Fiction: Nazi Germany’s Dance Band Rules

When I first published this post yesterday (Sun. 8/16) I did so with some reservation, pointing out that these were “alleged to be actual rules handed out… by the German Government in 1940.” But I had my doubts when I discovered they’d been floating around the internet for a while, with no one seeming to affirm their authenticity or their fraudulence, one way or the other. So I labeled it “Humor (?). This morning I received a message from my Russian friend and jazz expert, Cyril Moshkow, clarifying everything. (More information about Cyril and his excellent jazz magazine and website can be accessed here: Cyril Moshkow.) Here’ s Cyril’s explanation about the “Dance Band Rules”:

“It is not exactly humor –– it is a part of Czech fiction writer Joseph Škvorecký’s story “Eine Kleine Jazzmusik”, published in 1966. Everybody in 1960s Europe knew it was a fake, expecially because of the “Reischmusikfuehrer’s” first and last name (which sounds too unnaturally much Hitler Era-ish — well, as if an imaginary U.S. functionary from the same time were called Roosevelt Newdeal.) But then, as the 1960s in their order became history, this feeling of on-purpose exaggeration somehow vanished, and newer generations of writers now meet this excerpt, which since the arrival of the Internet became a popular mega-quotation, now lives its own life; its readers, unaware of its being part of a certain writer’s fiction story (and, I am afraid, of the very existence of that certain writer,) now believe it to be a genuine Nazi document. Which only proves that Joseph Škvorecký (b.1924) is a very gifted writer. BTW he spent much of his life in Canada, wrote about jazz, was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1982 (but not awarded it.)” – Cyril Moshkow

That clarification made, I’m leaving the post here — properly re-labeled — as an entertaining sample of jazz fiction from a writer whose work I didn’t know. And, after looking into Skvorecky’s bio, his fascination with jazz and the list of his often jazz-tinged novels and short stories, I’m delighted that this chance episode has introduced me — and hopefully those of you who read this blog — to the work of a compelling, and too little known author.

To read further comments on the Nazi Germany Dance Band Rules, click here.

– Don Heckman

Nazi symbolNazi Germany’s Dance Band Rules of 1940

1. In the repertoire of light orchestras and dance bands, pieces in fox-trot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20%.

2. In the repertoire of this so-called jazz type, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life (‘Kraft durch Freude’), rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics.

3. As to the tempo, too, preference is to be given to brisk compositions as opposed to slow ones (so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro commensurate with the Aryan sense for discipline and moderation. On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) be permitted, or in solo performances (so-called breaks).

4. So-called jazz compositions may contain at the most 10% syncopation; the remainder must form a natural legato movement devoid of hysterical rhythmic references characteristic of the music of the barbarian races and conducive to dark instincts alien to the German people so-called ‘riffs’).

5. Strictly forbidden is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (e.g. so-called cowbells, flex-a-tone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of brass-wind instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yell (so-called wa-wa, in hat, etc.).

6. Prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four quarter beat (except in stylized military marches).7. The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions; plucking of strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality. If a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, let strict care be taken lest the string is allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden.

8. Provocative rising to one’s feet during solo performance is forbidden.

9. Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat).

10. All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them violin-celli, violas, or possibly a suitable folk instrument.


Baldur von Blodheim
Reichsmusicfuhrer und Oberscharfuhrer SS

One thought on “Fiction: Nazi Germany’s Dance Band Rules

  1. These are really excellent…as far as they go. As a free-lancer for over 60 years I am inspired to add a few more rules! Who should I send them to?

    ( :-}D )


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