Hans Joachim Moser

The son of the respected violinist Andreas Moser, Hans Joachim Moser was born in 1889, and showed an early interest in music.  After serving on the front in World War I, he was made a Professor of Musicology at the University of Halle, and later took up positions in Heidelberg and Berlin.  In the pre-Nazi years, Moser expressed many of the reactionary fears that were typical of the time.  He penned attacks on increasing urbanisation, blamed America and the Jews for transforming music into capital, and was concerned about the fate of church music in this increasingly secular society.  A nationalist, he was proud of the fact that Germany, despite the inflation of the inter-war years and the destruction wrought by World War I, had more musical institutions per capita than any other country in the world.  During the Weimar years, he advocated the centralisation of the German musical scene by means of a national music chamber, secure in his belief that

if Germany possesses one art and one profession that wield absolute influence, despite all the enmity and distance we face in the world, these are German music and the composer (second only to our sciences); one must not allow this noble, truly peaceful weapon to rust from lack of use.

Though largely mainstream, these ideas were not initially popular with the Nazis, who forced Moser to retire from his position shortly after their rise to power. However, his commitment to celebrating the German people, and to defending them from attacks of 'degeneracy', finally won him Nazi approval: in 1938 he was made musical representative for the Ministry of Propaganda, and later promoted to general secretary.  In addition to his active publishing career, Moser was also involved in the Ahnenerbe (German Ancestral Heritage Society), a branch of the SS.  This society was a multi-disciplinary movement dedicated to more fully understanding the Germanic race; in addition to writers, anthropologists, and folklorists, its ranks included several musicologists, who explored musical history through a racist lens.  The society-run publishing house was active, and Moser, along with many other musicologists, wrote extensively for it.

Struggling to support his large family, Moser requested a permanent position with the Ahnenerbe.  A background check, however, revealed several positive representations of Jewish composers in a musical lexicon he had written in 1934.  This treasonous behavior was underscored by a false entry in Herbert Gerigk’s Lexikon der Juden in der Musik, listing Moser as a Jew.  Moser of course protested vigorously, and was cleared of all suspicion of Jewish blood; nonetheless, Gerigk continued to insist that he was Jewish for years to come.  Such complications rendered him an unacceptable employee of the elite Ahnenerbe, but his work was so well-liked that he was encouraged to continue writing under a pseudonym.

After 1945, Moser hoped that music would help to invigorate and comfort a defeated Germany. He held posts in various music conservatories and universities in the post-war period, and was awarded the honorary Mozart Medal by the city of Vienna in 1963 for his contributions to musicology. Hans Joachim Moser died in August 1967.



Meyer, M., 1993. The Politics of Music in the Third Reich, New York: Peter Lang.  

Potter, P., 1998. Most German of the Arts: Musicology and Society from the Weimar Republic to the end of Hitler's Reich, New Haven: Yale University Press