/swing kids -germany - jazz 1.j
© Words  - Katy Goebel

The youth of the western world was celebrating the end of global economic depression and the approach of modern times during the 1930s and 40s with a riotous explosion of dance and music called Swing.  However, in Germany a repressive fascist regime under Adolf Hitler tried to impose its iron will on the German people, and keep them isolated from any international movements that threatened to undermine Nazi philosophy. -

German Swing Youth Slang :
The German Swing Kids were heartily disliked by the Nazi Authorities, whose official term for them was simply Swing Jugend (Swing Youth).  However, as usual in Nazi society, there were plenty of derogatory labels to hurl at them, such as Swing-Heinis (Swing Blokes), Hotter (from Hot), Swing-Papen (Swing Popes), Stenze (Dandies or Fops), Tango-Bubis (Tango Laddies) or Tango-Juenglinge (Tango Juveniles). The Swing Kids distanced themselves further from their persecutors by adopting their own slang. -
/swing kids -germany - jazz - girls 1.The slang of the German Swing Kids incorporated as many Americanisms or English phrases as possible.  This  was the reason that they deliberately named their groups as “Clubs”.  Many times, the names were chosen to provoke the Nazi officials. The Hamburg Churchill Club and the Anthony Swingers (after British Secretary of State Anthony Eden) are good examples.  Even the Kiel Club of the Plutocrats was a slap in the face of Nazi officialdom, because German propaganda characterized the United States as a plutocratic nation (plutokratisches Amerika).  However, it must be noted that there was probably scant political motivation behind such names, but merely a desire to express anger and get back at policemen and teachers who disliked Swing.
German Swing Kids also gave themselves English nicknames.  Walter was changed to Bobby, Bill or Teddy, and Frank became Frankie.  Other male names of this sort included Eton-Jackie, Tommy, Lord, Fiddlin’ Joe, Hot-Geyer or Old Kluge (because Geyer and Kluge were interchangeable surnames), Hot King, Roy, and Fats.  The formal Fraeulein used in girls’ names was dropped, so they became Anglicized as Blackie, Teddy, Micky or Coca.
Swing-style nicknames and greetings were also popular because the ever-present Hitler Youth could not figure out who was who!  On the streets the boys greeted each other with Hello Big or Old-Hot Boy or Hot Old Boy.  The girls were known as Swing Girl, Jazzkatze (Jazz Cat), Swing-Puppe (Swing Doll) or Swing Baby.  They addressed each other as Swing Hi – Swing Lo, Badideldum, Swing Heil (instead of Sieg Heil) and Heil Hottler (instead of Heil Hitler). Sometimes they whistled the first notes of a well-known Swing melody, as the Harlem in Frankfurt or Goody-Goody in Hanover.
German Swing Youth expressions were, to some extent, a carry-over from the free days of the cosmopolitan German Weimar Republic.  Whether or not this was a conscious attempt by the Swing Kids to defy the precise anti-Weimar hatred of the National Socialist Party is debatable. Again, the Swing Kids may not have been making any political statement whatsoever, but simply expressing their rebellious attitude.  What made the elders mad, made them happy.  In any case, the language of the Swing Kids was intentionally salted with as much English as possible, especially in public where it might provoke people, as on the street and in cafes and restaurants.  Personal letters were even signed with Swing Heil or the V-for-Victory sign.   

In addition to the English trappings of their slang, the German Swing Kids resorted to their own imagination, coupled with foreign borrowings, to conjure up new expressions for their lifestyle.  The most popular expressions alluded directly to Swing music.  They favored Hotten, Hoffest (Hot Party), Hotter and Hotte after the “Hot Music” of Jazz.   To reflect the casual, lay-back lifestyle associated with Swing (which contravened the militant stridency of Nazi Germany), they used Laessigkiet (casualness) or Lottern (living in a dissolute manner, i.e. with unrestrained abandon, derived from its meaning to knock-around, as to knock around a city a night). The Reich Ministry of Justice reported:   

hot jazz- swing kids - germany.

“The Swing Youth employ a widespread key word, Lottern, which has become a gang favorite. Its prevalence has spawned a host of derivatives like the Lotter Club, Lotter Boys (Lotterboys) and Lotter Girls (Lottermaedchen). It is found in sentences like “I wasted the whole afternoon just knocking about” (Nachmittags habe ich gelottert)…and the dairy entry “I really cut loose and lazed about the bar as they played Bar-Swing (a form of Swing favored at bars) until way early this morning” (So lotterten wir beim laessigen Bar-Swing bis in den fruehen Morgen hinein) - excerpt from Reichsjustizministerium Report,1944
Much of the slang of the Swing Kids is now lost.  We can only surmise that, apart from a lot of English phrases, it must have been a rich underground jargon that varied regionally and reflected the different layers of society.
One former member of the a Hamburg Swing Club, Uwe Storjohann, recalled that it was considered elegant and courageous in his circle of friends to use Jewish words and phrases.  Words like Begannern, meschugge and nebbisch were spoken as loudly as possible to annoy others.  They would startle bystanders by proclaiming, “No one played jazz as kosher as Benny Goodman!” (Keiner jazzt so koscher wie Benny Goodman!).  Of course, we must recognize that the Swing Youth cared nothing for the Jews or their terrible fate under the Reich, and certainly never had contacts with “real” Jews.  They simply used Jewish vocabulary because it alarmed Germans who disliked Swing, and broke National Socialist taboos.   

Lifestyle of the German Swing Youth :

rugger cutter - swing kids - jazz -germany.The German Swing Kids wanted to be as close to the entire Swing scene as possible.  They not only wanted the correct dress, music, dance and slang, but they also wanted to act modern like the hep-cats, alligators and rug-cutters of America.  They wanted the fast and free life as well as the lay-back Black attitude that typified Swing.  Of course, all of this was in direct contravention to the intolerant and militarized state of Nazi Germany.
The German Swing Kids deliberately adopted a swagger that included a slight forward bend with light steps, in direct defiance of the straight marching stride approved for healthy Germans.  One Reich Youth Leadership (Reichsjugendfuehrung) report of September 1942 blamed their attitude favoring a carefree life on Jewish Hollywood movies.  The Swing Kids adopted casual conduct that was as public and painfully obvious as possible.

A swingateer from Kiel wrote his friend, “When you leave Kiel, be as nonchalant as you can; whistling and singing English songs as much as possible; and above all, be sure to keep yourself inebriated, and have plenty of hot-looking chickaroos hanging all over you.”
The German Swing Kids hated the Hitler Youth.  The National Socialist Party may have been an exciting diversion for youngsters at first, but the monotony of drill and straightjacket military discipline soon wore thin. To Swing Kids, the Hitler Youth crowd was not only a bunch of icky tin-ears (people who disliked Swing),  but they appeared ludicrous in the silly short pants that were mandatory up to the age of 18.  Many Hitler Youth believers also used their newly-gained authority to act like Little Dictators, and quickly gained enemies as they denounced friends.
Perhaps the most contemptuous habit of the Hitler Youth Patrols (HJ-Steifenkontrolle) was to spy on girls “in order to protect them”.  One girl later recounted that horny HJ kids followed her around and tried to catch her making out with her soldier-boyfriends.  She was just 14 at the time, so they filed reports on her.  One of her boyfriends, home from the front, finally went to the local officials and told them about these peeping-toms.  The Hitler Youth kids were scolded and told to desist, but they kept it up anyway.  They couldn’t get girls of their own, and found snooping on others sexually arousing.
As the above example demonstrates, the Swing Kids were fully justified in their low opinion of some Hitler Youth boys.  Meanwhile, the Nazi Party, clueless as usual to the real needs and sentiments of young people to be individually independent, tried to figure out exactly why the  “wild cliques” of teenage Swing Youth were gaining new “recruits” to their “gangs”

The National Socialist regime was horrified that the ideal savoir-faire lifestyle of a Swing Kid, who spent his entire life in and out of bars, music and dance-halls, was completely irresponsible. The youthful impulse to fritter away one’s life is entirely normal, usually runs its course, and is effectively countered by educated freedom of choice.  But Nazi logic was so twisted that it only saw one problem, a bloated Jewish America forcing its decadence on an otherwise responsible and obedient German youth. The Nazi solution, therefore, was to ruthlessly block all American music and culture from reaching Germany.  Of course, the more the Authorities tried to quash American Swing, the more attractive it became to rebel-prone German youngsters
The Swing Kids were brought up in a highly structured society that did not give them the mental tools to grapple with systems of government and freedom to choose.  They only knew that America was somehow a “swinging democracy”.  The movies depicted the United States as progressive and abundant in resources, where people had plenty of good clothes and food, and could really enjoy the fun life unfettered by governmental decrees. Many German youth reasoned that the entire package must be due to Swing.  Since the National Socialists were against Swing, their policies and not Swing were to blame.

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The German Swing Youth rebellion against the regime was started in this way.  The Swing Kids began to think “outside the box” of National Socialism and adopted liberated individual ways.  The situation, from a Nazi perspective, got worse quickly   Swing Kids started contacting Jews and half-breed Jews.  These contacts led to some intimate affairs. According to the Nazis, lustful Jews had been freed to grope and prostitute German girls, who in turn threatened the entire country with more Jewish blood.  Hitler’s main task was to exterminate the Jewish population, and here the Swing Kids might add to it.  The Nazi crackdown was swift and hard – the Swing Kids were declared political opponents of the German Nation.
The Swing Kids themselves never intended to have any political effects.  They did not understand politics.  They admired the Western Democracies not from a political standpoint, but because they viewed American and England as “paradises”, where swing-loving people were free to do whatever they wanted.  Many Swing Kids planned to emigrate to the United States after the war, and they tried to ignore the conflict in the meantime.  Both girls and boys tried to “wish away” the violence and the bombing with more Swing, more idle conversation between friends and more relationships.  They turned their backs on the reality around them: the Jewish roundups, the death camps and the steady stream of manpower reserves disappearing into the cauldrons of Russia and France.  Horrified by the prospects of a good life cut short, the Swing Kids sought to avoid service, even the mandatory Labor Front (Arbeitsfront).
The main form of escapism for Swing Kids was sex, whether it was thinking about it, talking about it, or doing it.  The Reich Youth Leadership emphasized their “moral decay”:
“With Swing Youth, personal affection means nothing. They only select a partner for one purpose, sexual intercourse.  Even the girls constantly change partners within their circle.  Whether it is that boy or that girl doesn’t matter to them, as long as they can copulate somewhere, preferably in an unoccupied home.  Although they engage in sexual activity mostly at house-dance parties, they will use any spot or opportunity, whether in a public building, on an excursion or even while on nighttime civil air-defense guard duty”.

/hitler youth - swing kids The National Socialist officials, possibly turned on by the prospect of liberated sex, became obsessed with the topic.  Nazi documents rapidly filled with quotations, letters and diary entries mentioning sex.  Any boasts of group sex were officially recorded, cases of underage sex (under 21) duly noted, promiscuous behavior described in detail and, of course, those rare cases of Jewish-German “race disgrace” (Rassenschande) sent forward to the Highest Authorities.
The Swing Kids did engage in a level of sexual activity beyond that accepted in normal German society of the 1930/40-era  They tore down contemporary social conventions governing politically-correct and courteously arranged courtship.  However, we really don’t know exactly how widespread or complex their sexual practices were, because the Nazi records tilted toward propagandistic exaggeration.  However, it is fair to say that the Swing Kids were probably a precursor to the middle-class Sexual Revolution of the 1960s.
The lifestyle of the Swing Kids centered around the portable gramophone and its accompanying “must-have” set of American and English Swing records. Because the turntable and accessories could be carried, this meant that the club members could gather in many places, including public swimming pools, movie theaters, ice-cream parlors or municipal parks.  Swing Kids could even trundle the necessary stuff along while going on an outing or picnic.
Evening gatherings became a little trickier after a 1940 police ordnance was put into effect “for the protection of youth” (Polizeiverordung zum Schutz der Jugend), which prohibited anyone under 18 “to knock around” after sundown .  But the ordnance did little to stop the determined Swing Kids.  They got into many bars, cafes and concert halls by using counterfeit identity cards with falsified ages, while dressed in attire that made them look older (which Swing-approved clothing had a tendency to do, anyway).  Even young girls and subteens learned to apply makeup and dress like their older sisters, in order to get into favorite haunts. The boys took advantage of the fact that they lacked short pants, the universal sign in Germany of a male who was of Hitler Youth.age, to quickly pass through entrances before one could get a good look at them.
The Reich Ministry of Justice Report noted that the police crackdowns following the big Hamburg Swing Gathering (attended by 500-600 teens) discouraged large assemblies.of Swing Youth.  Out of necessity, German Swing Kids resorted to much smaller Swing dances, where groups of about twenty or thirty boys and girls would meet at someone‘s house or apartment.  All German youngsters had to pull air-raid guard duty in various buildings, such as churches, and the Swing Kids also took advantage of this fact to hold swing parties at those locations. The doubly irreverent practice of hosting a Swing event in a church, during wartime guard duty, provided extra pleasure in disrespecting the Authorities.
In summary, the lifestyle of the Swing Kids was in complete opposition to the perceived National Socialist concept of youth “quick and sharp as greyhounds, tough as leather and hard as Krupp steel (Krupp Steel Works produced German heavy weapons in both world wars).” To the extent that the Swing Kids assumed American ideals of personal freedom, relaxed living, and appreciation of the “lower races” (Swing drew on both Black and Jewish talents), they were a grave threat to the upside-down philosophy of Nazism that sought to insulate Germany from the rest of the world.  The evasion of mandatory Labor Front work by the Swing Kids heightened their danger to established Nazi Order.  Finally, the arrival of war, and its resulting siding of both United States and Britain against the German Reich, elevated the Swing Youth danger into treasonous political opponents.  The increased repression of the Swing Kids by Nazi officials drove them to express more and more anti-Nazi types of behavior that sometimes went well beyond simply provoking the Authorities.

/swing kids -germany - jazz - finale 1.  

Original article appeared in www.swingstyle.de. – Used by kind permission

Part One Here

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