Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Horst Wessel Song


This song is actually banned in Germany and Austria and I feel slightly daring in even mentioning it here. I’m certainly not going to provide a link. I’m not even going to advertise this particular blog post. If you’ve stumbled across it, you’ve stumbled across it. I worry a little that I played a recording of it on my computer yesterday. Yet I don’t really need to worry: even in Austria and Germany, mention can be made of it if one is investigating history as I know I am now.
It became the National Anthem during the Nazi time and at the same time was the Nazi theme tune.  The words have been adapted to suit many causes, some of them opposite in intention from the Nazi idealism.
It started life reasonably innocently. The tune is anyway a well-established folk melody. The words are from a poem by Wessel. Even though he was probably deluded and fanatical when he wrote the words, he had probably not intended them to be used for propaganda. The song was adopted in memory of Wessel.
Does he deserve such an honour? Probably not. He was dismissed form university because of his relationship with a prostitute. He actually died of wounds sustained when he was involved in a street brawl.
So many of the Nazi leaders who were idealised at the time were actually conning the people. Hitler himself gave the impression of being a never-tiring, hard-working soldier-leader. In fact, he rarely got up before midday. It was reported at first that he had died resisting the liberators whereas in fact he had shot himself.
I do feel this song has to be mentioned.  All of the people in my novel would have heard it frequently. I also feel that it is part of the horror of that time. We need to know what this was and we must not just totally repress it.          

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