Jazz was banned from German broadcasting as soon as the Nazis came to power in 1933. Yet throughout World War II, American jazz and swing were core components of the Third Reich's propaganda. Jazz classics such as W.C. Handy's famous "St. Louis Blues", their lyrics neatly tampered with, came over the airwaves, alongside the famous "Germany Calling" programs directed at Britain and allied forces around the world.
"Hitler's Airwaves" sets Goebbels' propaganda orchestra, a swing band fronted by the crooner, Karl ("Charlie") Schwedler, within the context of the Reich Ministry for Propaganda. This book-length study of the full extent of the Nazi propaganda effort, it draws on a vast array of material: interviews with contemporaries and treason trail transcripts, the private archive of Roderich Dietze, wartime head of German radio's English-language service, reports of the BBC's monitoring service, recently declassified FBI and M15 files, and documents in the Bonn Foreign Ministry, the Bundesarchiv and the former Berlin Document Centre.
Bergmeier and Lotz explore the origins of subversive radio broadcasting, describe the establishment of Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry and the rapid growth of its foreign-language broadcasting division, and provide a detailed anatomy of its organization, operation and personnel. They examine the workings of the so-called "Secret Stations", ostensibly run by opposition groups broadcasting from inside target countries, but actually based in the Berlin Olympic stadium. And they reveal the scam of Radio Arnhem which, for several months in 1944-45, the Germans passed off as a genuine Allied forces program.
Interwoven with the narrative are biographies of key figures and leading foreign expatriates in the service of the Reich, including William Joyce ("Lord Haw Haw"), John Amery (son of a minister in Churchill's war cabinet), Norman Baille Stewart, Midge Gillars ("Axis Sally") and Douglas Chandler. The book is illustrated with diagrams and illustrations, and includes a CD sampler featuring rare tracks of "Charlie and his Orchestra" and other contemporary broadcast material. A comprehensive account of the range, dexterity and ingenuity of Nazi public relations, it should provoke anyone interested in the history of World War II.