Guide Theatre in the Third Reich, the Prewar Years: Essays on Theatre in Nazi Germany

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To the frustration of the Germans, the Danish rejection of Nazi racial overtures discredited the Nazi racial prophecy of Nordic unity. This rejection both exacerbated the contradiction inherent in occupying a space of perceived racial peers and cast significant doubt on the paradigm of Nordic solidarity. Thus, if the Danish theater represented a swift German military success that took no more than two hours, it ultimately served as a perpetual challenge to Nazi racism.

Despite and because of repeated failure, the Germans tried repeatedly to construct demonstrations of cooperation. The occupiers sought to propagate racial unity between Nordic Danes and Germans through cultural organizations within Danish civil society. This organization worked for collaboration amongst Nordic peoples. For the most part, the Danes rejected these organizations. The University of Copenhagen declined the offer to have German and Danish professors work side by side.

Each failure highlighted the German need to propagate a collaborative image, so as to reaffirm Nazi racial ideology. Fortunately for the Germans, the failure of these cultural projects did not boil over into publicly disruptive demonstrations.

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Rather, they tended just to fester away in relative silence. Still, the football match of 5 June did spiral into a public display of Danish discontent. This German project to propagate cultural cooperation became an issue of political power when the Danish fans started a protest.

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Danish officials would not accept a German appointee to the position of Justice Minister and instead promoted Thune Jacobsen, the Danish head of police. But the Germans did not renege on the occupation agreement, even though they very well could have. Rather, the occupiers decided to accept the demands of the recalcitrant Danish government. His marked interest in the cultural union between Denmark and Germany and in the Nordische Gesellschaft are highly appreciated in Germany.

Secondary Guilt Syndrome May Have Led Nazi-persecuted Jewish Writers to Suicide

At times, the Germans diluted their hegemony in a solvent of their own racism. Other political issues surrounding the occupation further showed the German desire to project a positive public-relations image. The Germans occupiers were obsessed with global perceptions of Danish-German relations, making Danish diplomatic delegations still stationed around the world of central importance.

German representatives reviewed correspondence sent from the government in Copenhagen to its representatives in foreign states to make sure official statements reflected a positive relationship between Germany and Denmark. This German legal decision also marked a self-imposed constraint on German domination—it was a German representative in Denmark who requested amnesty for the Danish policemen arrested for fighting with German troops and Danish Nazis.

Furthermore, the small minority of Danes who did embrace Nazi racism tried to recruit fellow Danes so as to conjure an image of racial collaboration. This paperwork demonstrated the easy translatability between Germans and Danes according to Nazi racial logic. Politically collaborative projects also bled into military ones. The shift from political to military projects was most apparent with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June Just four days later, Denmark was compelled to sever its diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in a public display of Danish-German cooperation.

While I have made a case for focusing on theaters other than just the Eastern Front, a study of Nazi ideology in Denmark must still address the impact of Operation Barbarossa on the German racial project. The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union was supposed to be a pan-Germanic crusade against the Bolshevism of Slavs and Jews, and if the official Danish state would not get troops involved, then the Germans had to find other ways of acquiring Danish military assistance without alienating their racial peers. Its apparatus and its plans represented the ultimate fusion of Nazi racism and military objectives.

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An education manual for SS trainees from demonstrated the Nazi use of race to build collaboration with the Danes. These racial claims were meant to muster Danish support for SS during the war. To accomplish this endeavor, the SS used its battlefield arm, the Waffen-SS to expand its militarization project into Denmark.

More importantly, the racial thoughts of Danes who embraced racial solidarity were made publicly available, so as to verify Nazi racial ideology. Regarding the Danish assistance to the German military project, one letter from the anthology stood out. It was from a Danish civilian to his son at the front.

Or, perhaps these letters truly were testaments to the appeal of German ideology to the Danes willing to serve. Either way, the publication of this epistolary anthology for a German audience showed the German desire to resolve the Danish paradox. In addition to mass violence against racial enemies, this Nazi vision also required a surplus of Germanic peoples to settle the newly recovered lands.


The German occupiers used racial appeals to the Danes help make the Nazi vision a reality. The SS education manual articulated a plan to push Nordic peoples to the East to accomplish this ambitious demographic task. Still, this German strategy demonstrated the racial esteem in which the Nazis held the Danes, as the Nazis hoped Nordic Danes would help pioneer this Nazi empire. In the face of all of these cultural, political, and military collaborative efforts, the Danes consistently dragged their feet.

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Danish recalcitrance boiled over in the summer of with major strikes, demonstrations, and acts of resistance. This declaration replaced the use of Danish domestic law, restricted public meetings, established a strict curfew, and outlawed strikes. Limitations on German violence were most permissible among perceived racial peers. Historians have debated over how the word got out regarding the liquidation, but the majority of the Jews were able to flee successfully to Sweden. To be sure, the Nazis vilified all Jews. Yet Petrow has demonstrated that even the very small minority of Jews that were caught received much better treatment in their internment than did most European Jews.

Indeed, Danish Jews were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp rather than to one of the killing facilities. The Nazis did not view Danish Jews as racially better; Nazi anti-Semitism did not allow for racial preferences for certain Jews. Rather, it could have been the desire to maintain a positive image of cooperation with the non-Jewish Danes that conditioned the German treatment of Danish Jews. Again, the Danes benefited from the German attempt to grapple with the paradox of having occupied racial peers by force.

As the Soviet armies moved into Germany, Hitler also had to contend with thousands of German refugees fleeing westward. On 4 February , Hitler sent out an order on how to manage these refugees. The document claimed that not only would Germany throw open its arms to displaced Germans, but Denmark would also serve as an acceptable site of refuge.

In his mind, Denmark was still a perfectly desirable racial space. Only now, instead of exporting Danes to the East to construct a Germanic empire, Hitler was sending eastern Germans into Denmark to shelter them from Soviet oppression. What had started as a countermeasure against a possible British breach of Danish neutrality culminated in a recognition of British dominance.

The Danes had the chance to push the border even further southward into Germany by reclaiming South Schleswig. In , the Danish government rejected any such plans and did not offer a referendum on the issue. Apparently, the Danes did not want to incorporate a substantial German minority into their state.

The Danish rejection represented not some ethical transcendence above opportunistic geopolitical squabbling, but rather, it was a similar form of xenophobia towards Germans that certain Danes had expressed before the war. It had a longer narrative of Nordic solidarity that then trapped the Germans in a paradox on 9 April This paradox placed perceived security needs against Nazi racial theory. The German occupation apparatus constructed numerous cultural, political, and military projects meant to construct an image of collaboration between the Danish and German people.

Overall, the Germans were unable to impose their racial theories onto the Danes, but their collaborative projects conditioned the occupation and restricted the extent of German aggression. Nazi ideology could thus serve as an ironic limitation on wartime violence. Numerous other scholars have demonstrated that attempts to grapple with paradoxes provided powerful motors behind historical events.

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He claims that Judaism was viewed as the past, which had to be cleansed for Nazism to move forward. To Confino, the Nazi attempt to deal with this paradox drove forward the violence of the Holocaust. By focusing on a paradox, my argument follows a similar model, but it does so within the context of the occupation of Denmark. Vann Woodward , ed. Morgan Kousser and James M.

The shows presented a witty commentary on the socio-political situation of the Second Empire, and the authors loved ridiculing the moral standards of the newly empowered bourgeoisie. As a result, these early operettas are characterized by a liberal use of eroticism, verging on the pornographic, and the inclusion of the latest scandalous dance crazes: the can-can in Paris and the sensual waltz in Vienna.

Almost all European operetta composers in those years looked to Broadway and the operettas of Sigmund Romberg, Rudolf Friml and Vincent Youmans as models: they imported American rhythms and themes into Germany and Austria. This transatlantic symbiosis led to the genre's heyday and creative peak. Instead of issuing official bans, the newly installed Reichsdramaturg , Dr. After the season, all theater programming had to be presented to the Propaganda Ministry for approval, but the planning and organization of theater seasons remained the sole responsibility of the theater directors themselves.

Although not a single official decree was issued, many directors, if they stayed in Germany at all, immediately changed their repertoire so as not to provoke such incidents in their houses. As a result, the repertoire and casting of operetta theaters changed swiftly. Such operatic re-interpretations of operetta were useful, also because private theaters eventually disappeared, and operettas were performed, for the most part, at state houses with opera singers whose characteristics were different than those of the multi-talented pre operetta actors.

As a direct consequence, the formerly booming commercial theater world of Berlin and Vienna — once equal to London's West End or New York's Broadway — disappeared. Operettas no longer followed the dictate of audiences's tastes; they followed standards set by cabinet ministers and their political agendas. Another advantage of returning to the classic Viennese operettas was the fact that most of those works' composers were not Jewish, and it was easy to eliminate Jewish librettists' names from playbills since the authors in question were already dead.

Another side-effect that was positive, from the Nazis' point of view, was that no royalties had to be paid to composers and librettists in exile.

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Yet audiences accustomed to syncopated rhythms and Hollywood film musicals, which were still playing in Germany until , did not wish to see only taste-refining classics in their theaters. A substitute for the former jazz operettas had to be found, and this need helped the careers of many second-rate composers who were now given a chance to be heard. Not one of the new works created in those years managed to achieve more that ephemeral importance.

Give your heart and hand to the Fatherland. Say goodbye to your beloved, even if it hurts. Whatever happens, we will protect our Land. Even more radical was Rudolf Kattnigg's Prinz von Thule , a battleship sailing into the smooth new operetta seas. Who could have guessed that this could happen? Is it a dream?