(20 MP3s and two videos in this post, most MP3s are beyond the jump)
When Joseph Goebbels set out to create a Nazi movie studio to rival Hollywood's dream machine, he tried to recruit Germany and Europe's most glamorous stars, most notably Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. Since both Garbo and Dietrich had already fled war-torn Europe for Hollywood, Goebbels attention drifted to the singer and actress Zarah Leander. In 1936, Goebbels signed Leander to the recently nationalized film studio UFA, and the Swedish Leander became the highest paid Nazi film star (much to Goebbels consternation), and one of the most popular actresses and singers in Germany and Europe. She starred in ten propaganda films for the Reich and was a particular favorite of Hitler, who reportedly found the icy, husky-voiced Leander irresistible.(Leander was a featured subject in the documentary Hitler's Women, along with Eva Braun, Leni Riefenstahl and Magda Goebbels.)
Among Leander's other fans were a young German girl from Cologne named Christa Paffgen, later to record under the name Nico. Nico modeled her singing style after Leander, and the Leander style influenced dozens of other singers as well. Nina Hagen recorded a version of Leander's biggest German hit, Ich Weiss, Es Wird Einmal Ein Wunder Gescheh'n [download Zarah's MP3, and download Nina Hagen's video of the same song, 12 megs, mpeg format, in which Hagen dresses up as Zarah Leander for the beginning]. And here is a video of Nico singing Femme Fatale with the Velvet Underground live in 1972: [download video, 13 megs, mpeg format] Both videos can also be streamed via youtube.
By 1943, Leander saw the handwriting on the wall and stiffed Goebbels, fleeing Germany for her Nazi-film-financed palace in Sweden. Goebbels was enraged, and branded her an enemy of Germany, but the Swedish people were also outraged by what they saw as her wartime Nazi collaboration and profiteering. Leander always insisted that she never bought into the Nazi philosophy and didn't socialize with Third Reich bigwigs. According to a 2004 book by Anthony Beevor (The Mystery of Olga Chekhova), Leander was in fact working for Soviet intelligence the entire time she was under contract to Goebbels, passing Nazi secrets on to the Russians whenever she visited her home in Stockholm. The Swedes never completely forgave her, but she did enjoy a comeback of sorts in the 1960's, appearing in musicals and concerts throughout Germany and Austria.
Here's a batch of her (mostly Swedish) tunes, from the collection Svenska Sangfavoriter. Thanks Heinz!