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Erika (or Auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein) is a marching song of the German military. The song was composed by Herms Niel in the 1930s, and it soon came into usage by the Wehrmacht, especially the Heer and, to a lesser extent, the Kriegsmarine. The theme of the song is based on "Erika" being both a common German female first name and the name of the heather plant (German: Heide, Erika; Latin: Erica), of which the heather-yards are considered as a "symbol of German natural heritage". In itself, the song has no military themes, beyond the fact that the narrator (evidently a soldier, though this is not explicitly stated) is away from his beloved and recalls her when seeing the plant which has the same name.
The song has also become traditional by the highly prussianized Chilean Army. The Finnish Army had a Finnish translation version, Kaarina, of this song during the World War II. A version, with Afrikaans lyrics, was the anthem of the South African Air Force during the apartheid years.
Origins of the Song
The lyrics of the song were written by Niel, a German composer of marches. The exact year of the song's origin is not known; often the date is given as "about 1930," a date that, however, has not been substantiated. The song was originally published in 1938 by the publishing firm Louis Ortel in Großburgwedel. It was a great success even before the start of World War II.
Niel, who in early May 1933 joined the NSDAP and was among others became a "leading" Kapellmeister at the Reichsarbeitdienst, created numerous marches that largely served the National Socialist propaganda campaigns. In particular the Reichpropagandaminister Joseph Goebbels, as Berszinski writes, noticed early on that down-to-earth, simple songs were a useful propaganda tool. The more that the songs served as a departure from the hard reality into dreamful felicity and affected a sentimental love song idyll, the better the "true face of Nazi Germany" could be hidden behind the joyful major-key notes. The close connection of National Socialism with the new technical mass media, especially film and radio, came to the contrary and swiftly ensured the popularity of the Nazi songs.
The military hits and marches were the "answer closer approaching war." In all about 15,000 National Socialist songs were produced between 1933 and 1945, as well as about one and a half million sheets of documents that alone were related to music.
Outside of Germany
The song was and is continued to be perceived as a typical part of the German treasury of songs and is indeed to this day mostly inseparably tied with the German Wehrmacht. For example, in 1983 for the ten-year anniversary of the junta in Chile, the song was a part of the repertoire of the marching band of a Chilean military battalion. An Afrikaans version of the song was the march of the South African Air Force Gymnasium until 1994. It was typically sung by conscripts at the end of basic training.
Lyrics and translation
Auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein
In der Heimat wohnt ein kleines Mägdelein
Back home lives a little girl
In mein'm Kämmerlein blüht auch ein Blümelein
In my small room a little flower also blooms
- Vgl. Angaben zum Marschlied „Auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein“ im Artikel „Als ich gestern einsam ging …“ von Leonore Böhm in der Oberpfälzer Tageszeitung Der neue Tag vom 17. Oktober 2008 (letzter Aufruf: 16. Juni 2009)
- Vgl. Sabine Berszinski: Modernisierung im Nationalsozialismus? Eine soziologische Kategorie und Entwicklungen im deutschen Schlager 1933–45. Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau 1999/2000, ohne ISBN. (Hochschulschrift; zugleich Magisterarbeit; als Digitalisat frei verfügbar; PDF-Datei; 389 kB; letzter Aufruf: 16. Juni 2009).