The politics of song : the German Workers' Choral Association as a cultural and sociopolitical entity in comparative perspective, 1918-1933 / by William S. Koehler.
This dissertation examines the sociopolitical implications of the activities, membership patterns, choral material, policies, and members' self perception of the German Workers' Choral Association (DAS). This centralized organization of nearly 6,000 choruses and 500,000 Germans dedicated to choral singing exemplified the broader movement for proletarian cultural and educational advancement. Like the Workers' Gymnastic and Sport Association, the DAS was closely affiliated with the German Social Democratic Party and Free Trade Unions and defined itself in its statutes, rhetoric, and actions as a Socialist organization. Through the primary comparison with the rival German Choral Association, and secondary comparisons with other workers' organizations, Communist and Nazi singers, and sister associations in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland, this work examines the DAS's development within the framework of German Social Democracy. Local studies in Augsburg and Solingen and hundreds of worker-singer autobiographies provide compelling views of the mentalities of these “Red Singers”, and their integration of politics and music. The study draws upon primary archival sources from Solingen, Augsburg, Plauen, Bonn, Cologne, Berlin, Feuchtwangen, and Dortmund, contemporary periodicals, and firsthand accounts and remembrances to analyze the twin developments of the Weimar-era DAS. The first, its artistic advancement, earned the DAS the cultural establishment's acclaim. The second, its depoliticization through 1928, engendered both widespread disaffection and Communist-led splintering. The dissertation argues that the DAS's dramatic shift from a political to an artistic focus undermined the commitment of many members, who considered themselves Socialists first and singers second. Moreover, this successful top-down struggle for artistic excellence and social assimilation was reflected in the broader disintegration of German Socialism and resulting collapse of the Weimar Republic and rise of National Socialism. The case of the DAS thus points to workers' disenchantment with the compromises of Social Democracy in the Weimar Republic and illuminates the impotence of the working-class parties and organizations in the face of the Nazis' rise to power.
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