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|English: The Song of the Germans|
Facsimile of Hoffmann von Fallersleben's manuscript of "Das Lied der Deutschen"
National anthem of Germany
(formerly West Germany 1949–1990)
|Also known as||"Deutschlandlied"
English: The Song of Germany
|Lyrics||August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, 1841|
|Music||Joseph Haydn, 1797|
The "Deutschlandlied" (English: "Song of Germany", German pronunciation: [ˈdɔʏtʃlantˌliːt]; also known as "Das Lied der Deutschen", or "The Song of the Germans"), or part of it, has been the national anthem of Germany since 1922, except in East Germany, whose anthem was "Auferstanden aus Ruinen" ("Risen from Ruins") from 1949 to 1990.
Since World War II and the fall of Nazi Germany, only the third stanza has been used as the national anthem. The stanza's beginning, "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" ("Unity and Justice and Freedom") is considered the unofficial national motto of Germany, and is inscribed on modern German Army belt buckles and the rims of some German coins.
The music is the hymn "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser", written in 1797 by the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn as an anthem for the birthday of Francis II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and later of Austria. In 1841, the German linguist and poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the lyrics of "Das Lied der Deutschen" as a new text for that music, counterposing the national unification of Germany to the eulogy of a monarch, lyrics that were considered revolutionary at the time.
The song is also well known by the beginning and refrain of the first stanza, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" ("Germany, Germany above all else"), but this has never been its title. The line "Germany, Germany above all else" meant that the most important goal of 19th-century German liberal revolutionaries should be a unified Germany which would overcome loyalties to the local kingdoms, principalities, duchies and palatines (Kleinstaaterei) of then-fragmented Germany. Along with the flag of Germany, it was one of the symbols of the March Revolution of 1848.
In order to endorse its republican and liberal tradition, the song was chosen as the national anthem of Germany in 1922, during the Weimar Republic. West Germany adopted the "Deutschlandlied" as its official national anthem in 1952 for similar reasons, with only the third stanza sung on official occasions. Upon German reunification in 1990, only the third stanza was confirmed as the national anthem.
- 1 Melody
- 2 Historical background
- 3 Hoffmann's lyrics
- 4 Lyrics and translation
- 5 Use before 1922
- 6 Official adoption
- 7 Use after World War II
- 8 Criticisms
- 9 Variants and additions
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The melody of the "Deutschlandlied" was originally written by Joseph Haydn in 1797 to provide music to the poem "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" ("God save Franz the Emperor") by Lorenz Leopold Haschka. The song was a birthday anthem honouring Francis II (1768–1835), Habsburg emperor, and was intended as a parallel to Great Britain's "God Save the King". Haydn's work is sometimes called the "Emperor's Hymn."
It has been conjectured that Haydn took the first four measures of the melody from a Croatian folk song. This hypothesis has never achieved unanimous agreement; the alternative theory reverses the direction of transmission, positing that Haydn's melody was adapted as a folk tune. For further discussion see Haydn and folk music.
The Holy Roman Empire, stemming from the Middle Ages, was already disintegrating when the French Revolution and the ensuing Napoleonic Wars altered the political map of Central Europe. However, hopes for the Enlightenment, human rights and republican government after Napoleon I's defeat in 1815 were dashed when the Congress of Vienna reinstated many small German principalities. In addition, with the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819, Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich and his secret police enforced censorship, mainly in universities, to keep a watch on the activities of teachers and students, whom he held responsible for the spread of radical liberalist ideas. Since reactionaries among the monarchs were the main adversaries, demands for freedom of the press and other liberal rights were most often uttered in connection with the demand for a united Germany, even though many revolutionaries-to-be had different opinions about whether a republic or a constitutional monarchy would be the best solution for Germany.
The German Confederation (Deutscher Bund 1815–1866) was a loose federation of 35 monarchical states and four republican free cities, with a Federal Assembly in Frankfurt. They began to remove internal customs barriers during the Industrial Revolution, and the German Customs Union (Zollverein) was formed among the majority of the states in 1834. In 1840 Hoffmann wrote a song about the Zollverein, also to Haydn's melody, in which he praised the free trade of German goods which brought Germans and Germany closer.
After the 1848 March Revolution, the German Confederation handed over its authority to the Frankfurt Parliament. For a short period in the late 1840s, Germany was economically united with the borders described in the anthem, and a democratic constitution was being drafted, and with the black-red-gold flag representing it. However, after 1849 the two largest German monarchies, Prussia and Austria, put an end to this liberal movement toward national unification.
August Heinrich Hoffmann (who called himself Hoffmann von Fallersleben after his home town to distinguish himself from others with the same common name of "Hoffmann") wrote the text in 1841 on holiday on the North Sea island of Heligoland, then a possession of the United Kingdom (now part of Germany).
Hoffmann von Fallersleben intended "Das Lied der Deutschen" to be sung to Haydn's tune, as the first publication of the poem included the music. The first line, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt" (usually translated into English as "Germany, Germany above all else, above all else in the world"), was an appeal to the various German monarchs to give the creation of a united Germany a higher priority than the independence of their small states. In the third stanza, with a call for "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" (unity and justice and freedom), Hoffmann expressed his desire for a united and free Germany where the rule of law, not monarchical arbitrariness, would prevail.
In the era after the Congress of Vienna, influenced by Metternich and his secret police, Hoffmann's text had a distinctly revolutionary and at the same time liberal connotation, since the appeal for a united Germany was most often made in connection with demands for freedom of the press and other civil rights. Its implication that loyalty to a larger Germany should replace loyalty to one's local sovereign was then a revolutionary idea.
The year after he wrote "Das Deutschlandlied", Hoffmann lost his job as a librarian and professor in Breslau, Prussia (now Wrocław, Poland), because of this and other revolutionary works, and was forced into hiding until being pardoned after the revolutions of 1848 in the German states.
Lyrics and translation
Only the third stanza is now Germany's national anthem.
Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Unity and justice and freedom
Use before 1922
The melody of the "Deutschlandlied" was originally written by Joseph Haydn in 1797 to provide music to the poem "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" ("God save Franz the Emperor") by Lorenz Leopold Haschka. The song was a birthday anthem to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Habsburg, and was intended to rival in merit the British "God Save the King".
After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" became the official anthem of the emperor of the Austrian Empire. After the death of Francis II new lyrics were composed in 1854, Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze, that mentioned the Emperor, but not by name. With those new lyrics, the song continued to be the anthem of Imperial Austria and later of Austria-Hungary. Austrian monarchists continued to use this anthem after 1918 in the hope of restoring the monarchy. The adoption of the Austrian anthem's melody by Germany in 1922 was not opposed by Austria.
"Das Lied der Deutschen" was not played at an official ceremony until Germany and the United Kingdom had agreed on the Heligoland–Zanzibar Treaty in 1890, when it appeared only appropriate to sing it at the ceremony on the now officially German island of Heligoland. During the time of the German Empire it became one of the most widely known patriotic songs.
The song became very popular after the 1914 Battle of Langemarck during World War I, when, supposedly, several German regiments, consisting mostly of students no older than 20, attacked the British lines on the Western front singing the song, suffering heavy casualties. They are buried in the Langemark German war cemetery in Belgium. The official report of the army embellished the event as one of young German soldiers heroically sacrificing their lives for the Fatherland. In reality the untrained troops were sent out to attack the British trenches and were mown down by machine guns and rifle fire. This report, also known as the "Langemarck Myth", was printed on the first page in newspapers all over Germany. It is doubtful whether the soldiers would have sung the song in the first place: carrying heavy equipment, they might have found it difficult to run at high speed toward enemy lines while singing the slow song. Nonetheless, the story was widely repeated.
The melody used by the "Deutschlandlied" was still in use as the anthem of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its demise in 1918. On 11 August 1922, German President Friedrich Ebert, a Social Democrat, made the Deutschlandlied the official German national anthem. In 1919 the black, red and gold tricolour, the colours of the 19th century liberal revolutionaries advocated by the political left and centre, was adopted (rather than the previous black, white and red of Imperial Germany). Thus, in a political trade-off, the conservative right was granted a nationalistic anthem – though Ebert advocated using only the anthem's third stanza (which was done after World War II).
During the Nazi era, only the first stanza was used, followed by the SA song "Horst-Wessel-Lied". The anthem was played at occasions of great national significance such as the opening of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin when Hitler and his entourage, along with Olympic officials, walked into the stadium amid a chorus of three thousand Germans singing "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles". In this way, the first verse of the anthem became closely identified with the Nazi regime.
Use after World War II
After its founding in 1949, West Germany did not have a national anthem for official events for some years, despite the growing need for the purpose of diplomatic procedures. In lieu of an official national anthem, popular German songs such as the Trizonesien-Song, a carnival song mocking the occupying Allied powers, were used at some sporting events. Different musical compositions were discussed or used, such as the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which is a musical setting of Friedrich von Schiller's poem "An die Freude" ("Ode To Joy"). Though the black, red and gold colours of the national flag had been incorporated into Article 22 of the (West) German constitution, a national anthem was not specified. On 29 April 1952, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer asked President Theodor Heuss in a letter to accept "Das Lied der Deutschen" as the national anthem, with only the third stanza being sung on official occasions. President Heuss agreed to this on 2 May 1952. This exchange of letters was published in the Bulletin of the Federal Government. Since it was viewed as the traditional right of the President as head of state to set the symbols of the state, the "Deutschlandlied" thus became the national anthem.
Meanwhile, East Germany adopted its own national anthem, "Auferstanden aus Ruinen" ("Risen from Ruins"). As the lyrics of this anthem called for "Germany, united Fatherland", they were no longer officially used, from about 1972, after the DDR abandoned its goal of uniting Germany under communism. With slight adaptations, the lyrics of "Auferstanden aus Ruinen" can be sung to the melody of the "Deutschlandlied" and vice versa.
When West Germany won the 1954 FIFA World Cup Final in Bern, Switzerland, the lyrics of the first stanza dominated when the crowd sang along, to celebrate the surprise victory that was later dubbed Miracle of Bern, but the soccer players did not sing the anthem due to not wanting to provoke trouble. The anthem had not been widely used then, and older people simply sang the first stanza which they knew from earlier times.
In the 1974 FIFA World Cup in their home country, West German soccer players remained silent and did not sing their anthem since their victory in 1954. 
In the 1970s and 80s, efforts were made by conservatives in Germany to reclaim all three stanzas for the anthem. The Christian Democratic Union of Baden-Württemberg, for instance, attempted twice (in 1985 and 1986) to require German high school students to study all three stanzas, and in 1989 CDU politician Christean Wagner decreed that all high school students in Hesse were to memorise the three stanzas.
On 7 March 1990, months before reunification, the Constitutional Court declared only the third stanza of Hoffmann's poem to be legally protected as a national anthem under German penitential law; Section 90a of the Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) makes defamation of the national anthem a crime – but does not specify what the national anthem is. (This did not mean that stanzas one and two were not – at that time – part of the anthem at all, but that their peculiar status as "part of the anthem but unsung" disqualified them for penal law protection because the penal law must be interpreted in the narrowest manner possible, and was not explicit in their regard.)
In November 1991, President Richard von Weizsäcker and Chancellor Helmut Kohl agreed in an exchange of letters to declare the third stanza alone to be the national anthem of the enlarged republic. Hence, effective since then, the national anthem of Germany is unmistakably the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied, and only this stanza, with Haydn's music.
The opening line of the third stanza, "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" ("Unity and Justice and Freedom"), is widely considered to be the national motto of Germany, although it was never officially proclaimed as such. It appears on Bundeswehr soldiers' belt buckles (replacing the earlier "Gott mit uns" ("God with Us") of the Imperial German Army and the Nazi-era Wehrmacht). "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" appeared on the rim of 2 and 5 Deutsche Mark coins and is present on 2 Euro coins minted in Germany.
The first verse, which is no longer part of the national anthem and is not sung on official occasions, names three rivers and one strait – the Meuse (Maas in German), Adige (Etsch) and Neman (Memel) Rivers and the Little Belt strait – as the boundaries of what the author viewed as Deutschtum. These geographical references have been variously criticized as irredentist or misleading. Of these the Meuse and the Adige were parts of the German Confederation during the time when the song was composed. The Belt (strait) and the Neman later became actual boundaries of Germany (the Belt until 1920, the Neman until 1945), whereas the Meuse and Adige were not parts of the Deutsches Reich as of 1871. Today, no part of any of the four places mentioned in the "Deutschlandlied" lies in Germany.
In an ethnic sense, none of these places formed a distinct ethnic border. The Duchy of Schleswig (to which the Belt refers) was inhabited by both Germans and Danes, with the Danes forming a clear majority near the strait. Around the Adige there was a mix of German, Venetian and Gallo-Italian speakers, and the area around the Neman was not homogeneously German, but also accommodated Lithuanians. The Meuse (if taken as referencing the Duchy of Limburg, nominally part of the German Confederation for 28 years due to the political consequences of the Belgian Revolution), was ethnically Dutch with few Germans.
Nevertheless, such nationalistic rhetoric was relatively common in 19th-century public discourse. For example: Georg Herwegh in his poem "The German Fleet" (1841), gives the Germans as the people "between the Po and the Sund (Øresund)," and in 1832 Philipp Jakob Siebenpfeiffer, a noted journalist, declared at the Hambach Festival that he considered all "between the Alps and the North Sea" to be Deutschtum.
Despite the text and tune of the song being quite peaceful compared to some other national anthems, the song has frequently been criticised for its generally nationalistic tone, the immodest geographic definition of Germany given in the first stanza, and the alleged male-chauvinistic attitude in the second stanza. A relatively early critic was Friedrich Nietzsche, who called the grandiose claim in the first stanza ("Deutschland über alles") "die blödsinnigste Parole der Welt" (the most idiotic slogan in the world), and in Thus Spoke Zarathustra said, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles – I fear that was the end of German philosophy." The pacifist Kurt Tucholsky was also negative about the song, and in 1929 published a photo book sarcastically titled Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, criticising right-wing groups in Germany.
German grammar distinguishes between über alles, i.e. above all else [for me], and über allen, meaning "above everyone else." However, the latter misleading translation was chosen by the Allies during both World Wars for propaganda purposes.
Modern use of the first stanza
German president Theodor Heuss, upon request from chancellor Konrad Adenauer, declared the Lied der Deutschen the national anthem of the German Federal Republic in May 1952, along with the provision that only the third verse was to be sung at official occasions. The declaration was a compromise between Heuss, who wanted to retain only the third verse, and the Cabinet's wish to keep the first two verses. As a result, the Lied (implicitly in its entirety) was declared the national anthem, with the provision that the third verse would have precedence. As described above, this changed in 1991; since that date, the first and second stanza are no longer "part of the anthem but unsung officially", but nothing more (or less) than stanzas of a song written by a German poet to a well-known tune which people may well sing if the fit to do so comes over them (the idea which is sometimes encountered that they have been forbidden is wrong), but without any official status at all.
In 1977, German pop singer Heino produced a record of the song, including all three verses, for use in primary schools in Baden-Württemberg. The inclusion of the first two verses was met with criticism at the time. After German Reunification in 1990, the German national anthem was redefined as the third verse of the song only.
The first two verses are therefore no longer part of the national anthem, and the performance of the first verse in some cases been portrayed as controversial.
In 2009, Pete Doherty was supposed to sing the German national anthem live on radio at Bayerischer Rundfunk in Munich. As he sang the first verse, he was booed by the audience. Three days later Doherty's spokesperson declared that the singer was "not aware of the historical background and regrets the misunderstanding". A spokesperson for Bayerischer Rundfunk welcomed the response, stating that otherwise further cooperation with Doherty would not have been possible.
When the first verse was played as the German national anthem at the canoe sprint world championships in Hungary in August 2011, German athletes were reportedly "appalled". Eurosport, under the headline of 'Nazi anthem', erroneously reported that "the first stanza of the piece [was] banned in 1952."
Similarly, in 2017 the first verse of the anthem was mistakenly sung by Will Kimble, a U.S. soloist, during the welcome ceremony of the Fed Cup tennis match between Andrea Petkovic (Germany) and Alison Riske (U.S.) at the Center Court in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. In an unsuccessful attempt to drown out the soloist, German tennis players and fans started to sing the third verse instead.
Variants and additions
Additional or alternative stanzas
Hoffmann von Fallersleben also intended the text to be used as a drinking song; the second stanza's toast to German women and wine are typical of this genre. The original Heligoland manuscript included a variant ending of the third stanza for such occasions:
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Unity and justice and freedom
An alternative version called "Kinderhymne" (Children's Hymn) was written by Bertolt Brecht shortly after his return from American exile to a war-ravaged, bankrupt and geographically smaller Germany at the end of World War II and set to music by Hanns Eisler in the same year. It gained some currency after the 1990 unification of Germany, with a number of prominent Germans opting for his "antihymn" to be made official:
Anmut sparet nicht noch Mühe
Grace spare not and spare no labour
Notable performances and recordings
The German musician Nico sometimes performed the national anthem at concerts and dedicated it to militant Andreas Baader, leader of the Red Army Faction. She included a version of "Das Lied der Deutschen" on her 1974 album The End.... In 2006, the Slovenian "industrial" band Laibach incorporated Hoffmann's lyrics in a song titled "Germania", on the album Volk, which contains fourteen songs with adaptations of national anthems. Performing the song in Germany in 2009, the band cited the first stanza in the closing refrain, while on a video screen images were shown of a German city bombed during World War II.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Das Lied der Deutschen.|
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- Die Nationalhymne der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, German Federal Government (in German)
- Audio of the "Deutschlandlied", with information and lyrics
- "Das Lied der Deutschen" at World Lieder
- "Das Lied der Deutschen" at Brandenburg Historica
- "Das Kaiserlied" (Haydn): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- on YouTube, during the official German Unity Day ceremony on 3 October 1990
- Daniel A. Gross (18 February 2017). "'Deutschland über alles' and 'America First', in Song". The New Yorker.