The Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur (KfDK, or Fighting League for German Culture) was founded in 1929 by Alfred Rosenberg, with the aim of promoting German culture while fighting the cultural threat of liberalism. Ironically, this organisation – best known for disrupting concerts and music classes, insulting and threatening artists, and distributing inflammatory and anti-Semitic pamphlets – was originally aimed at the nation’s elite. Hitler and other early Nazi leaders were searching for a way beyond mob-style violence, and decided to create a cultural organisation as a way to court the intelligentsia.
During the first years of its existence, the relatively small and regionally-organised KfdK attracted many intellectuals and, increasingly, musicians. With its conservative agenda of fighting ‘degenerative Jewish and Negro’ influences, it spent much energy promoting the ‘cleansing’ of museums, university faculties, and concert programmes of unwanted artists. In general, the KfdK appealed to radical nationalists and anti-Semites, to those who felt betrayed by defeat in World War I and by the Treaty of Versailles, and to those who felt outraged by the leftist, modernising and ‘cosmopolitan’ tendencies of the Weimar Republic.
The KfdK was initially not very aggressive, relying instead on lectures, intimidation and propaganda. After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, it became increasingly violent, with the support of the Stormabteilung (SA, Storm Troopers, or brown shirts) changing both its techniques and its membership pool. The KfdK had its own orchestra, which was selected to perform a special concert for Hitler’s birthday. It also acquired control over the important music journal Die Musik, which gave it an official outlet for racist and nationalist opinions on music.
Rosenberg, the leading figure behind the KfdK, expected to be rewarded for his success. However, Goebbels persuaded Hitler to give him control over the new Reichskulturkammer (RKK or Reich Cultural Chamber), which was a serious threat to the Kampfbund’s function as cultural arbiter of the Reich. Rosenberg was gradually marginalised, given the smaller job of running the official cultural organisation of the Nazi Party, and the KfdK was ultimately absorbed into the Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy) movement. In this phase of its existence, the Kampfbund acted primarily as a music and theatre lobby, fighting for the rights of ‘Aryan’ artists and for the exclusion of non-Aryans. Even this small gesture of independence was short-lived, and by 1937 the KfdK was entirely dissolved, assimilated into the many cultural organisations of the NSDAP.