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Music and Genocide


Edited By Wojciech Klimczyk and Agata Świerzowska

At first glance, no two experiences could be further apart than genocide and music. Yet real, live culture usually goes beyond rational divisions. It is now fairly commonly known that art is not absent from the sites of mass killings. Both victims and prosecutors engage in artistic activities in prisons and camps, as well as at other places where genocides take place. What is the music of genocide? Can the experience of ultimate terror be expressed in music? How does music reflect on genocide? How do we perceive music after genocide? What is music and what is silence in a world marked by mass killings? Is post-genocidal silence really possible or appropriate? The goal of the volume is to reveal and, maybe even to some extent, resolve the most profound dilemma that was expressed by Theodor W. Adorno when he asked «whether it is even permissible for someone who accidentally escaped and by all rights ought to have been murdered, to go on living after Auschwitz.» It is not for the sake of pure curiosity that the relation between music and genocide is examined. In a sense we are all survivors who accidentally escaped genocide. It might have happened to us. It may still happen.
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White-Power Music and the Memory of the Holocaust


In 2002, the Ukrainian National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) band Aryan Terrorism released its only album, War, on the U.S.-based white-power music label Resistance Records. Several songs on the album promote violent nostalgia for the Third Reich, including these lyrics from the song “In the Name of Our Aryan Blood:”1

White raceDestroy subhuman! [sic]Maybe it is our last chanceWe’ll eradicate this sickness only by war(…)Lighten up the flames in concentration campsBurn impure “people”In the name of our Aryan blood!

These lyrics would likely shock most audiences in the West, particularly because so many of the band’s countrymen suffered and died at the hands of the Nazi regime. Lyrics like these deploy racially-charged terms from the Third Reich, such as “Aryan,” and celebrate the Nazi concentration camps where millions of people died. Nazism and the Holocaust have become popular tropes in entertainment media and other forms of popular culture, and as a result, almost any ← 121 | 122 → Westerner today would be able to identify the ideology on albums such as War as genocidal.

Aryan Terrorism is not alone in using popular music to celebrate the history and ideology of the Third Reich. White-power music, much of which is explicitly neo-Nazi, has been a thriving underground industry since the early 1980s. This music updates old ideologies from racist regimes like the Third Reich and adapts them to address contemporary social issues, arguing that European-descended peoples are superior to others, and...

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