Sounding Memories - Nazi Persecution and Anti-Nazi Resistance in the Music of Contemporary Germany

Project: Research

Project participants

  • Schoop, Monika (Project manager, academic)
  • Spinetti, Federico (Project manager, academic)


This project investigates contemporary musical practices that engage with the memorialization of the Nazi period and WWII in Germany, with a focus on the topics of resistance to and persecution by the regime. It is situated methodologically and theoretically in the field of ethnomusicology, complemented by perspectives from anthropology, historical musicology, media studies and memory studies. Building on the premise that people construct representations of the past through musical practices, the project takes into account a multiplicity of music genres (e.g. singer-songwriters, art and experimental musics, punk-rock, hip-hop) and of social agents and sociocultural milieus (e.g. individual artists and their audiences, eyewitnesses who may be active musicians, underground music scenes, militant antifascist circles, institutional initiatives, Internet communities and minority groups). The project emphasizes an examination of post-1989 memorializations, but also traces the legacy of memorializing practices during East and West Germany's post-war decades. Here, central are the ways in which contemporary musicians relate to earlier generations of artists and musical initiatives. In all these instances, we explore the contribution of music making to the negotiation of a collective memory of the Nazi past, and to the thematization of persecution, discrimination, violence, war, armed resistance and civil disobedience in artistic and public discourses. Considering memory as a mediator between narrated past, lived present and imaged futures, special attention is devoted to the novel musical resources and collective sensibilities mobilized in the process, and to how sounding the memories of the Nazi past offers a critical arena to address current social issues in Germany and in Europe, including racism against immigrants and refugees, the resurgence of far-right and xenophobic movements, and the struggles resulting from socioeconomic marginalization and inequalities based on ethnicity, religion or gender. The project pursues its objectives through three complementary research scenarios. Each scenario explores the overall topic of musical memorialization from a distinct thematic and methodological angle, such that three crucial dimensions of memory making through music are in turn foregrounded: cultural identity, locality, and media. The three scenarios consist of, first, a study of the Sinti and Roma minority (cultural identity); second, a study of the urban environment and memoryscape of Berlin (locality); third, a study of contemporary "traditional" and "new" media practices and mediascapes (media). Exploring the so far understudied nexus of music, memory and persecution by/resistance to the Nazi regime, the project aims to make substantial contributions to music scholarship, cultural studies, memory studies, cultural and social anthropology, history, media studies, and minority studies.


Research outputs