What's your favorite song from the 1940s?

During the Nazi era, “close your eyes and ears” was a kind of “song of reflection” among the forbidden and therefore illegal youth groups. The text comes from the Jewish poet and literary scholar Friedrich Gundolf, whose students in 1921 included the notorious later Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels, who is said to have worshiped Gundolf. Gundolf himself belonged - like Rainer Maria Rilke - to the circle around the popular poet Stefan George, whose poetry and worldview strongly influenced the youth movement.

The song was first printed in the magazine "Jugendland" by Wolff-Verlag, but then found its greatest distribution through its inclusion in the extremely popular booklet "Lieder der Südlegion" published in 1933.

The piece seems detached and spiritualized, even esoteric in parts, which was not unusual at the time and was quite typical for the George circle. Despite its origin, it was sung mainly in Catholic circles, for example at Easter 1940 at a religious youth conference in Altenberg. The song was also considered the favorite song of the “Gray Order”, which emerged from the Catholic youth movement and whose leader Willi Graf later belonged to the “White Rose” resistance group. Here, in turn, it was Sophie Scholl in particular who made “Close your eyes and ears” so popular that it was ultimately known as the “Song of the White Rose”.

In the 1930s and 1940s, both the confessional and the confessional youth movements had a pronounced weakness for Russian sages and themes. More than 60 years later, this is answered here by a young Russian woman from Cologne, Tanja Oleynik, in a pure and beautiful way. Three Cologne world music cracks on the instruments: Marcellus Seng, Raimund Kroboth (both Schäl Sick Brass Band) and Martin Kübert (Carlos Robalo Combo etc.).

 

It is not surprising that it was the “musical closeness to Russian songs” that made Tanja i Towarischi choose this piece. They wanted a "simple and soulful interpretation that should underline the kinship to Russian ballads". In dealing with the content and background of the song, the musicians then had the experience that they probably share with many of those young people who sang “Close your eyes and ears” during the Nazi era. In any case, they came to the “realization that free thinking and singing that are in themselves apolitical can almost automatically become a form of resistance in a totalitarian system”.

Close your eyes and ears for a while before the din of time
You do not heal it and have no salvation other than where your heart consecrates itself.
Twoju duschu, serdce posweti etim slojnim wremenam.

Your office is guarding, waiting, seeing, in the day eternity,
You are already so caught up in world events and freed.
Ti rodilsja w etoi jizdni polnoi dolgogo puti.

The day will come when you will be needed, then you will be completely ready
and throw yourself as the last log into the fire that is smoldering.
I w ogon gorjaschii ti woidi da za prawdu pobedi.

Tanja Oleynik
Excerpt from a songbook written by a Cologne scout between 1936 and 1941