Reich in 4/4 time By
PARIS, 2 October 2000 - Luftwaffe
Oberleutenant Dietrich Schulz-Koehn walked along the railroad tracks
near St. Nazaire with three other German officers. Four American
officers came down the line towards them. Small arms fire could be heard
in the distance.
The winter of 1944 was cold. The men danced
and blew on their hands. The day was grey, like an old print of a
black-and-white war movie... They had minor roles, this was a sideshow.
The main theater of war had moved east to the Fatherland.
hundred thousand German soldiers were cut off and worn out here on the
Brittany coast. The Allies were prepared to starve them out, but
civilians were starving too and the Red Cross arranged evacuation
negotiations along these tracks, an hour a day for weeks now. The
opposing sides had begun to fraternize. They took photographs of each
other, and traded the prints.
Today, an African American
officer who had been admiring Schulz-Koehn's Rollieflex asked: "How
much do you want for that camera?"
"It's not for
sale." The lanky, bespectacled German liked Americans, particularly
African Americans. He was more than pleasant about it, but he liked his
"How about three cartons of Luckies and four
pairs of nylons?"
No. That was not enough. But as a
matter of fact there was something. Why not ask? A few beats went by.
The war was almost over anyway. Schulz-Koehn straightened up and
adjusted his leather coat. There was nothing to be lost. It was worth a
try: "Do you have any Count Basie records?"
was Chapter 1 of Mike Zwerin's Swing under the Nazis: Jazz as a
metaphor for freedom, published in soft-cover on 1 October 2000 by
Cooper Square Press in New York and available from Amazon.com, BN.com
and quality booksellers everywhere.
here to read Chapter 2 of Swing under the Nazis
Zwerin has been jazz and rock critic for the International Herald
Tribune for the last twenty years. He was also the European
correspondent for The Village Voice. Mike Zwerin is the author of
several books on jazz and the jazz editor of Culturekiosque.com.
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