Art produced in Germany has had a startling tendency to be viewed by non-Germans through the prism of is this Nazism or not? This especially applies to German music. And, indeed, to any music that "sounds German" regardless of whether or not it was made in Germany.
Music to Invade Poland to refers to any music that gets accused of being Nazi because it sounds "Germanic," "Teutonic," "Wagnerian," or the like.
For the most part, this stuff does not advocate National Socialism. Unfortunately, the use of bombastic, dramatic, "Germanic-sounding" Orchestral Bombing as soundtracks in World War II films has cemented the association between grandiose, orchestral marching music set to relatively steady tempos with authoritarian and warmongering political movements.
This is not yet a Discredited Trope. The Trope Namer is a particularly infamous review of Rammstein's album Mutter; the review described the album as "Music To Invade Poland To" (although Rammstein has nothing to do with neo-Nazism like real neo-Nazi bands like the infamous, supposedly reformed "Böhse Onkelz" do). This trope is actually very common in Germany to this day, where it isn't even limited to music. Pretty much everything that could invoke similar associations creates the same feeling of unease with most Germans.
Not to be confused with Loud of War. May be associated with Germanic Depressives.
Actual military music from the Third Reich tends to be quite subtle and melodic (e.g. The Koniggratzer March, a fairly upbeat ditty briefly featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), and was more often than not intended to be sung while... you know, actually invading Poland...
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Anime and Manga
The Britannian Anthem in Code Geass sounds aggressive and Germanic. It's in English. This trope is what made most Japanese viewers mistake it for German (given the story, it's the music to invade Japan to).
Germany's Anthem from Axis Powers Hetalia parodies this trope, combining an extremely militaristic tune with frivolous lyrics such as "Polish this room and don't whine about it " and "I want to eat wurst with some beer".
Engelandlied from Hellsing, which was an actual World War II-era song about invading England.
Manhattan Murder Mystery invokes and lampshades this trope when Larry, played by Woody Allen, says, "I can't listen to that much Wagner, ya know? I start to get the urge to conquer Poland."
The Imperial March from Star Warsintentionally invokes this. The tempo is steady, the chord progressions are solemn and grandiose, and the music accompanies scenes of a totalitarian regime with a great sense of theatrical panache. (Williams stole it from Holst.)
Subverted by the filk version "Darth Vader's Mother" ("...wears army boots.")
Done deliberately in Killer Klowns from Outer Space; the composer has referred to the music played when the Klowns march the collection machine through the town as "tanks rolling into Poland", done so that the scene wouldn't be considered as funny as the rest of the movie.
Casablanca had a well-known scene in which German officers singing a German song are eventually drowned out when the rest of the bar begins singing the La Marseillaise. The song was originally intended to be the Horst-Wessel-Lied, the official anthem of the Nazi party, however the actual song used is Die Wacht Am Rhein (the tune of which is [to different words] the Yale Glee Club's 'Bright College Days') — a German military song, for sure, but unaffiliated with the Nazi party. Warners was unable to use the Horst-Wessel-Lied due to copyright complications in neutral countries.
This scene is also a pretty nice aversion of the trope. Casablanca's cast featured a lot of European actors who had fled the onslaught of the Nazis; the emotion on display in this performance of La Marseillaise is not acted.
In Cabaret, a bright young Aryan stands up in a cafe and begins singing "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" as a portent of the age to come. (And, until you realize the Unfortunate Implications you see him as an alternative to the decadence & perversion of the cabaret lifestyle.)
Invoked with the Luftwaffe-Marsch from Battle of Britain. It's the Luftwaffe's Leitmotiv throughout the film, and was meant to symbolise its pride prior to the Battle. This tune apparently represented the Luftwaffe so well that many people now think it's an actual German march from World War II.
Brought about in A Clockwork Orange when Alex's aversion treatment added his favorite music, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, to a combination of Nazi films and nausea drugs, causing them all to become fused together in his mind and rendering him unable to hear Beethoven without freaking out.
In a cut scene from Blazing Saddles, Lili von Shtupp refers to "I'm Tired" as "the song that closed Poland."
As a character in Gravity's Rainbow has it: "A person feels good listening to Rossini. All you feel like listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland."
Live Action TV
In Curb Your Enthusiasm, lead character Larry David expresses his appreciation of the music of Wagner. He is a Jew but is not a particularly devout one, however, other Jewish people around him are shocked when they find out he likes Wagner. He claims that he likes the music and does not care what it's associated with.
Parodied on Saturday Night Live (season eight, episode 16, hosted by Robert Guillaumenote who was originally supposed to host a season six episode, but the season was cut short due to Seasonal Rot and a writers' strike; original airdate: March 19, 1983) on a fake commercial for an album collection called Heil Hits.
A literal example would be the Hohenfriedberger March, supposedly written by Frederick the Great, about the Battle of Hohenfreidberg, where his Prussians crushed the Austrian attempt to remove him from Silesia.
This march was also used in a number of Allied propaganda films from World War Two as something of a leitmotif for German and Axis militarism, most notably in the first Why We Fight installment (the march is played over increasingly belligerent footage of marching German, Japanese and Italian soldiers, picking up more bass and booming drums with every repetition) and a post VE-Day training film for US occupation troops called Here is Germany.
"Preußens Gloria" ("Glory of Prussia"), a song still played by the German Army, is a quintessential example. It was also played over the newsreel footage of the German parade in Paris during the acclaimed BBC series "The World At War".
As composer to Louis XIV, JB Lully made a lot of this music:
Holst's Mars is music to invade something to—and given that the work's full title is "Mars, the Bringer of War," deliberately so. It sounds very martial, though it would be kind of hard to march to because of the time signature (it's written in 5/4; most marches are 2/4, 2/2, or 6/8).
Rammstein, for obvious reasons. The band later wrote "Links 2-3-4" as a response to accusations of Nazism. But since the song's based on a German drill instructor's chant, and you're not going to pick up on the "We're left-wing, dammit!" message in the lyrics if you don't actually speak German, the message didn't exactly get through.. To wit, the Trope Naming review was of Mutter, the album containing "Links 2-3-4". The fact that the marching cadence is actually the one used by the pre-Nazi German Communist Party is also missed by most people. Perhaps the band thought their listeners were geniuses. "Amerika", a song poking fun at America, contains a Gratuitous English part to avoid another backfire. But some listeners still didn't catch on.
Probably everything said about the band "Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft" ten years earlier can be copypasted without change, except the name...
Industrial Metal bands other than Rammstein are also accused of this. German band KMFDM was accused of this in the aftermath of the Columbine massacre. They used this trope as far back as their first commercial album, ''What Do You Know, Deutschland?", whose cover art is a man beating a war drum while a city is being bombed behind him.
Another good example that fits the bill is Deathstars. To make things even more interesting, it sounds kind of like what would Rammstein be if Till Lindemann sang in English (Whiplasher's voice is VERY similar to Lindemann's). Also they, um, tend to dress like this.◊
E Nomine has some songs that raised questions, such as Ring der Nibelungen, in that case due to fair parts being march music and repeated mentions to a 'Reich'. It's based on the Opera by Wagner.
Richard Wagner gets a lot of flak for this trope, much of it undeserved. Although Wagner was virulently anti-Semitic, he was also a left-leaning socialist for much of his life. Wagner befriended Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakhunin and participated in the Dresden May Uprising, which caused him to be exiled by the Saxon government. Wagner died in 1883 and was extremely unlucky in that the Nazis appropriated his music fifty years after his death and permanently smeared his character for people unfamiliar with his actual music. Thus, today any of his music or other dramatic sounding music will be unfairly associated with fascistic political views that Wagner never held. People who have actually seen his music dramas realize they advocate something close to anarchism: power is evil, love is good.
David Goldman, writing as Spengler in the Asia Times, wrote an article on why Wagner was popular and why the Nazis felt such affinity. There was hardly a political movement promising a new man for a new dawn that did not traffic in similar ideas.
Lampshaded in Edmund Crispin's mystery novel SWAN SONG. We have the sophomoric anti-Wagner comments of Oxford students met by a girl who tries to point out how illogical they are, and complaints by a German refugee (who, ironically, has delayed his return because Wagner is now taboo in Germany and he can only attend the operas in England.)
The State of Israel has long had something of an unofficial ban on the performance of Wagner's music. There's been some movement on that front in recent years, but it is understandably a rather contentious issue.
Ludwig van Beethoven also gets, at times, used as the background music for scenes of German fascism. Beethoven would be rolling in his grave if he knew, since he was a liberal democratnote small-l, small-d if there ever was one. He was in full support of The French Revolution; dedicated his Third Symphony (Eroica) to Napoleon when he was a good general of the Revolution; promptly un-dedicated it when Napoleon betrayed the Revolution to become Emperor; and his Ode to Joy is a setting of a poem calling for "all men to be brothers" and various other classically liberal lines.
For bonus points, the text of "Ode to Joy" is adapted from a poem by Schiller, the poet-playwright who celebrated the striving for liberty, equality, and fraternity in play after play. The best part? In Schiller's version, the quoted line went "Beggars become princes' brothers." If anything, Beethoven was more liberal than Schiller.
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was used by the Allies as a motif in propaganda films ('V' for 'Victory' and fate knocking at Nazi Germany's door). Helpfully illustrated by Donald Duckhere (starting at about 2:30, and proceeding throughout the rest of the clip ). The first four notes of the Fifth Symphony (which spell "V" in Morse code) are still widely-known in France for being the opening leitmotif to the French-language BBC broadcast during World War II.
Das Deutschlandlied, better known as Deutschland Über Alles, whose first line translates "Germany over all", is assumed to refer to the goal of Germany to Take Over the World. In truth, the song was written by a nineteenth-century liberal, who wanted Germans to put aside petty provincial distinctions (such as being Prussian, Bavarian, or Austrian), eschew the divisive and reactionary petty states, and think of themselves as united Germans above all else. He was, in fact, expressing a desire for German unity, not domination. The third stanza is today's national anthem of Germany (its first line is "Unity and Justice and Freedom", which sounds way more peaceful).
Also, the "Deutschlandlied" was intended to be sung as a drinking song for politically-minded men at beer gardens and suchlike; the second verse (which hardly anyone sings anymore) is a celebration of "German women, German loyalty, German wine, and German song", and the original writer included an alternate ending for the third stanza that calls for a toast!
Older Than Radio: The melody comes from Joseph Haydn's hymn to Kaiser Franz of Austria, which he then used as the theme for the second movement of the "Emperor" String Quartet (hence the name). Haydn's Kaiser hymn was, incidentally, inspired by hearing God Save The King on a trip to London and deciding that if the mere King of Great Britain got a song, why not the Holy RomanEmperor?
Liszt's LES PRELUDES also gets tarred because a theme from it was used to introduce news (or propaganda) bulletins on Deutschlandsender during the war.
Industrial music, which is relatively popular in Germany, often gets accused of being National Socialist. In particular, bands like Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb (the latter of which deliberately cultivated a militaristic, Germanic image, and neither of which were actually German) were on the receiving end of this accusation regularly.
Industrial act Laibach very deliberately invoked this trope and made dramatic, Germanic-sounding, martial music. They pushed the nationalism angle further by issuing passports and claiming to have formed their own state. They're Slovenes. Laibach is the German name of Slovenia's capital (Ljubljana).
One of the most worryingly apt Music To Invade Poland To songs is a cover of Queen's One Vision translated to German.
Industrial Metal project Hanzel Und Gretyl (which usually sings in Gratuitous German, but is composed of Americans originally from Greece) deliberately invoked this in their album Uber Alles. They wanted an album that invoked every single German cliche imaginable, so they went for what they called the "obvious German cliche." Some song titles include "Third Reich From The Sun" and "SS Deathstar Supergalactik." The album was banned in Germany. Since this means the songs are not legally listed by the GEMA (a copyright institution that handles many things including usage of music on webportals), the music can be freely found on YouTube. The album 2012 is similar in style, but isn't not banned.
There are some actual National Socialist metal bands, some of which indulge in Viking mythology to the point of practicing racist variants of Asatru (Norse neo-Paganism), but such groups make up only a very small minority of metal acts. In recent years, the rise of folk metal and viking metal has been met with a rise of paranoia from anti-Nazi activists, leading to bands' gigs being protested for something as innocent as including Germanic runes in their logos or album art — often, ironically, in Germany. One such case was with the recent Paganfest tour. The bands responded with surprising restraint.
The Mexican National Anthem, which is extremely Teutonic and military.
Kraftwerk got their share of this too, mainly for their cold, modernist, inhuman aesthetic. And for being German.
Joy Division's first EP had a black-and-white picture of a blonde Hitler Youth member beating a drum on its cover. Then they were surprised that people thought they were Nazis. When the band reformed, they kept the joke by renaming the themselves New Order.
Every Neofolk band is made of this trope. It doesn't help that a minority of them *cough*Boyd Rice*cough* actually are fascists. Von Thronstahl are in fact confirmed as Nazis.
Don't forget it's derivative form: Martial Industrial too, in fact this one is pretty much invoked.
One of the many explanations constructed for Tool's "Die Eier Von Satan" is that the song, which is set to a heavy metal/industrial sound and spoken in angry German while the lyrics turn out to be a cookie recipe, was intended to satirize this trope, though it should be mentioned that the cookies in question are hash cookies. note "Eine Messerspitze türkisches Haschisch" means "one pinch of Turkish hashish."
Oddly enough, the Death Metal band Vader gets this a lot due to the video for "Cold Demons", which heavily features WWII footage of Panzer tanks. This accusation is ridiculous when you learn that the band is Polish. Not that Polish Nazi bands don't exist; Vader just isn't one of them.
Inverted with "Never Again" by Disturbed, which is a pissed-off Jewish Heavy Metal musician yelling at neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers.
Swedish band Sabaton get this a lot. They make bombastic power metal, their vocalist rolls his Rs in a very particular way, and most of their songs are about WW I and II, quite a few of them from the perspective of German forces. Disregard that they have several songs from the perspective of the nations fighting against Nazi Germany as well as definite anti-war anthems, and that their eight minute epic about the Nazis' rise to power is called Rise of Evil. One of their songs, "Counterstrike", is about the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War. They also have at least two songs ("40:1" and "Uprising") celebrating the Polish soldiers who fought off the Nazis, making their music a case of "Music To Defend Poland To". Particularly funny would be "Panzerkampf", which is often flagged on YouTube as "inapproppriate", despite its lyrics in clear and unambiguous English describing the Soviet counterattack at Kursk, which finally broke the invasion.
Type O Negative were accused of being Nazis during their first European tour, due to their song "Der Undermensch", which was written about "social parasites", such as drug dealers and welfare cheats. The hilarious irony of this is the fact that their keyboard player, Josh Silver is Jewish.
Which led to them writing "We Hate Everyone" and "Kill All The White People" for their next album. It is likely many did not realise they were sarcasitcally poking fun at the situation.
Slayer's "Angel of Death" made the band face accusations of being Nazi sympathizers for writing a song about Josef Mengele, a doctor who performed heinous experiments on Jewish concentration camp prisoners. While the band denies condoning his actions and claims they wrote merely the song because they thought it was an interesting subject, they're still sometimes labeled as neo-Nazis. Seeing as the song is performed from the perspective of Mengele (or, at least, one of his lackeys), and sounds downright gleeful, it's no wonder the Hatedom's unconvinced.
Slayer is notorious in general for attracting fans with neo-Nazi/white supremacist sympathies, which is ironic because not only is half the band (at least their classic lineup) Latino, but neither of said Latino members were even born in the US.
The German band Scooter, simply because their vocalist is a blond haired, blue eyed, tall guy who shouts at people to "Move Their Ass" and to "Get Ready For The Next Attack". It also doesn't help the band love wearing matching uniforms, as seen on the cover for the album "Under The Radar Over The Top", and the singles "The Night" and "The Age Of Love".
A lot of the German military marches used in World War II such as "Die Wacht Am Rhein", "Erika", and "Lili Marleen". Even though this last was eagerly adopted by the British, who heard their German opposition singing it in North Africa, and given English lyrics.
The Blue Oyster Cult's live rabble-rouser ME262, which namechecks Hitler and Goering and which tells the story of the last days of WW2 through the PoV of a jet fighter ace, has a middle eight punctuating guitar stings with the sound of falling bombs and marching jackboots. Despite the fact the BOC have names like Bloom and Pearlman and Roeser, and by inference belong to the last ethnicity to be sympathetic to Nazism, they were accused of Nazi sympathies.
The Ramones had goofy semi-hits like "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World" and "Kommando" that traded on Nazi imagery. A few listeners didn't get the joke, and didn't realize that Joey was Jewish.
Gothic Industrial singer Yade often invokes this, with a Nazi-inspired uniform and songs about revolutions, though the lyrics are either anarchistic, or too vague to associate with an ideology. It doesn't help he is Swiss-German, which straddles the very uncomfortable line between "Oh he is not German then" and the accusation that Swiss Nazis (or supporters) were Karma Houdinis in the post-war Europe.
German Industrial/EBM group X-Fusion invokes this in "Follow Your Leader". It is peppered with voice clips of Hitler from rallies and has a somewhat militaristic tune. But the lyrics are actually a rage-filled tirade against those who followed Hitler, and those who stood by the sides and let it happen. Arguably, it is also a general rant against tyranny.
Follow your leader, you misguided fools. Follow your leader, lest you break any rules.
Parodied in one of They Might Be Giants' spoken-word intros for live shows, in which they insist that they are "not an easy-listening Nazi-rock band". Of course, nobody could ever confuse They Might Be Giants with Nazis, especially given that their biggest folk influences are polka and klezmer.
Liers In Wait pretty much took this trope and ran with it, including blatant Nazi imagery in the lyrics and album artwork.
Particularly weirdly, Madness of all groups have been accused of being (depending on the source) Nazis, members of the right-wing National Front or just fascists in general, in no small part because they ended up having quite a skinhead (as in National Front / BNP) following during the 1980s. This is in spite of the fact that they wrote a sad song about a woman being exiled for being pregnant with a mixed race baby, and later wrote a song which was a massive Take That about apartheid.
In Clare Boothe Luce's play Margin for Error, the consul to Nazi Germany has bought a record of Richard Wagner's "Liebestod", but puts on the wrong record first:
Max: I—I was just listening to the music— Consul: Yes, very soothing. Hitler and I also have Wagner in common. Max: That's not Wagner. That's Mendelssohn. Played by Heifetz.
Hell March from the game Command and Conquer: Red Alert.
The "Breen National Anthem", Leitmotif of Æon Flux's primary antagonists, has a deliberate Wagnerian sound to it. Originally it was meant to represent a single character, a very Germanic-looking soldier in one of the original Liquid Television shorts (who died a minute into his first and only appearance), but the music was kept because it was felt that it suited the nation of Bregna's authoritarian character.
In one Family Guy special, Alex Borstein objected to Seth McFarlane singing "Edelweiss" on account of her being Jewish. Nevermind that the song was written for the extremely anti-Nazi The Sound of Music.
Ottoman Turks used this trope to intimidate their enemies, making this trope Older Than Steam.
During the Vietnam War, the Army actually did use music like Wagner to intimidate North Vietnamese forces. The iconic scene in Apocalypse Now is indeed based in fact.
Chopin's Polonaise in A major, Op. 40, No. 1 is an inversion of the trope. It was played on Polish national radio the day Germany attacked, thus making it "music to be invaded by Nazi Germany to".
After having invaded Poland from the East and having been invaded himself by the guys who had invaded Poland from the West, Stalin ordered a song for the Great Patriotic War to be written. Listen yourself.
It is claimed the Taliban cannot stand either bagpipes nor heavy metal.