Jewish tenor, who was among the first artists to be banned from German radio by the Nazis. A few months after the release of his film Ein Lied geht um die Welt (the title track is featured on this set) in May 1933, Schmidt fled Germany for Vienna, then after the 1938 Anschluß to Belgium, then after its invasion by Germany to France, and following France’s occupation to neutral Switzerland, where he arrived in September 1942. Several escape attempts had weakened Schmidt, leading to his collapse on a Zürich street. He was identified as a Jewish refugee, who in Swiss law were not regarded as political emigrés, and taken to the internment camp Girenbad while his residence application was being processed. There he fell ill, and was treated in a hospital for an inflammation of the throat. Doctors refused to follow up his complaint about chest pains, and Schmidt was returned to Girenbad. Two days later, on November 16, he died of a heart attack. The following day, his approved residence permit arrived.

There is the sextett Comedian Harmonists, which had three Jewish members and sank soon after the Nazis took power. In 1934 the group was prohibited from performing in Germany; after a year of foreign tours the group split in 1936. The three Jewish members emigrated, and formed a band which toured under the same name; the three Aryans formed a sextet called the Meistersextett.

There is actor Heinz Rühmann (1902-94), who remained one of Germany’s biggest stars for close to six decades (and who appeared in the excellent 1930 comedy Die drei von der Tankstelle). Rühmann, reportedly Anne Frank’s favourite actor, was publicly entirely apolitical, but was accused after the war of having divorced his Jewish wife in 1938 so as to protect his career in the Third Reich. However, his next wife (with whom he remained until her death in 1975) had a Jewish grandfather, which caused Rühmann some trouble with the Nazi hierarchy.

There is Paul Hörbiger (1894-1981), an Hungarian-Austrian actor who became a resistance fighter against the Nazis. Arrested by the Nazis in 1945, he was sentenced to death for treason, with the BBC even reporting his death. Hörbiger lived, and enjoyed a long career on film, TV and stage which ended just a year before his death in 1981 at 86. Long revered in Germany and Austria as a grand old gentleman of stage and screen, Hörbiger’s film credits include the classic The Third Man, in which he played Harry Lime”s nameless porter.

There is Johannes Heesters (1903 – ), duetting with Marika Rökk (1913-2004, who was a admirer of Hitler in her day), who is despised in his native Netherlands as a Nazi collaborator. Heesters, who performed for Hitler and in 1941 visited the Dachau concentration camp (apparently to entertain SS guards, which Heesters denies), did not distance himself from the Third Reich hierarchy (as Albers did). Yet, the allies allowed him to continue his career after the war, and “” like many of his colleagues tainted by association with the Third Reich “” enjoyed great popularity in post-war Germany. Heesters is the world’s oldest active entertainer. His career started in 1921, he last appeared in a TV film in 2003.

There is Lilian Harvey (1906-1968), born in London to English and German parents. During WW1, her father worked in Magdeburg, preventing the family from returning to England. Lilian might have become a big British star; instead her career hit the big time in Germany. After a failed attempt at breaking through in Hollywood, she drew the attention of the Gestapo in the ’30s for her refusal to disassociate from her Jewish friends. Based in France after war, she resumed her career in West Germany.

There are Die Goldene Sieben, who were founded in Berlin by the Nazi party to record “German jazz that would conform to the moral requirements of the Third Reich, as opposed to the “decadent” US jazz. However, the rotating members of the band failed to invent German jazz, doing so much of US-style swinging that Goebbels’ ministry disbanded the group after five years in 1939. Likewise, Peter Igelhoff (1904-78) was considered too jazzy, and was prohibited from public performances and banned from radio in 1942. Instead, the entertainer was drafted into the army and sent to the front. He survived.

And there is Richard Tauber (1891-1948), the Austrian tenor who was the subject of Tom Waits’ blues. Tauber’s Jewish father converted to Catholicism, and even hoped Richard would become a priest. Instead, Richard joined the stage, appearing in operas and operettas. Already a big star in Germany, Täuber was badly beaten up by Nazi thugs, presumably because of his Jewish ancestry, and left Germany for Austria. He fled his homeland when Germany annexed it in 1938. He subsequently became a British citizen, and died in London at the age of 57.

Comedian Harmonist – Ein Freund, Ein Guter Freund
Comedian Harmonist – Veronika, der Lenz ist da
Marlene Dietrich – Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt
Richard Tauber – Adieu, Mein Kleiner Gardeoffizier
Siegfried Arno – Wenn Die Elisabeth Nicht So Schöne Beine Hätt
Lilian Harvey – Das Gibt’s Nur Einmal
Paul Hörbiger – Das Muß Ein Stück Vom Himmel Sein
Hans Albers – Flieger, Grüß’ Mir Die Sonne
Lilian Harvey – Wir Zahlen Keine Miete Mehr
Comedian Harmonists – Kleiner Mann Was Nun
Joseph Schmidt – Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt
Die Goldene Sieben – Ich Wollt’ Ich Wär Ein Huhn

Hans Albers – Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb zwei
Pola Negri – Wenn Die Sonne Hinter Den Dächern Versinkt
Heinz Wehner & His Orchestra – Das Fräulein Gerda
Peter Igelhoff – Der Onkel Doktor Hat Gesagt
Rudi Schuricke – O Mia Bella Napoli
Zarah Leander – Kann Denn Liebe Sünde Sein
Hans Albers – Goodbye, Johnny
Heinz Rühmann – Das Kann Doch Einen Seemann Nicht Erschüttern
Lale Andersen – Lili Marleen
Marika R̦kk & Johannes Heester РMusik, Musik, Musik
Ilse Werner – So Wird’s Nie Wieder Sein
Sven Olof Sandberg – Unter Der Roten Laterne Von St Pauli
Zarah Leander – Ich Weiß, Es Wird Einmal Ein Wunder Geschehn

  1. Anonymous
    August 2nd, 2007 at 15:11 | #1

    Thanks for this gem!Sam.

  2. Any major dude with half a heart
    August 2nd, 2007 at 18:57 | #2

    I hope you’ll enjoy it Sam. And thank you for leaving a comment — bloggers can never ghet enough of (nice) comments.I’m quite surprised at how popular this mix is turning out to be. 63 downloads of the first file after one day is one more than the Ben Folds live mix was downloaded after a month.

  3. Remco
    August 2nd, 2007 at 19:48 | #3

    There should be more posts on the Net like this one! Absolutely fabulous! Thanks!!!!

  4. Claude
    August 3rd, 2007 at 01:44 | #4

    This is fantastic! What a great lesson in music history. I grew up in Switzerland (and probably am just a few years older than you), and many of these artist names are familiar to me. But at the same time I have never heard many of these songs before. Now I can change that. Thanks for this.

  5. billyclex
    August 3rd, 2007 at 02:51 | #5

    Great set of songs. Thanks.

  6. Rudi Ratlos
    August 3rd, 2007 at 10:49 | #6

    Dankesch̦n ! Thanks also for the interesting info on the artists you provided РCheers from Germany !

  7. Anonymous
    August 3rd, 2007 at 15:23 | #7

    Great collection of songs. Thnx!

  8. kaspian
    August 3rd, 2007 at 15:46 | #8

    Thanks for this fine post.When I listen to music of this era, I can’t help listening for some kind of cultural reflection of what was happening politically in Germany at the time. For the most part, I don’t find it — which may be a revealing thing in itself. German popular culture seems to have kept rolling along (albeit cleansed, over time, of Jews and “Negro music” and other non-Aryan influences) as though nothing were the matter.I suppose some future anthologist might compile a selection of American pop tunes from 2001-2008 and discover a similar disconnect between popular culture and the political atrocities of the day — from the rollback of Constitutional government in favor of the “unitary executive” unaccountable for his actions, to the pillaging of public lands, the embrace of torture and illegal detention as official instrument of American foreign policy, and the creep toward fundamentalist theocracy.In fact, one might argue that such mass-culture obliviousness — an ability to keep humming the same old tune while the Reichstag burns, so to speak — is exactly what enables the Hitlers and Bushes of the world to drive great nations into moral depravity and self-destruction.

  9. Any major dude with half a heart
    August 3rd, 2007 at 16:08 | #9

    Music as the opium of the masses. I think you’re right there, Kaspian. Indeed, Goebbels controlled Germany’s movie industry, especially during the war, with exactly that in mind: to divert the people’s attention from the hardships of war. As we saw with the founding of Die Goldene Sieben (whose song on this collection is one of my favourites), Goebbels and his henchmen also had a hand in trying to direct popular music.I hope Karl Rove isn’t influencing popular music in the US right now — but looking at the abject quality, bland conformity and cynical commercialism of US chart music these days, the likes of Clive Davis are doing the job for him.

  10. Anonymous
    August 4th, 2007 at 14:31 | #10

    Big thanks

  11. Zero G Sound
    August 5th, 2007 at 21:28 | #11

    Thanks for the music and the interesting introduction. Great edutainment!

  12. lootschi
    August 6th, 2007 at 13:54 | #12

    A great selection of songs. Thank you very much. German popular music at that time was great, just listen to someone as Curt Bois, a jewish comedian who went to the US and later played, among other things, a small part in Casablanca. He died only a few years ago.But to compare Nazi-Germany to the current US of A is just laughable, from any point of view. Here we had a regime and a country starting a world war 55 million dead, guilty of a genocide with 6 million victims, and today we have the politics of the current administration, where you are free to write a blog against, speak out at celebrity gatherings as the oscar-ceremony, go on the streets protesting and can be sure that at the next election you can votre for someone else.I just wish the millions of muslims suffering under fascist regimes with all the fundamentalist stuff going on every day had the same ability and means to speak out against their dictators and/or mullahs. That 80 % of the people in Iraq went to the first general election in more than 40 years is the durect outcome of american politics; that religious and fundamentalist groups don’t like that and try to bomb that country back into the stone-age – who is there to blame?There are a lot of things that should be debated about the current american politics – and they are debated at great lengths everywhere in the world. But lets not forget that most surely nobody taking to the streets protesting against W.Bush in a safe western country like the UK, Germany, France or the USA would like to live in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia, Syria etc..

  13. Anonymous
    September 11th, 2007 at 13:36 | #13

    Hi, these tracks are great! I’m working on a sound design for a Tony Kushner play, set in Germany 1932-33. Your background information was really informative and fascinating. do you know of any websites that sell WAV (lossless)recordings of old jazz tracks?thanks again for a great collection.Elly (australia)

  14. Zakk
    June 5th, 2008 at 19:48 | #14

    For those who want more of this: Zakkorama started a 4 part series with more of this German music. 129 tracks will be posted every Wednesday in June 2008 under the title German History. Go and see:http://zakkorama.blogspot.com/Zakk

  15. Anonymous
    August 7th, 2008 at 02:00 | #15

    Am I the only one who can’t unwrap these files? Don’t know what’s going wrong, but I get a load of error messages after downloading this mix (and I’ve downloaded it several times with rather large intervals, from days to weeks). ;-(Bad luck, I guess. Anyway: wonderful collection (I know that, as I own several of these tracks on lp). :-)

  16. Matt
    May 23rd, 2009 at 06:54 | #16

    Hi–is there any way you could re-upload the two files??? I am working on a school project for my German class and your post is PERFECT! I would owe you big time!


  17. Mario
    July 5th, 2009 at 22:02 | #17

    I found your information very interesting and from what I knew fro my father the artists you mention where the top rated in Germany. I would very much appreciate if you could link me to a place where this record could be downloaded.
    Thank you very much

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