Leipzig as the City of Music during National Socialism

27.1.2023 – 20.8.2023

Böttchergäßchen Building, Böttchergäßchen 3, 04109 Leipzig


Its rich musical tradition gives Leipzig an outstanding position in the German music scene. However, from the National-Socialist perspective, music was also important for politics and propaganda. As soon as they had taken power, Hitler’s Nazi regime began to systematically enforce conformity in the Leipzig music scene. Concert and music theatre stages were strictly controlled, unwanted artists were banned, undesired music deleted from programmes and forbidden in churches and at concert venues. The persecution, expulsion and annihilation of Jewish musicians was the lowest point of the Nazi regime’s efforts to “cleanse” the musical scene of “corrupting Jewish influences” and of anything “non-Aryan”. On the other hand, quite a few composers, solo artists, lecturers and conductors benefitted from the “vacated” positions and ingratiated themselves with the system in one way or another.

This special exhibition is the first exhibition in Leipzig which covers this topic in full. Several parts of the nine planned sections will focus on the city’s important musical institutions, such as St Thomas Boys Choir, the Gewandhaus, the music academy and the opera house. Other sections will examine the use of music at the Leipzig synagogues, the local jazz and swing music scene and the role of the broadcasting station, Reichssender Leipzig. A central section will investigate the city’s approach to its two heroes of music – Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Richard Wagner – and their monuments. Souvenirs, photographs, newspaper articles, reports by eyewitnesses and historical sound recordings show what musical life was like – and where it fell silent – after 1933. In addition to the nine exhibition sections, nine special representatives of the music scene of the time will be introduced along with their biographies or career histories.