Theme of death and self-sacrifice in German songs

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WTW26
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Theme of death and self-sacrifice in German songs

Post by WTW26 » 18 Jan 2003 13:25

I've been collecting German soldiers' songs for quite a long time and it catched my eye that very many of them sing about death and self-sacrifice for the Fatherland. This quite surprised me, because I had thought that, at least, the Nazi songs would sing only about victories and invincibility of the Germans. But it turns out that the Nazis weren't only going to win, but they were also ready to die for their cause. This Opferbereitschaft is truly unique, I haven't met it even in the Soviet war songs. It can only be compared to one of the Kamikaze. The Germans had an excellent army, of course, and excellent armaments, but would they have gone so far without this readiness to sacrifice their lives? To my mind, this national trait was one of the main reasons of their victories, although you rarely find this factor listed in various military history books. They speak about "fanatism", but it's not a national trait.
Maybe someone who is in German history can explain the roots of the Germans' extraordinary willingness to sacrifice their lives?
Here are some examples of German songs that sing about death and self-sacrifice. As you can see they are not only Nazi, but also pre-Nazi ones.

"Und bricht uns aus der Wunde
Heiß das rote Blut hervor
Wir kämpfen noch im Sterben
Wir sind das schwarze Korps!"
DAS SCHWARZE KORPS

"Wir wissen nur eines, wenn Deutschland in Not,
Zu kämpfen, zu siegen, zu sterben den Tod."
FALLSCHIRMJÄGERLIED

"Kamerad! Wir marschieren und stürmen,
Für Deutschland zu sterben bereit..."
FRANKREICHLIED

"...für Deutschland zu sterben
Ist uns höchste Ehr"
PANZERLIED

"Hoch! - ruft er dann - Was schadet's mir,
Ich starb den Ehrentod
Für Deutschlands heiligstes Panier,
Die Flagge Schwarz-Weiß-Rot!"
DEUTSCHES FLAGGENLIED

"So will ich wakker streiten
Bis an das blut'ge End..."
DIE BRAUNE KOMPANIE

"Und ob mein Herz im Tode bricht,
Wirst du doch drum ein Welscher nicht,
Reich, wie an Wasser deine Flut,
Ist Deutschland ja an Heldenblut"
DIE WACHT AM RHEIN

"Für Adolf Hitler gehn wir in den Tod!"
S.A. MARSCHIERT

"Und sterben wir noch heute
auf blutigem Feld..."
DIE EISERNE SCHAR

"Fürs Hakenkreuz, auf blutig Rot,
Geh'n wir mit Freuden in den Tod"
ES ZOG EIN HITLERMANN HINAUS

"Und sollte ich nicht kehren mehr zurück,
So weine nicht, ja, weine nicht, mein Schatz.
Ein steiler Felsen ist mein stilles Grab,
Das man zur letzen Ruh mir gab"
MARSCH DER GEBIRGSJÄGER

"...der schönste Tod vor allen
Ist der Soldatentod"
LEBE WOHL, DU KLEINE MONIKA

"Bluten und sterben, ja -
Was ist dabei?
Wenn nur mein Vaterland,
Wenn Deutschland frei!"
MORGEN MARSCHIEREN WIR IN FEINDESLAND

"...und wenn sich die Reihen auch lichten
Für uns gibt es nie ein Zurück"
S.S. MARSCHIERT IN FEINDESLAND

"Und fahr'n wir ohne Wiederkehr,
Rauscht uns im Herbst ein Amen"
WILDGÄNSE RAUSCHEN DURCH DIE NACHT

"Kommt die Kunde, daß ich bin gefallen,
Daß ich schlafe in der Meeresflut,
Weine nicht um mich, mein Schatz, und denke:
Für das Vaterland da floß sein Blut"
WIR FAHREN GEGEN ENGELLAND

"So stehn die Sturmkolonnen
Zum letzten Kampf bereit..."
WIR SIND DIE STURMKOLONNEN

JLEES
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Third Reich & Death

Post by JLEES » 18 Jan 2003 18:23

This whole focus upon death for the cause, or death in combat is just not confined to German songs. A great deal of art produced during the Third Reich also glorified death for the Fatherland or NSDAP. In fact, the whole idea behind celebrating the Munich Putsch on November 9 annually was to honor those whom fell for the Nazi Party. Otherwise the 1923 Putsch was a complete failure for the NSDAP, but through affective propaganda they were able to turn it into a victory by focusing upon those who gave their lives for the movement. They also honored soldiers whom fell in WWI and during the days of the struggle with communists for control of the streets in Germany, and of course, Horst Wesel too. Via affect propaganda usage, the lost comrades can still serve the struggle. I suspect this phenomenon wasn’t just confined to music and art; it can probably be found in literature produced during the Third Reich.
James

Heraklit
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Liebestod and the Wehrmacht

Post by Heraklit » 18 Jan 2003 21:16

The Wehrmacht soldier's "Männer Tugend und Liebestod geweiht" ethos, is the ethos of manly virtue and doomed dedication to what can be loosely translated as love-death.

As with any analyses of human behavior, an explanation of "the Germans' extraordinary willingness to sacrifice their lives" must perforce be subjective. A particular explanation may indeed be quite rational and even very convincing but not necessarily true.

Possibly a poet might come nearer to finding "truth" in this matter than would a historian or even a scientist, particularly a "social" scientist with mountains of statistics.

"Liebestod: Once in a life may come a love so great...a love so pure and undefiled that one would die for it… if dying would preserve it… "

In the early 1950s, the Allied occupiers of Germany were still hanging Wehrmacht soldiers. In the American Zone these were mostly members of the Waffen SS condemned to death at the Dachau trials for "crimes against humanity." During this time, while on an inspection assignment for the U.S. Army European Command Headquarters, I had occasion to visit our facilities at Landsberg (the War Criminal Prison) which was then an execution center. It was the same prison where Hitler had been imprisoned several decades previously.

I still recall parts of a lengthy conversation I had with a member of an execution team. I remember his description of the condemned Germans. He described them as young, mostly in their 20s, unrepentant, and almost without exception, they stoically accepted their fates. They invariably mounted the scaffold manfully and proudly uttered patriotic slogans, such as "Es lebe Deutschland!"

Napoleon's Grande Armée may have been similarly imbued. Bonaparte supposedly contended regarding death that "we are strong, when we have made up our minds to die." And further that "A man is not dependent upon his fellow creature, when he does not fear death… We are all destined to die—can a few days of life equal the happiness of dying for one's country?"

It may be an archaic concept now, perhaps to many totally alien to their thought processes, but at one time soldiers were motivated by the thought that "a sweet and noble thing it is to die for one's country." This is an attitude not completely missing in our armed forces today, although likely tempered by General Patton's dictum that that should be the enemy's fate.

varjag
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Post by varjag » 22 Jan 2003 12:46

Heraklit - I agree with some of your sentiments. Doesn't this 'German trait' go back to Prussia? Prussian discipline, unquestioning self-sacrifice, total dedication to the national cause - that partly (but not entirely) embued the entire German nation under the Nazi's, who of course drew heavily on that mythical source, to achieve their aims. The IMT in Nuremberg was set up, not least to 'exorcise the militarism from the Germans' - something that I agree with the IMT - needed exorcism. It was widely believed, a century before, that while other countries were 'Nations with Armies' - Prussia - 'was an Army with a Nation'.

Durand
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Post by Durand » 22 Jan 2003 22:00

Hallo,

There is a book that addresses the themes on this thread titled "To Die For Germany: Heroes in the Nazi Pantheon" by Jay W. Baird. You may want to borrow or pick-up a copy.

Regards,

Durand

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