The subject of this Randy Newman
composition is no little
criminal. "In Germany Before The War" was inspired by the off-beat 1931 Fritz Lang film M
, which featured Peter Lorre as serial child killer Hans Beckert. Newman set his version in 1934; according to a review in the London Observer
of September 2003, the song is a metaphor for a nation about to enter a period of transgression and horror - by this time Adolf Hitler had been Chancellor for over a year, and the economic persecution of German Jewry was already well underway. This explanation is possible, especially as Newman is himself a Jew. That being said, there was a real child killer on the loose in the city at that time. Peter Kürten was executed in July 1931 after confessing to nine murders. He was known as the Düsseldorf Ripper, the Vampire of Düsseldorf or the Monster of Düsseldorf. Lang always denied basing the film character on Kürten, but the facts speak for themselves. Although Newman's song does not actually describe or mention a murder, it is difficult to put any other interpretation on the final line where the golden girl who has lost her way lies "very still." This is Newman at his somber, brooding best, notwithstanding the terrible subject.
Alexander Baron - London, England