Nazis Hate Jazz.

Exhibit A: Josef Skvorecky on the Nazis' Control-Freak Hatred of Jazz

But maybe the single most remarkable example of 20th-century totalitarian invective against jazz that Skvorecky ever relayed was here in the intro to The Bass Saxophone, where he recalls -- faithfully, he assures us ("they had engraved themselves deeply on my mind") -- a set of regulations, issued by a Gauleiter -- a regional official for the Reich -- as binding on all local dance orchestras during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Get this:

  1. Pieces in foxtrot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20% of the repertoires of light orchestras and dance bands;

  2. in this so-called jazz type repertoire, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics;

  3. As to tempo, preference is also to be given to brisk compositions over slow ones so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro, commensurate with the Aryan sense of discipline and moderation. On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) or in solo performances (so-called breaks) be tolerated;

  4. so-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs);

  5. strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);

  6. also prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four-quarter beat (except in stylized military marches);

  7. the double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions;

  8. plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality; if a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, strict care must be taken lest the string be allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden;

  9. musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat);

  10. all light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them the violin-cello, the viola or possibly a suitable folk instrument.

Being a Nazi, this public servant obviously didn't miss an opportunity to couch as many of these regulations as he could in racist or anti-Semitic terms. Such, after all, are the National Socialist equivalent of soothing conventional wisdom.

Exhibit B: Meanwhile, back in The States, "Regulations posted in Lansing, Michigan dance halls around 1920 made explicit the fears that the new dances and new morals of the post-war decade could lead to sexual license":


  1. No shadow or spotlight dances allowed.

  2. Moonlight dances not allowed where a single light is used to illuminate the Hall. Lights must be shaded to give Hall dimmed illuminated effect.

  3. All unnecessary shoulder or body movement or gratusque dances positively prohibited.

  4. Pivot reverse and running on the floor prohibited.

  5. All unnecessary hesitation, rocking from one foot to the other and see-sawing back and forth of the dancers will be prohibited.

  6. No loud talking, undue familiarity or suggestive remarks unbecoming any lady or gentleman will be tolerated.


  1. Right hand of gentleman must not be placed below the waist nor over the shoulder nor around the lady's neck, nor lady's left arm around gentleman's neck. Lady's right hand and gentleman's left hand clasped and extended at least six inches from the body, and must not be folded and lay across the chest of dancers.

  2. Heads of dancers must not Touch.


    No beating of drum to produce Jazz effect will be allowed.

    Any and all persons violating any of these rules will be subject to expulsion from the hall, also arrest for disorderly conduct.

By Order of
                      CHIEF OF POLICE

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11 Responses:

  1. Doctor Memory says:

    Both of these clearly need to be posted prominently at your disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals.

  2. Alexandre Sorokine says:

    Commies did the same. During 1930s up until 1950s juzz was no-no in the Soviet Unon. "Offending chaos of crazy sounds", "music for capitalists", "alien to the soviet people", etc. But seems Stalin was not alone.

  3. Eric TF Bat says:

    So the Germans were scared of chaos, and the Americans were scared of sex. Extrapolate forward and we see nothing surprising in modern society in both nations.

  4. Mark says:

    The War on Fun has been going on for a while.

  5. Sam Kington says:

    I particularly like how the Gauleiter says "hey, you've got a saxophone part? No problem! Use a cello, a viola, a viola de gamba, bagpipes or something". Because those are totally the same type of instrument.

  6. Andreas says:

    So Nazi Jazz needs more cowbell. Kinda obvious in retrospect.

    Another oddity that isn't mentioned in this text is that the pronunciation of "Jazz" in Germany at the time seems to have been entirely different from the original. I first noticed this when talking about music with my grandfather, but paid it no mind until it surfaced in conversation with a linguist friend of mine. According to him, there's an entire Jazz subgenre pronounced "Yatz". I like to imagine it matches the pattern you quote.

  7. Piku says:

    No scat on the dancefloor, it leaves a slippy mess.

  8. Don says:

    Hugh Marsh did a really fun song incorporating someone reading those Nazi rules along with someone breaking them. It's on his album Shaking the Pumpkin and called "Breaking the Rules." Looks like it's available on iTunes now but not Amazon, sadly.

  9. @sarcarsten says:

    Don't forget our great leader, Walter Ulbricht:

    "Ist es denn wirklich so, dass wir jeden Dreck, der vom Westen kommt, nu kopieren müssen? Ich denke, Genossen, mit der Monotonie des Je-Je-Je, und wie das alles heißt, ja, sollte man doch Schluss machen."

    Or, in western-capitalist language:

    "Is it really necessary that we have to copy every dirt that comes from the west? I think, comrades, we should put an end to the monotonic "yeah-yeah-yeah", and all that stuff."

  10. Alex says:

    You mean you weren't familiar with Eddie Rosner, the king of Soviet jazz, the man who said In 1939, it didn't help being a Jew playing Negro music even if your name was Adolf (which his real name was)? Was in Poland in '39, rocked up at the German consulate for assistance when the bombing started (he was a German citizen after all), got them to lend him a car and drove to the Soviet border...ended up making the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dance every Saturday night through the great patriotic war.

    On leave from Rokossovsky's tanks? A night off from the Shturmovik production line? You'd be down the local palais getting down to Rosner. Until Stalin turned on the Jews and slung him in the gulag. Eight years in swingin' Kolyma. Rehabilitated by Khrushchev and right back on the scene.

    ended up dying back in his home town in '73. Not stated whether he was in the East or West version.