Posted by: ingogulde | April 13, 2010

The Little Trumpeter – The Role of Music in East Germany

As in every country, music played an important role in East Germany. German classics were an important part of East and West German culture. Unlike the West, however, the East also used music to help internalize the socialist body of thought from a very young age. Ideology combined with music made socialism somewhat more fun and accessible to children. Most of the melodies were quite catchy and made the ideological message even stronger, more compelling, and stick better. In this post, I want to introduce a very popular song. So popular that Erich Honecker (former head of East Germany) even wanted this song to be played at his funeral. Its name is “The Little Trumpeter” (“Der kleine Trompeter”). Everyone in primary school had to learn this song by heart. The story is about a cheerful, good, and loved man, the Trumpeter, who is shot during a peaceful event. The song is very sad and one really feels like having lost someone very dear. The Little Trumpeter is based on a real story in which a member of the “Rote Frontkaempferbund” (paramilitary organization of the KPD, the German Communist Party) is shot by a policeman during a rally of the KPD in 1925.

Here are the Lyrics:

German

  1. Von all unsern Kameraden, war keiner so lieb und gut, wie unser kleiner Trompeter, ein lustiges Rotgardistenblut.
  2. Wir saßen so fröhlich beisammen, in einer so stürmischen Nacht; mit seinen Freiheitsliedern, hat er uns so glücklich gemacht.
  3. Da kam eine feindliche Kugel, bei einem so fröhlichen Spiel, mit einem so seligen Lächeln, unser kleiner Trompeter, er fiel.
  4. Da nahmen wir Hacke und Spaten, und gruben ihm morgens ein Grab; Und die ihn am liebsten hatten, die senkten ihn stille hinab.
  5. Schlaf wohl, du kleiner Trompeter, wir waren dir alle so gut. Schlaf wohl du kleiner Trompeter, du lustiges Rotgardistenblut.

English (my own translation):

  1. Of all our comrades, nobody was as nice and as good, like our Little Trumpeter, a cheerful Red Guardsman’s blood.
  2. We sat so joyous together, in a so stormy night; with his songs of freedom, he made us happy.
  3. There came an inimical bullet, during a joyous game, with a blessedly smile, our Little Trumpeter, he fell.
  4. So we took hoe and spade, and dug him a grave in the morning; And those who loved him most lowered him silently.
  5. Sleep well, you Little Trumpeter, we were all so close to you. Sleep well you Little Trumpeter, you cheerful Red Guardsman’s blood.

IG

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