Edited By Gertrud Pickhan and Rüdiger Ritter
1956 – A turning point for the jazz scenes in the GDR and Poland
Abstract Taking a comparative approach, this study argues that the year 1956 was a turning point in the development of jazz in Poland and the German Democratic Republic. While the two countries had followed a similar path since the end of the Second World War, the effects of de-Stalinization became particularly apparent in Poland in 1956: with regard to jazz, it suddenly became possible to issue a monthly magazine and to organize an international festival in Sopot. In the GDR the jazz impresario Reginald Rudorf demanded that East Germany should follow Poland and also Hungary on their way to socialism. This demand, however, resulted in Rudorf being arrested and imprisoned and in jazz again being banned from public life in the German Democratic Republic.
The year 1956 marked a critical turning point for jazz aficionados in Poland and the GDR. From the end of the Second World War, the jazz scenes in the two countries had developed along similar lines. From 1945 until 1948, swing and jazzy pop music were very much present in cities and on the radio. With the start of the Cold War, those in power in Poland, as in the GDR, attempted to oust jazz music, which they regarded as ‘American’, from public life. The death of Stalin in 1953 initiated a slow-paced liberalization in the cultural policy of both countries. In 1954 and 1955, earlier than was the case in Poland, some more jazz could be played on the ← 39...
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