Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Nazi Soundscapes

Nazi Soundscapes: Sound, Technology and Urban Space in Germany, 1933-1945

Carolyn Birdsall
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Nazi Soundscapes
    Book Description:

    Following the formation of the German National Socialist Party in the 1920s, various forms of sound (popular music, voice, noise and silence) and media technology (radio and loudspeaker systems) were configured as useful to the party's political programme. Focusing on the urban "soundscape" of Düsseldorf, the author makes a persuasive case for investigating such sound events and technological devices in their specific contexts of production and reception. Nazi Soundscapes identifies strategies for controlling space and reworking identity patterns, but also the ongoing difficulties in manipulating mediated sounds and the spaces of listening reception, whether in the home, workplace, the cinema, public rituals or with wartime siren systems. The study revises visualist notions of social control, and reveals the disciplinary functions of listening (as eavesdropping) as well as the sonic dimensions to exclusion and violence during Nazism. An essential title for everyone interested in the links between German political culture, audiovisual media and urban history, Nazi Soundscapes provides a fascinating analysis of the cultural significance of sound between the 1920s and early 1940s. Click "">here for the sound clips discussed in the book. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1632-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. 9-10)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 11-30)

    During 2004, I conducted a small-scale survey comprised of oral history interviews with Germans who were children and young adults during National Socialism. Among other themes, what emerged in the interviews was their heightened awareness of sound in everyday urban life, particularly during World War II, and the sense of beingearwitnessesto that period.² These interviews provided a departure point for the current study, inviting further investigation into the implications of sound within Nazi-era control, discipline and terror, and the need to specify the role of radio and mediated sound within fascist aesthetics and cultural practices.

    The figure of...

  6. 1. Affirmative Resonances in Urban Space
    (pp. 31-64)

    Albert Leo Schlageter, a former soldier and right-wing activist, was arrested for his role in a sabotage attack on a goods train passing through Düsseldorf in 1923. After being sent to trial, Schlageter was sentenced to death by the French military occupiers of the German Rhine-Ruhr area. Following his death in the early morning hours of 26 May 1923, various political parties tried to seize on Schlageter’s memory, with Communists attempting to downplay his right-wing allegiances in a bid to make a claim on this “service to the German people.”¹ In the following decade, the National Socialist Party effectively capitalised...

  7. 2. The Festivalisation of the Everyday
    (pp. 65-102)

    The previous chapter referred to historian William McNeill’s transhistorical concept of coordinated movement and sound making – as a “muscular bonding” – with the military drill, on the one hand, and community or village celebrations with dance, on the other (1995). In analysing the Schlageter myth and its commemorative festivals, I concentrated on the former category (military drill) for considering Nazi occupations of urban space in the 1920s and early 1930s. Following the Nazi takeover, as I pointed out, the national calendar was filled with a series of new events and appropriated public holidays. Such festivals, which took on increasingly elaborate forms...

  8. 3. Mobilising Sound for the Nation at War
    (pp. 103-140)

    The specific contribution of sound to cultural expressions of modern national identity has been emphasised in recent scholarship (see Revill 2000; Connell and Gibson 2003; Biddle and Knights 2007). This interest in how the nation is performed through sound and music has underscored how such practices are produced spatially. The intersections of (national) identity and cultural geographies can even reflect an “aural border” that delimits acoustic identities in a particular geopolitical area (Kun 2000). In the case of Germany, its nationalism since the nineteenth century had been particularly dependent on such a process. As George Mosse argues, “ritual, songs, and...

  9. 4. Cinema as a Gesamtkunstwerk?
    (pp. 141-172)

    In 1876, the much-anticipated Bayreuth music festival opened with the first complete performance of theRing des Nibelungencycle, directed by its founder, German composer Richard Wagner. This inaugural festival enjoyed critical success, and has since been considered as a major breakthrough in the history of modern (operatic) performance (Shaw-Miller 2002). From the late 1840s, Wagner had preoccupied himself with a new concept ofmusic-drama,which he discussed in theoretical writings and pursued in his own compositions. According to Wagner, music-drama would involve a total fusion of the traditional arts, with a balance between music and poetry (Wagner 1849/2001: 4-9)....

  10. Afterword: Echoes of the Past
    (pp. 173-179)

    In the previous chapter, I examined the case of the documentary filmHitler’s Hit Paradewith regard to present-day difficulties in remembering and representing the Nazi past. While the film uses an unbroken sequence of (mainly sentimental) hit songs from the 1930s and 1940s, I argued that this continuous soundtrack provided a critical frame for considering the recycling of visual images and film footage from the Nazi era. Rather than suggest that these songs offer a stable historical chronology, I have shown thatHitler’s Hit Paradeforegrounds the act of selection and narrative organisation of archival image and sound. In...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 180-216)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-254)
  13. Track List
    (pp. 255-256)
  14. Index
    (pp. 257-272)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)