April 20, 2015

The Ominous Nazi Song Parody: "We're Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line"

Nazi Germany's Ominous Song Parody
Winston Churchill with Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery visiting the Siegfried Line in March 1945
In 1939, the British novelty song "We're Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line" was released in the first few months of war in Europe. With cheerful singing interspersed with equally cheerful fanfare, the song imagines a quick and easy victory. It was a hit in the UK, with sheet music sales reaching 300,000 by the end of the year. Although the song may have had a positive effect on national morale during its initial release, it has since been derided as naive and "ignorant" of the actual threat the country faced.

In 1941 or early 1942, with Axis victory still a strong possibility, the Nazis responded with the threatening parody "Wir trocknen uns're Wäsche an der Siegfried-Linie." It begins by mimicking the original version in English, with the chorus quickly drowned out by the sounds of Stuka bombers over Britain. The song then violently transitions to a German rejoinder set to the 1866 Prussian Königgrätzer Marsch.

A French rendition titled "On ira pendre notre linge sur la ligne Siegfried" was released soon after the original version.

The audio and lyrics to the British, German, and French versions are featured below.


The British version was aired by the BBC in 1939:
We're Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line
We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,
Have you any dirty washing, mother dear?
We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,
'Cause the washing day is here.

Whether the weather may be wet or fine,
We'll just rub along without a care!
We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line
If that Siegfried Line's still there!

Mother dear I'm writing you from somewhere in France,
Hoping to find you well.
Sergeant says I'm doing fine, a soldier and a half,
Here's a song that we all sing, this'll make you laugh.

We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,
Have you any dirty washing, mother dear?
We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,
'Cause the washing day is here.

Whether the weather may be wet or fine,
We'll just rub along without a care!
We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,
If that Siegfried Line's still there!

Whether the weather may be wet or fine,
We'll just rub along without a care!
We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,
If that Siegfried Line's still there!
Adolf Hitler in Paris soon after the Fall of France, 1940 (source)
The Nazis later aired a derisive parody (beginning at 2:42 in the video) through the Reich Broadcasting Corporation:
Wir trocknen uns're Wäsche an der Siegfried-Linie
(imitating the British singers)
We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,
Have you any dirty washing, mother dear?
We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,
'Cause the washing day—

(bombs dropping)
...We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line...
Stuka! Stuka!
...We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line...

(switching to German)
Ja, mein Junge, das hast du dir gar zu leicht gedacht
mit dem großen Wäschetag am deutschen Rhein,
hast du dir auch deine Hosen tüchtig vollgemacht,
brauchst du gar nicht traurig sein!

Bald seifen wir dich gründlich ein
von oben und von unten her
wenn der deutsche Waschtag wird gewesen sein,
Mensch, dann brauchst du keine Wäsche mehr!

Sing dies Liedchen mit, wer es nur immer singen mag
mit der zweiten Kriegsberichterkompanie
Bis zum Wäschetag, ja bis zum Wäschetag.
In aller Herrgottsfrüh.
Mein Mädel, schenk' noch einmal ein
Und tanzt und trinkt die Gläser leer.
Denn wenn der große Waschtag wird gewesen sein
kehr' ich heim, kehr' ich heim übers Meer!
English translation:
Yes, my boy, you thought it would be so easy
With the great washing day on the German Rhine.
Even if you filled your trousers,
You needn't feel so sad!
Soon we will soap you up thoroughly
From top to bottom.
And when the German washing day is over,
You won't need any more washing.

Sing this song with me, whoever wants to sing
With the Second War Reporter Company.
Until washing day, yes until washing day
At the crack of dawn.
My girl, give us another round
And we'll dance and drink the glasses dry.
Because when the great washing day is done and gone,
I'll come home, I'll come home from across the sea.

The French version was released soon after the original and includes some of the English lyrics:
On ira pendre notre linge sur la ligne Siegfried
Un petit Tommy chantait cet air plein d'entrain
En arrivant au camp
Tout les p'tits poilus joyeux apprirent le refrain
Et bientôt tout le régiment
Entonnait gaiement

On ira pendr' notre linge sur la ligne Siegfried
Pour laver le linge, voici le moment
On ira pendr' notre linge sur la ligne Siegfried
A nous le beau linge blanc.

Les vieux mouchoirs et les ch'mis's à Papa
En famille on lavera tout ça
On ira pendr' notre linge sur la ligne Siegfried
Si on la trouve encore là.
On ira là

Tout le monde à son boulot en met un bon coup
Avec un cœur joyeux
On dit que le Colonel est très content de nous
Et tant pis pour les envieux
Tout va pour le mieux.

On ira pendr' notre linge sur la ligne Siegfried
Pour laver le linge, voici le moment
On ira pendr' notre linge sur la ligne Siegfried
A nous le beau linge blanc.

Les napp's à fleurs et les ch'mis's à Papa
En famille on lavera tout ça
On ira pendr' notre linge sur la ligne Siegfried
Si on la trouve encore là.
On ira là
References:

Charman, Terry (2010). The Day We Went to War. (Random House), p. 361.

Freedman, Jean R. (2015). Whistling in the Dark: Memory and Culture in Wartime London. (University Press of Kentucky), pp. 169-170.

Kennedy, J.J. (2011). The Man Who Wrote the Teddy Bears' Picnic: How Irish-Born Lyricist and Composer Jimmy Kennedy Became One of the Twentieth Century's Finest Songwriters.  (AuthorHouse), p. 145.