I’m not a fan of German music in the 1940s. The Nazi era and World War II weren’t times of great creative achievements in Germany. No wonder — when Goebbels put a straight-jacket on film, music and other arts in the 1930s, many of Germany’s best artists, often Jews or anti-Nazis, left the country or were forced to stop creating and innovating.
In the postwar years, the Germans could finally listen to the allied airwaves without fear of reprisals (it was a crime in the war to listen to BBC). Young Germans especially got their first taste of the newest in allied music. I hadn’t thought about what an important cultural issue this was until I visited the Allied Museum in Berlin exhibit “The Link with Home — and the Germans Listened in.”
The Armed Forces Network (US), the British Forces Network and the Radio Forces Francaises gave allied soldiers news and entertainment from their home countries and their zones. They were geared to young soldiers at first, and as the occupation of Germany continued, to family members. Here are a few shows from an early program of the British Forces Network:
07.10 Sunrise Serenade. Bright and Breezy listening for a Sunday morning.
09.45 Hour of Charm. An American programme of Morning melody.
14.45. Transatlantic Quiz. America v. Britain, a contest to find who knows most about the other’s country.
20.30. The Army Radio Orchestra. Conducted by R.S.M. George Melachrino with guest artistes.
21.10 Weather forecast for the British Zone.
Without intending to, the allied radio stations attracted large numbers of German followers. Young people would crowd to AFN’s open house to get a glimpse of their favorite disc jockeys. Their relaxed style attracted the Germans because it was so different from the controlled tone of German radio. The programs weren’t overtly political, also a novelty for Germans used to everything being propaganda one way or another.
Of course, allied radio was subtly political in the sense of presenting American or other allied ways of life as an attractive alternative to the Nazi era. Again, this wasn’t its main mission, just a nice side effect, one more cultural tool — like the British, French and American cultural centers all over Germany — that opened the Germans to the world.