Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Jazz, Rock, and Rebels

Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany

Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 346
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Jazz, Rock, and Rebels
    Book Description:

    In the two decades after World War II, Germans on both sides of the iron curtain fought vehemently over American cultural imports. Uta G. Poiger traces how westerns, jeans, jazz, rock 'n' roll, and stars like Marlon Brando or Elvis Presley reached adolescents in both Germanies, who eagerly adopted the new styles. Poiger reveals that East and West German authorities deployed gender and racial norms to contain Americanized youth cultures in their own territories and to carry on the ideological Cold War battle with each other. Poiger's lively account is based on an impressive array of sources, ranging from films, newspapers, and contemporary sociological studies, to German and U.S. archival materials.Jazz, Rock, and Rebelsexamines diverging responses to American culture in East and West Germany by linking these to changes in social science research, political cultures, state institutions, and international alliance systems. In the first two decades of the Cold War, consumer culture became a way to delineate the boundaries between East and West. This pathbreaking study, the first comparative cultural history of the two Germanies, sheds new light on the legacy of Weimar and National Socialism, on gender and race relations in Europe, and on Americanization and the Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92008-8
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    From the late 1940S until well into the 1960s, East German officials and the East German press attacked the influence of American popular culture on East and West German youth. First targeting westerns, gangster movies, and jazz, then rock ′n′ roll, East German authorities claimed that American imports destroyed the German cultural heritage, that they ″barbarized″ both East and West German adolescents, and made them prone to fascist seduction. Particularly in the first half of the 1950s, many West Germans reacted defensively to these suggestions and sometimes wondered whether East Germans better protected their youth. West Germans, too, worried that...

  7. 1 American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction
    (pp. 31-70)

    In 1953 Karl Bednarik published a book, which was widely read and reviewed in West Germany, on what he called a ″new type″ of young male workers. According to Bednarik these young men were characterized by two things above all: their love for westerns and other sensationalist films and their enthusiasm for jazz.¹ That same year East German officials and newspapers drew a similar image of male adolescents. In the aftermath of the June 1953, uprising in East Germany, they accused ″Tangojünglinge″ (Tango-boys) and other young males in ″Texas shirts″ and cowboy pants of having caused ″provocations.″²

    In the decade...

  8. 2 The Wild Ones: The 1956 Youth Riots and German Masculinity
    (pp. 71-105)

    An apparently new, disturbing social phenomenon preoccupied Germans in the mid-1950s: just ten years after the end of World War II, youth riots took place in East and West Germany, and the consumption of American popular culture appeared to be at their center. In September 1956 the West Berlin parliament discussed the riots that had erupted in various West German cities since 1955. One speaker asserted that the instigators of riots in a West Berlin working-class neighborhood had modeled their behavior ″word for word, picture for picture″ after the American movieThe Wild One, starring Marlon Brando.¹ A few weeks...

  9. 3 Lonely Crowds and Skeptical Generations: Depoliticizing and Repoliticizing Cultural Consumption
    (pp. 106-136)

    In 1956, as youth riots were shaking both Germanies, the West German paperHamburger Anzeigerillustrated an article about the psychology of German adolescent rebels, so-calledHalbstarke, with stills from the American movieRebel Without a Cause. The three pictures featured James Dean′s character in a knife fight with other adolescents, beating his father, and arguing with police; they were juxtaposed with a photo of a presumably German boy and girl innocently enjoying a picnic in a meadow. The accompanying article assured parents that most adolescent crises were ″necessary and completely natural″ developmental phases. The author cited a psychologist who...

  10. 4 Jazz and German Respectability
    (pp. 137-167)

    ″Jazz music has first of all nothing to do with politics.″ With these words Reginald Rudorf began his 1964 memoir about his postwar efforts to promote American jazz in East Germany, efforts that ended with Rudorf′s arrest in 1957 and his subsequent emigration to West Germany. His statement may come as a surprise from someone who had suffered political persecution in East Germany for promoting jazz. Further, it seems incongruous in the German context where jazz musicians and fans had been the subject of political persecution during the Third Reich, and, after 1945, had been harassed in East Germany and...

  11. 5 Presley, Yes—Ulbricht, No? Rock ′n′ Roll and Female Sexuality in the German Cold War
    (pp. 168-205)

    When rock ′n′ roll crossed the Atlantic to Germany in the second half of the 1950s, it brought not only rioting young men, but also young women into the public eye. In late 1956, a cartoon in the East Berlin daily,Berliner Zeitung, showed a small, emaciated Elvis Presley performing under larger-than-life female legs in front of a crowd of girls much bigger than he was. The girls were throwing off garter belts and bras and licking their thick lips in obvious sexual excitement. The accompanying article identified girls as the main consumers of American ″nonculture″ and commented that rock...

  12. Epilogue: Building Walls
    (pp. 206-228)

    The reconfiguration of culture and politics that emerged in West Germany in the second half of the 1950s has had indelible effects on the way the 1950s have been remembered. Although it is difficult to reconstruct exactly howHalbstarkeor rock ′n′ roll girls in the 1950s thought about their actions, it is unquestionable that their styles, often influenced by American cultural imports, were subversive, because they conflicted strongly with the gender mores and racial norms propagated by parents and state officials in East and West Germany. It is due largely to a liberal vision of politics that defined popular...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 229-272)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-312)
  15. Index
    (pp. 313-333)