German Saxophones & The Nazi Party

For years now the Internet has been rife with statements, rumours, supposed “facts”, and half-truths about what the German Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei’s (Nazi party’s) view on the saxophone was. The majority of things I’ve read indicate that the saxophone was banned in Nazi Germany, yet the Swastika-engraved saxophones produced in Germany, by German saxophone manufacturers, for German military bands would suggest that at least some form of saxophone playing was allowed and/or tolerated.

Swastika engraving on saxophone bell, saxophone, German saxophone, German eagle, silver sax

G.H. Hüller tenor sax, # 37316 Source: Lowboy on

Zer vill be no sax playing here… Unless it does not sving

A couple of weeks ago I happened across an article in the October 7, 1933 edition of The Milwaukee Journal, which would indicate that the Nazi party was OK with the saxophone.

Nazi Views on the Saxophone, Oct. 7, 1933, The Milwaukee Journel, newspaper article, saxophones in Germany, OK, so someone got a key element of the story wrong. Adolphe Sax was not German, but in fact Belgian. Nonetheless, this article made me very curious, and I began to do some research to see if I could find something that explained this article in The Milwaukee Journal.

Rather than relying on any Internet sources, I went to a couple of books I have on the history of the saxophone. The first is a title most readers are likely familiar with: The Devil’s Horn, by Michael Segell. Although Segall mentioned the saxophone’s history in 1930s-40s Germany, unfortunately he offered nothing that could explain this 1933 article.

The second book I consulted is titled The Saxophone, and was written by former professional saxophone player, turned Professor of Music at City University of London, Stephen Cottrell. Success!

Cottrell has written quite a lot about Nazi/saxophone relations. Furthermore, being an academic, Cottrell has so many end notes in his book that I could be chasing them down for months to come.

In a nutshell Cottrell explains that:

  • Germany became intolerant of jazz after the Nazi party came to power in 1933, because correctly or not, jazz became associated with black musicians.
  • By extension therefore, the instrument that symbolized jazz—the saxophone—was also not tolerated anymore.
  • Many German sax players stopped playing altogether, and some even sold their horns.
  • It wasn’t uncommon for Nazi storm troopers to knock the mouthpieces out of the mouths of sax players playing at dances, and for some SS branches to ban the the use of the saxophone altogether.
  • In 1933 German saxophone manufacturers were already starting to feel the economic effects of the Nazi party’s anti-saxophonism. Saxophone sales were slumping, so manufacturers applied to the new government for help.
  • And there in lies the rub: This is where government ideology and the economic well-being of companies didn’t coincide, so the Nazi party had to figure out a compromise.

German saxophones get a reprieve

  • In September 1933 the following press release was circulated:

‘Rescuing the Honour of the Saxophone’

As a result of the petition of May 10, 1933, The Economics Ministry has been in contact with the Reich Administration in order to avoid a boycott of the saxophone, which could result from the ban on so-called Negro music. The Reichs Ministry for Education and Propaganda answered that the saxophone bears no responsibility for Negro music. It is an invention of Adolf Sax, born November 6, 1814, and is mainly used in military music […]. As with all other instruments, one can play good music with the saxophone. A ban on Negro music is no obstacle to continued use of the saxophone. A pertinent newspaper notice to this effect will be released.
Source: The Saxophone, Stephen Cottrell p. 324

It is worth noting how the press release spelled “Adolph”, this was not a typo. It was quite deliberate.

It should also be noted that the above quote was originally in German, and was translated into English as part of a 2004 dissertation about the saxophone in Germany.

The “pertinent newspaper notice” mentioned in the above quote from September 1933, must be what the October 7, 1933, Milwaukee Journal article is based on. It would be interesting to see if I could find the original German press release. I have not yet tried to check any German newspaper archives.

Given my interest in vintage German saxophones, I find this era of their existence quite fascinating. It would be easy to slap a simple, they were banned—as was swing/jazz music—label on that period of saxophones in Germany. On the other hand, that vintage G.H. Hüller, C.A. Wunderlich, et al. saxophone that you have in your closet, or that you play everyday, might just have had a very interesting past.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

The Mechanics Of The Music

One thing I love to do is check out what people are posting in Flickr under the tags: saxophone and sax. More often than not the photos are crap, or don’t contain saxophones at all. Every once in a while however, I happen across an incredible image, like today’s by Neil Moralee titled, The mechanics of the music.

The mechanics of the music.

Music Shop window shot, Cockermouth Cumbria, UK.

The mechanics of the music, saxophone, sax neck, octave key, alto sax

Photography by: Neil Moralee  Source: Flickr

Besides being a fantastic photo, what fascinated me about this shot was that it was taken through a store window. I am wondering how this was possible.

What’s even more intriguing to me is that this shot was taken with the same model camera that I use for my light box photography: a Panasonic Lumix LX-7. Obviously Moralee used a tripod, but I’m wondering what he did with his processing either in-camera, or with his Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software, to produce such an amazing image. (I’ve optimized it slightly for my website, so check it out on Flickr to see the true image.)

Sure my saxophone shots are nice enough, but my artsy sax shots are nothing like what Moralee shoots.

Neil Moralee’s, The mechanics of the music, reminds me of the kind of photos I’ve seen taken by my former keyboard player, multi-award winning photographer Jason Brown. Jason’s photos are some of the most brilliant photographs that I have ever seen. He can make a shot of gum stuck to the sidewalk look fantastically artistic—and that’s no hyperbole.

I know I will never have the photographic genius of Jason, but I would gladly settle for being able to take photos that are truly tack sharp. Maybe one day I’ll get there. It’s clearly still a work in progress.  :headbang:

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

Mystery J. Keilwerth Tenor Sax

Yesterday my buddy Pete Hales pointed out a mystery J. Keilwerth tenor sax that is currently for sale on the German eBay site.

Mystery J. Keilwerth Tenor Sax, tenor sax, silver saxophone, Julius Keilwerth tenor sax

Source: collie969 on

What’s a mystery about this horn, is that it has no model name. Instead, it is engraved with the Julius Keilwerth name where King, Toneking, or The New King would normally be.

Mystery J. Keilwerth Tenor Sax, Julius Keilwerth, saxophone bell, sax keys, saxophone engraving

Source: collie969 on

Nor does it have a serial number, or even the company logo engraved on it. These are normally located under the right thumb rest.

Mystery J. Keilwerth Tenor Sax, vintage sax, silver saxophone, thumb hook, Julius Keilwerth saxophone

Source: collie969 on

What does the seller say about this mystery J. Keilwerth tenor sax? Well judge for yourself. He/she does provide both German and English in the ad copy. Unfortunately it is not exactly the same…

Julius Keilwerth Tenorsax aus der Vorkriegszeit zu verkaufen.
Es ist etwas ganz besonderes, da es weder einen JKG Stempel besitzt, noch eine Seriennummer. Das Fehlen ist absolut original! Ich habe Keilwerth daraufhin angeschrieben, aber auch sie konnten mir nicht weiter helfen dieses Sax zu datieren. Es könnte sich um einen Prototyp eines Toneking Modell 1 handeln, oder um vielleicht das erste in Bad Nauheim produzierte Saxophon.
Anders als bei sämtlichen Vorkriegs- und auch Nachkriegsmodellen ist die S-Bogenaufnahme ein ganz klein wenig weiter, ca. 28,1mm. Es besitzt einen hoch-D-Triller und einen Es-Triller und original keine Stimmschraube am S-Bogen.

Zustand: Strukturell sehr gut, leichter Silberabrieb, Kratzer vom Ständer und ein paar kleinste Dellen.

Die Oktavklappe am S-Bogen wurde anscheinend nachgelötet, die Mundstücköffnung hatte 2 Risse, die professionell gepatcht wurden und ein neuer Ring wurde aufgezogen. Die Marschgabelhalterung wurde wohl auch nachträglich angebracht.

Es hat neue Polster bekommen, ist frisch eingestellt und spielt sauber und weich von oben bis ganz unten mit dem typischen Vorkriegskeilwerthton!

Nach Absprache kann es getestet und natürlich auch abgeholt werden.

Dazu gibt es einen nagelneuen stabilen schwarzen Koffer.

Sollten mehr Bilder gewünscht werden, oder Fragen bestehen, nur zu!



Pre-War Keilwerth for sale.
This one is something very special. There ist no JKG stamp nor any serial number visible. And this is absolutely original! I wrote to Keilwerth and spoke to a descendant of Julius Keilwerth, but no one really knew when it had been produced.
So the only thing we found out ist, that it might be a prototype of the Toneking Model 1 dated in the 30s or one of the first or maybe the first sax produced after they moved to Bad Nauhheim.
The main difference to allt Keilwerths is a slightly wider neck receiver (about 28,1mm) and no tuning screw at the neck (original). It does have a D-trill and an Ed trill as all pre-war Keilwerths.

The condition is – considering its age and that it survived the war – great. Slight sign of use at the silver plating and some scratches caused by these old stands and some smallest dings.

Unfortunately a non original marching lyre holder has been added, the neck octave key semms haveing been resoldered and two cracks under the mouthpiece cork have been professionally patched and a ring has been added (replacing the original).

It has new pads, is regulated and plays from top to down with ease. Wonderful pre-war Keilwerth sound.

Comes with a new very sturdy black hard-case.

If you have some questions or need more pics, you’re welcome.

Here are the key points to keep in mind about this mystery J. Keilwerth tenor sax

  • It cannot be the first sax produced after JK moved to Germany. Why? Because it has rolled tone holes. Since Julius had to leave the bulk of his equipment behind in Graslitz, in the beginning JK did not have the equipment to roll tone holes. This is the reason why the earliest German-made JK saxophones had soldered tone holes.
  • In English the seller wrote:

I wrote to Keilwerth and spoke to a descendant of Julius Keilwerth, but no one really knew when it had been produced.

  • In German he/she made no such claim:

Ich habe Keilwerth daraufhin angeschrieben, aber auch sie konnten mir nicht weiter helfen dieses Sax zu datieren.

  • Translated that would mean:

I wrote to Keilwerth, but they could not help me further to date this sax.

  • Even if the seller has had the sax in his possession for a number of years, Gerhard Keilwerth (Julius’ grandson) hadn’t worked at JK for a number of years before his death in February 2012. He had operated his vintage saxophone restoration and sales company in Nauheim since 2006. I’m not aware of another of Julius’ descendents working at the current JK.
  • This mystery J. Keilwerth tenor sax does bear a striking resemblance to this Toneking alto 14942, which happens to have been made in 1939.
  • However as Pete mentioned to me, this sax can’t be either a Modell 1, or the prototype of the Toneking. The Modell 1 had a microtuner and left-sided bell keys, while the first Tonekings had split bell keys.
  • This is by no means the only mystery J. Keilwerth tenor sax that has popped up over the past few years. Remember these two head-scratchers…
  • There was this Keilwerth Imperial with its eyebrow key guards and rolled tone holes.
  • Then there was this mystery tenor that was also sans model engraving. It had bevelled tone holes and wire cage key guards.

If this mystery J. Keilwerth tenor sax floats your boat, then you have only until tomorrow to get your bid in. The auction ends on October 15.

IMHO the seller’s asking price is quite high. The Buy It now price for this mystery JK is €2,950. estimates that to be $  3,734.70 US at the time of writing.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!