Journal Article

‘The Golden Hunger Years’: Music and Superpower Rivalry in Occupied Berlin

Elizabeth Janik

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 22, issue 1, pages 76-100
Published in print January 2004 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online January 2004 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0266355404gh300oa
‘The Golden Hunger Years’: Music and Superpower Rivalry in Occupied Berlin

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This article investigates the evolution of American and Soviet arts policy in Berlin between 1945 and 1947, with special attention to the role of music. Music's political ambiguity, and its reception as at once a uniquely German and international form of artistic expression, made it an ideal medium through which Allied military officials could project their country's aesthetic ideals and programmes for German cultural reform. If Berliners and their Soviet occupiers largely agreed upon the importance of élite musical tradition as an expression of national accomplishment and the mark of a cultured society, American authorities tended to treat music more as an entertaining, but non-essential diversion. Under the city' quadripartite military administration, it was difficult for any one occupation authority to pursue cultural objectives that were aesthetically or politically more restrictive than the others. Thus, superpower rivalry initially created more opportunities than limitations for Berlin artists. American officers were compelled to consent to more lenient denazification standards for musicians than they had initially intended, while the Soviets permitted and even encouraged modernist musical experiments in their sector of occupation. In competition with each other and seeking the loyalties of their German charges, the Allies encouraged Berlin to become a lively—and heavily subsidized—city of the arts.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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