January 28, 2018 posted by James Parten

Snow White and the German Conundrum

Here’s something that could get researchers scuttling about, trying to answer this question.

Did “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” get released in Germany before the start of the Seocnd World War?

What evidence is available to me would suggest that the Disney animated feature did get released in Europe in 1938 (though Filmic Light, a Disney Snow White blog, says the first official release in Germany of Disney’s Schneewittchen und die sieben Zwerge occurred on February 24th, 1950). Clearly, Adolf was aware of the film before the US joined the Allies against him. After all, if lore is correct, this was one of Hitler’s favorite movies.

What’s more, the songs seem to have been known to the Teutonic Mann-am-Strasse.

Some of the American and British recordings of some of the songs did appear in German cafalogues–although one suspects that they were deleted ‘mach schnell” after the war began in September, 1939.

Brunswick, manufactured by Deiutsche Grammophon, issued not only the six sides that Decca recorded with Fred Rich and his Orchestra–but also the two sides by Artie Shaw. And Odeon–a product of the Carl Lindstrom company (Germany’s branch of Electrical and Musical Industries) issued a British recording of “Heigh-Ho” by Harry Roy and his Band. That side was even reissued after the end of the War–at least in the American, British and French Occupation Zones. (Can’t say about the Soviet zone, as commercial relations were never particularly warm.)

One Berlin-based band got to record four of the “Snow White” songs–and thereby hangs one of several tales.

Teddy Stauffer had brought his Original Teddies to Berlin in 1936, to play for the crowds of tourists (all of them with hard cash in their pockets), The Nazi-Sozi crowd had to be on their best behavior–which meant that they had to overlook the fact that some of the Original Teddies were, in fact, Jews. What’s more, a great deal of the Teddies’ repertoire was made up of that “degenerate” new music being called “swing”. (In fact, ninety-five per cent of the recordings they made for Telefunken between 1936 and 1939,when they high-tailed it back to Switzerland, were of American or British songs.)

In April of 1938, the Teddies recorded four of the “Snow White”songs. These were “Whistle While You Work”,”One Song”, “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “With A Smile And A song”. While “One Song” was rendered instrumentally, the other three had “Englisches Refrangesang” by one Billy Toffel–who did not speak a word of Engish. (He sang phonetically, possibly without the least idea of what he was singing!)

Two of the sides–“Whistle” and “Some Day”–were reissued after the cessation of hostilities, hoping to attract postwar German audiences who needed escape from their daily lives.

One other German-influenced record has to be brought up here. Reader’s-Digest version: The Comedian Harmoists were the most popular vocal group in all of Europe between 1928 and 1935.

In the spring of the latter year, the Reichskulturkammer forced them to disband. There had been a new regulation that forbade Jews and “Aryans” from performing together. Three of the artistes were “Aryans”. The other three were Jews. The group endured a forced mitosis.

The three “Aryans” got together with three other “Aryans”, and formed a group called “Das Meistersextett”–which was kindly allowed to announce that they were “Formerly the Comedian Harmonists”. The three Jews went into exile, got together with three other artists, and formed a new version of the Comedian Harmonists–often called the “Exile Group” by collectors of the Harmonists’ discs.

By 1939, this group was working out of London. In April of that year, they recorded for His Master’s Voice, two songs from the “Snow White” score–“Heigh-Ho” (preceded by”Dig-Dig-Did”),and the “Dwarf’s Yodel Song”. Even though their English is sometimes hard to decipher, their version of the “Yodel Song” is curious–as it includes the “missing” verse which had been given to Sneezy.

It makes one wonder if they were working from the sheet music–or if they were working from the soundtrack disc that had already been issued on His Master’s Voice.

Go and figure!


  • In 1939 the Nazi Propaganda Ministry purchased fifty American films for exhibition but they were never shown in Germany at that time due to growing anti-Americanism. One of those films was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) sold personally by Roy O. Disney to Germany.

    Adolf Hitler had a copy of Snow White delivered to his private movie theater in Ubersalzberg and considered it one of the greatest movies ever made. Hitler also had in his personal collection eighteen Mickey Mouse shorts that had been given to him as a Christmas gift on December 22, 1937 by Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

  • Actually, despite Snow White wasn’t released in Germany until 1950, its German dubbing was made in 1938 in Amsterdam using Geramn-speaking talent and released that year in pre-Anschluss Austria and neutral Switzerland.

    • Well, at least it had a chance (elsewhere).

    • I would love to know your source for the German dubbing in 1938 in Amsterdam, and the pre-Anschluss Austria and Switzerland release. I’m translating a tranche of letters written by cousins of my father from the Czech “Protectorate” in October of 1940, in which the writer says she had seen Snow White two years earlier. She lived in the Sudeten, which by September 30, 1938 was part of the Reich, so I am assuming that she saw the movie before the Munich Diktat. She was German speaking, since she had been born when Bohemia and Moravia had been part of the Austrian Empire for 200 years, and lived in a German-speaking majority part of the country. Can you suggest where I should look to find out about the release date of the movie in Central Europe in 1938?
      Many thanks!!!

  • Ten years ago, in February 2008:

  • I came to this article because I wondered the history behind the German flag in the vulture’s eyes …or am I seeing things ?

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