Entartete Kunste

Zuschlag, Christoph. Entartete Kunst, Ausstellungsstrategien im Nazi-Deutschland. Worms: Wernersche, 1995.

While there are many examples of the censorship of music through the ages, that of the suppression of music by the Third Reich is particularly notable. During World War II, the Nazi party used state control of music and the arts in an attempt to eradicate those aspects of German cultural life which were contrary to Nazi ideology. Based on racial doctrines of Aryan supremacy and anti-Semitism, the musical blacklist included works by Jewish composers and composers from the European modernist movement, works with explicit sexual connotations, and works of black inspired jazz. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels branded many musical works entartete--or degenerate--after a term coined by the nineteenth-century criminologist Cesare Lombroso to describe a state of clinical abnormality. Through such measures, the Third Reich curtailed a generation of tremendous musical innovation in Europe.

Jonny Spielt Auf

Krenek, Ernst. Jonny Spielt Auf: Oper in 2 Teilen. Klavierauszug mit Text vom Komponisten. Wien: Universal Edition, [c1926].

Ernst Krenek's daring and original opera Jonny spielt auf (Jonny Strikes Up the Band) premiered in Leipzig on February 10, 1927, and was soon thereafter targeted by the Nazis as an "outrageous introduction of Jewish-Nigger filth" by the "half-Jewish Czech" (although Krenek was neither). The opera, whose title character is a black violinist and jazz bandleader, combined aspects of the nineteenth-century Wagnerian tradition with elements of jazz, operetta, spirituals, Broadway musicals, and big-city noises. Although theaters across Europe began clamoring for performances, fights and demonstrations staged by National Socialists marred the opening of the opera in Vienna later that year. Performances continued during the late 1920s, despite continued defiant actions by the National Socialists. The opera was eventually banned. The official Nazi logo for Entartete Musik was the displayed grotesque caricature of the original poster for Jonny spielt auf, in which the saxophonist wears a Star of David instead of a carnation in his tuxedo lapel.

Entartete "Kunst"

Entartete "Kunst" Ausstellungsführer. [Redding, Conn.: Silver Fox Press, 1972] Facsimile. Originally published: Berlin: Verlag für Kultur- und Wirtschaftswerbung, 1936.

In 1937, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels declared that the Reich must rid itself of "this decadent byproduct of Bolshevik Jewish corruption and of Blacks and their hated jazz" and staged an enormous exhibition of Entartete Kunst, or degenerate art, in Munich. Thousands of Germans mobbed the exhibition, which included works of satire, caricature, and expressionism. Although the exhibition's works hung exposed and crammed on top of each other with crude insults etched into the walls, the public exhibited a fascination with the proscribed art. In 1938, a smaller exhibition of Entartete Musik, or degenerate music, in Dusseldorf included opera and operetta, twelve-tone music, and jazz as well as works by Jewish composers and modernists including Hindemith, Schoenberg, Weill, Berg, and Stravinsky.


Krása, Hans. Brundibár. Ed. Blanka Cervinková. Text by Adolf Hoffmeister. Prague: Tempo, 1989.

In 1940, the Nazi party compiled a directory of Jews in German musical life, which then was used as a "death list." Many of the Jewish cultural elite were sent to Terezin (Theresienstadt), a camp near Prague in northern Bohemia. Terezin was used as a Nazi show place, where concerned international delegates could witness the work of inmates such as the Czech composer Hans Krása, who wrote the children's opera Brundibar while imprisoned in Terezin. In reality, the Nazis used Terezin as a processing camp between Central Europe and death camps such as Auschwitz. Following a sham presentation to the International Committee of the Red Cross in June of 1944, the camp was deemed to have outlived its usefulness, and on October 16, almost all of the composers and artists in the camp were sent to Auschwitz. Composers Viktor Ullmann, Hans Krása, Pavel Haas, Ervin Schulhoff, and Gideon Klein were among some 35,000 artists and musicians who perished after passing through Terezin during the Holocaust.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

Volavková, Hana. I Never Saw Another Butterfly...: Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944. New York : Schocken Books, 1994, c1993.

Das Wunder der Heliane [Heliane's Miracle], 1927
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, composer

This beautiful, haunting opera was banned in Nazi Germany because the composer was a Jew. Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the young Austrian prodigy of Bruno Walter, wrote this lush romantic score, laden with fantasy, painfully emotional, and darkly erotic.