A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany

Musical Politics and the Berlin Jewish Culture League
Lily E. Hirsch

Examines the complicated history of a Jewish cultural organization supported by Nazi Germany


The Jewish Culture League was created in Berlin in June 1933, the only organization in Nazi Germany in which Jews were not only allowed but encouraged to participate in music, both as performers and as audience members. Lily E. Hirsch's A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany is the first book to seriously investigate and parse the complicated questions the existence of this unique organization raised, such as why the Nazis would promote Jewish music when, in the rest of Germany, it was banned. The government's insistence that the League perform only Jewish music also presented the organization's leaders and membership with perplexing conundrums: what exactly is Jewish music? Who qualifies as a Jewish composer? And, if it is true that the Nazis conceived of the League as a propaganda tool, did Jewish participation in its activities amount to collaboration?

Lily E. Hirsch has a Ph.D. in musicology from Duke University and most recently taught at Cleveland State University.

Praise / Awards

  • "An engaging and downright gripping history. The project is original, the research is outstanding, and the presentation lucid."
    —Karen Painter, author of Symphonic Aspirations: German Music and Politics, 1900-1945

  • "Offers a clear introduction to a fascinating, yet little known, phenomenon in Nazi Germany, whose very existence will be a surprise to the general public and to historians. Easily blending general history with musicology, the book provides provocative yet compelling analysis of complex issues."
    —Michael Meyer, author of Politics of Music in the Third Reich

  • "With sensitivity and engagement Lily E. Hirsch contributes a critical opening chapter to the response of the German Jewish musicians, organizers, and audiences to the cultural ghetto forced upon them from the Nazi rise to power in 1933 to the aftermath of the Kristallnacht of 1938. Hirsch poses complex questions about Jewish identity and Jewish music, and she situates these against a political background vexed by the impossibility of truly viable responses to such questions. Her thorough archival research is complemented by her extensive use of interviews, which gives voice to those swept up in the Holocaust because they were Jews and musicians, some surviving under remarkable circumstances, most victims despite their belief in a higher value of the arts. A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany is a book filled with the stories of real lives, a collective biography in modern music history that must no longer remain in silence."
    —Philip V. Bohlman is the Mary Werkman Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities and of Music at the University of Chicago, and is the author of Jewish Music and Modernity

  • "Drawing on interviews with members of the Jewish Culture League and the memoirs of Anneliese Landau (head of the league's lecture department), Hirsch has produced and engrossing history of this Berlin-centered organization, which was created in 1933 by the Nazis to support Jewish music making and lasted until September 1941."
    —J Behrens, The Pennsylvania Academy of Music

  • "The book presents a lucid and carefully researched picture of [the Jewish Culture League], revealing the many challenges—practical, intellectual, and moral—faced by its leaders and members amidst the increasing tensions of life in Nazi Germany."
    Journal of the American Musicological Society

Look Inside

Copyright © 2010, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Hirsch in The Forward Newspaper | 4/16/10

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 268pp.
  • 14 musical examples, 3 tables, 10 figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03497-0

Add to Cart
  • $31.95 U.S.

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