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Comment: Fans of Spandau Ballet's lyrical ballads may have been surprised
to learn the origins of the band's odd name. Spandau Ballet, frontman Tony
Hadley once explained, was a term used by Nazi guards stationed at a
concentration camp (in the German city of Spandau) to describe the
gruesome contortions of Jewish prisoners being gassed to death.

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Michael Cole
Deck the Malls


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Spandau is a division of Berlin, not a city in its own right, and from what I am aware, it is the location of a prison and citadel, only used for POWs, and never was what could be considered as a Concentration Camp.

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Dara bhur gCara
As Shepherds Watched Their Flocks Buy Now Pay Later


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I always thought it was a reference to the Spandau gun which was the machine gun used by the German armed forces in the Second World War.

From that, I surmised that the 'Spandau Ballet' was a name for the jerky movements of soldiers being shot repeatedly by heavy machine-gun fire.

Of course, that's just in my head, really. But I have given the subject some thought.

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Gavida
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quote:
Originally posted by Dara bhur gCara:
I always thought it was a reference to the Spandau gun which was the machine gun used by the German armed forces in the Second World War.

From that, I surmised that the 'Spandau Ballet' was a name for the jerky movements of soldiers being shot repeatedly by heavy machine-gun fire.

Of course, that's just in my head, really. But I have given the subject some thought.

I guess you meant "The Great War" as the machinegun was used in World War I, in WW II it was replaced by the MG32. (It was only used in the beginning when the MG32 was not available in the quantities needed)

I heard the "Spandau Ballet" term as a description of the jerky movement when a soldier was hit by a burst from it as well. Not that I was able to find any proof for it though. I am not sure if the term really was used by german soldiers or if it is some kind of GOAF (Grandfather of a Father) story.

Gavida

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Dara bhur gCara
As Shepherds Watched Their Flocks Buy Now Pay Later


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You're right, I did mean WWI. I had a brainfart.

I would suspect that 'Spandau Ballet' is more likely to be a UK term than a German one.

No evidence of that at all; it just seems more like a British army euphemism, than a German one.

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This wrinkle in time, I can't give it no credit, I thought about my space and it really got me down.
Got me so down, I got me a headache, My heart is crammed in my cranium and it still knows how to pound


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Got_Fuzzy
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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I don't know where the term comes from, but according to Kemp's autobiography, Robert Elms, an associate of the group's, simply saw some graffiti containing the phrase, thought it sounded interesting, and proposed it for a name.

ETA: I don't think he mentioned knowing what it meant at the time, just that it sounded like a good band name.

ETA2: I've variously heard the origins of the phrase "Spandau Ballet" as being: death throes of gassed Jews, death throes of hanged prisoners, the way condemned prisoners tried to resist going to the gallows, the way people twitched as they were machine-gunned, an actual ballet company in Spandau in the 1800's, and someone wondering what prisoners in Spandau did in their spare time. All of this was FOAF rumor stuff.

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Ramblin' Dave, quietly making noise
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I always thought Spandau was the name of the prison where surviving Nazi leaders were kept after the war? It's the name of Albert Speer's prison memoirs. I, er, know that much is true. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

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Lonely Mountain
Jingle All the Layaway


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I was told by a friend who was a history major that "Spandau Ballet" referred to criminals who were executed at Spandau Prison during or after WWII. The "ballet" was the twitching of their feet in the air after they were hanged.

I tried to verify or disprove this but I haven't been able to find a credible source.

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Four Kitties
Layaway in a Manger


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quote:
Originally posted by Ramblin' Dave, ramblin' again:
I, er, know that much is true. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

[fish]

Try harder next time! [Wink]

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Autumn Neko
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This is according to my book Rock Names by Adam Dolgins:

quote:
The band formed in London in 1979, after an earlier incarnation as the Makers. A spokesman at the band's management company relates this story: "Spandau were just about to go onstage, and they still didn't have a name. Then a journalist friend of theirs, who'd just been to Berlin--his name was Robert Elms--apparently, on a toilet wall in Berlin he'd seen the name Spandau Ballet written, so he suggested it and they all said, 'Yeah.'"


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Hero_Mike
Happy Holly Days


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IMDB may be responsible for the "hanging" rumour...

http://imdb.com/name/nm1277538/bio

On the other hand, there were 12 sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials, 11 of which (save Goering, who had committed suicide with a cyanide capsule) were executed, by hanging, at Spandau prison.

More info here :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spandau_prison

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Page Three
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The gas thing could be true, and here's why. This is the web site of the Spandau Citadel. It says, in the history section...

quote:
During the time of National Socialism, the citadel was a restricted military area, as this is where the army gas protection laboratories were stationed. The roughly 300 employees were occupied not only with protection from gas, but also with developing chemical warfare agents. The results were felt for a long time -- for example, intensive searching by the police for warfare agents between 1988 and 1992 greatly delayed restoration efforts.

After World War II, the citadel was used for many different purposes. However, Rudolf Heß was never imprisoned here as is often claimed. Today, the fortress is used exclusively for cultural events.

The term sounds exactly like the sort of thing a Berliner would make up, considering the other nicknames our buildings get -- on the other hand, the machine gun explanation sounds plausible to me, too.

ETA: Forgot to add that there was of course another prison for war criminals in Spandau -- the only one jointly run by all allied forces -- which is often confused with the citadel, maybe because it was built as a replacement for it. However, that one wasn't a prison for POWs or for Jewish prisoners during WW2, apparently. So I don't see much of a connection there.

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Gavida
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The Spandau Prison where the war criminals were kept was about 3 km from the Citadel, iirc.
When I was visiting my grandparents in Berlin we went there for some sightseeing (the Citadel, not the Prison [Wink] )
It was funny when tourists asked my grandparents where Heß had his cell, pointing at the Citadel. Foreigners often mixed the Citadel with the prison.

The Citadel appeared in the cheesy teenage comedy "Gotcha!" (ob boy, I guess my reputation just went down the hill for knowing that movie ^^ )

I think the theory of "Spandau Ballet" being a graffiti on a toilet wall is most widely (is that the right way to say it?) accepted.

Gavida

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Mycroft
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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I believe that immediately after Hess's death (sorry, can only do the english spelling) Spandau prison, where he had been the sole remaining prisoner for many years, was demolished to prevent it becoming a place of pilgrimage for neo-nazis
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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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That's what it says in Wikipedia, but I'm not sure what they mean by it. I went to Berlin in 1989 and I'm sure we went to a prison or similar group of buildings and had a lecture and it was pointed out that Hess (Heß? - I can do that but won't, frankly) had been kept in a block there. The exact building may have been demolished but I had the impression that the site remained, at least in '89 which wouldn't be "immediate" if he died in '87. I can't remember well enough, though. Anybody?
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Ulkomaalainen
Jingle Bell Hock


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I think you may have been cheated upon. The building definitely has been destroyed in 1987 (even reaching as far as to grind the concrete into dust and dump it into the sea as to leave no traces, IIRC) and on the former prison site there now is a shopping centre. Since the whole site was only used to host Hess (and to have at least one thing the four allied powers could agree on), I doubt that other buildings of the structure remain.

cite of unknown reputation, but supporting my memories

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Hmm, probably not "cheated" - my memory is just wrong. The building we had a lecture in definitely wasn't in a shopping centre, but probably we were just being told about part of the history of Berlin and I misunderstood or misremembered. It was some sort of government building, I think.
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Ulkomaalainen
Jingle Bell Hock


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Actually, according to a text of Max Goldt (but he's not a journalist, more an essayist) Berlin tour guides are quite well known for not always giving accurate information, but rather saying what the tourists like to hear. I know from experience, that in Hamburg stuff like that happens.

E.g., the television tower in Hamburg is called "Fernsehturm" ("television tower") or (very rarely) "Heinrich-Hertz-Turm", its official name. This doesn't satisfy customers, so they made up the nickname of "Telemichel" ("Michel" meaning St.Michaelis, Hamburg's landmark church), which I've yet to hear locals use. There are more examples.

I think, pointing to some building and telling "that is at least the complex of the Spandau prison" would be more entertaining than locating the parking lot of a shopping center and saying "here was (...)". That may be within the scope.

But of course you may be right, and just your memory failed you [Wink]

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Movie characters never make typing mistakes.

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