The title of this blog is not referring to a Western film, it is actually referring to an extraordinary event during WWII.
Django Reinhard is one of my favourite guitarists it is actually because of him (and Jim Croce) I picked up a guitar myself. Although I am an admirer of his music and even more his style of playing I didn’t know too much about Django during WWII. I had always assumed he had escaped Europe on time.
It was only after watching a documentary on BBC 4 called Tunes for Tyrants, presented by Suzy Klein, I discovered that Django not only survived the war he also thrived.
You may think “What is so extraordinary about that?” Django was a Belgian born Roma French jazz guitarist. Three words in the last line is what makes it extraordinary, Roma Jazz Guitarist.
Roma’s were persecuted in Nazi occupied Europe, about 1 million Roma-Gypsies perished in extermination camps or as a result of forced labour.
Jazz was considered degenerate music in the Third Reich.
However Jazz was allowed in Paris, because Hitler did not care about the ‘spiritual well being’ of the French. Django had lived in the UK before the war but had returned to Paris when the war broke out in 1939,leaving his wife behind and eventually divorcing her.
In 1943, Reinhardt married Sophie Ziegler in Salbris. The could had a son, Babik Reinhardt.
Because Django and his family were Roma, he tried to escape Nazi occupied France, His first attempt failed he and his family were caught ,but lady luck smiled on them for a Luftwaffe officer Dietrich Schulz-Köhn,who was an ardent Jazz fan and knew Django and his music, allowed Django and his family return to Paris. If Köhn would not have done that the Reinhard family would have surely ended up in a concentration camp.
Django remained nervous though for he knew there was always a chance that he’d still be arrested some day and be sent away. Although he did attempt to flee France again, he was send back at the Swiss border.
He remained in Paris and his music was enjoyed by the Parisians but also by the Nazis. Django actually managed to make quite a bit of money during those years. One of his songs, “Nuages,” did become an unofficial anthem in Paris to signify hope for liberation.
He did change his musical direction somewhat though, because Jazz although allowed in Paris was still considered degenerate music, and the laisse faire attitude the Nazis in Paris had towards it could change any minute. He attempted to He tried to write a Mass for the Gypsies and a symphony.
I would really recommend watching the 3 part documentary series ‘Tunes for Tyrants’ on BBC 4. It gives a great overview of the musical history during the world war 2 era and the years before it.
Ending this blog withe the aforementioned “Nuages”
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