Ich hatt' einen Kameraden
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"Der gute Kamerad" ("The good Comrade"), also known by its incipit as Ich hatt' einen Kameraden ("I had a comrade") is a traditional lament of the German Armed Forces. The text was written by German poet Ludwig Uhland in 1809. Its immediate inspiration was the deployment of Badener troops against the Tyrolean Rebellion. In 1825, the composer Friedrich Silcher set it to music, based on the tune of a Swiss folk song.
The song is about the immediate experience of a soldier losing a comrade in battle, detached from all political or national ideology; as a result, its use was never limited to one particular faction and was sung or cited by representatives of all political backgrounds throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and was translated for use in numerous fighting forces, French, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese and others.
The song has also become traditional in obsequies of the Military of Austria, the Austrian firebrigades and the highly prussianized Chilean Army. It is also used to some degree in the French Army, particularly in the Foreign Legion. When the song is played, soldiers are to salute, an honour otherwise reserved for national anthems only.
Occasionally the song is played at civil ceremonies, most often when the deceased had been affiliated with the military. It is also commonly sung at the funerals of members of a Studentenverbindung. Finally, the song is often played on Volkstrauertag, the German Remembrance Day, at memorials for the fallen.
|Original German Text||English Translation|
Ich hatt' einen Kameraden,
Eine Kugel kam geflogen:
Will mir die Hand noch reichen,
I once had a comrade,
A bullet came a-flying,
He still reaches out his hand to me,
The above text is Uhland's original version. Various variants have been recorded over the years.
Heyman Steinthal in an 1880 article in Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie noted a variant he heard sung by a housemaid, Die Kugel kam geflogen / Gilt sie mir? Gilt sie dir? (i.e. "the bullet came flying" instead of "a bullet", and "is it (the bullet) meant for me or for you" instead of "is it (impersonal) meant for me or for you"). Steinthal argued that this version was an improvement over Uhland's text, making reference to the concept of a "fateful bullet" in military tradition and giving a more immediate expression of the fear felt by the soldier in the line of fire.
A Berber language translation ("ɣuri yiwen umdakul") has been written by Ait-Amrane Mohamed (known as Idir) in 1947 in tribute to a friend of his (Laimeche Ali) who had died. The Berber text was made famous by the Algerian kabyle singer Idir during the seventies.
A slightly different text was also used by another famous Algerian singer called Ferhat Imazighen imula. The tune is also used for the eponymous Spanish Civil War song about the death of Hans Beimler. German playwright Carl Zuckmayer in 1966 used the song's line "Als wär's ein Stück von mir" as the title for his hugely successful autobiography (English title: "A Part of Myself").
- Kurt Oesterle Die heimliche deutsche Hymne, Schwäbisches Tagblatt (Tübingen) 15 November 1997 
- Uli Otto, Eginhard König: Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden…, Mainz 1999. (reviews)