A very amusing factoid I just learned of is that in addition to many of the more serious anti-Nazi movements, such as the White Rose, for example, there was one called the “Swingjugend”or Swing Kids. They were mostly made up of highschoolers both boys and girls who enjoyed dancing to swing music. Swing music was looked down upon by the Nazi party as being subversive and counter culture, due to much of it being composed by black artists as well as Jewish ones.
The Swingjugend created sort of a counter culture movement based around swing dancing in clubs and liking many English things, even dressing like British people and speaking English as opposed to German since it was “cooler”. They often mocked the Hitler Youth Groups by calling the Hitler Youth “Homo Youth” and the League of German Girls “League of Soldiers’ Mattresses”! Ouch!
The German musicologist Guido Fackler described the Swingjugend embrace of American music and the “English style” in clothing as reflecting the fact that:
“The Swingjugend rejected the Nazi state, above all because of its ideology and uniformity, its militarism, the ‘Führer principle’ and the leveling Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community). They experienced a massive restriction of their personal freedom. They rebelled against all this with jazz and swing, which stood for a love of life, self-determination, non-conformism, freedom, independence, liberalism, and internationalism.” (Wikipedia)
The attitude of the Swingjugend was much more relaxed than the very strict and rigid attitude of the Nazi Party. Boys liked to wear English clothes, and girls wore their hair long and flowing and short skirts with makeup. Many of their opponents criticized them for being sexually permissive and immoral in general. However, many of them were described as more apolitical rather than a political opponent, but I believe more as a cultural opponent. To me, they seem to be teenagers rebelling against a rigid society imposed by their elders and a sense of a lack of autonomy. Their movement had many universal desires of youth such as establishing one’s own identity and questioning the status quo of society. There were some serious consequences though. Those who were caught were often sent to reform schools, or even concentration camps! However, this backfired when it only increased their resistance towards that Nazi Party and some even handed out anti-Nazi posters. I could assume if someone was more neutral or on the fence about the Nazi Party, they now would be against them!
What I find the most significant though, is that their movement was one based on having fun, not on violent resistance or somber intellectual arguments. They weren’t defying the Nazis like many others, through underground forces or pamphlets, but simply through having fun. They might have not been too political, but they were an annoying (and amusing I might add) thorn in the side of the Nazi movement. They were part of the counterculture defying the Nazi’s rigid and constricting ways imposed on German youth. On one last note, they made a hilarious pun out of the Nazi’s “Sieg Heil!” saying “Swing Heil!” instead! It’s interesting to think, that even in such dark times, even fun could fight back :)
There was a movie made in 1993 called “Swing Kids” that highlights some of their plight. The story line is okay, not as great as other movies, but it has some really good swing music!
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