Jedem das Seine

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The main gate of Buchenwald concentration camp, showing the motto Jedem das Seine.

"Jedem das Seine" (German pronunciation: [ˈjeːdm̩ das ˈzaɪ̯nə]) is the literal German translation of the Latin phrase suum cuique, meaning "to each his own" or "to each what he deserves".

During World War II the phrase was cynically used by the Nazis as a motto displayed over the entrance of Buchenwald concentration camp. This has resulted in use of the phrase being considered controversial in modern Germany.


Jedem das Seine has been an idiomatic German expression for several centuries. For example, it is found in the works of Martin Luther and contemporaries.[1]

It appears in the title of a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, Nur jedem das Seine (BWV 163), first performed at Weimar in 1715.[2]

Some nineteenth-century comedies bear the title Jedem das Seine, including works by Johann Friedrich Rochlitz[3] and Caroline Bernstein.[4]

An ironic twist on the proverb, "jedem das Seine, mir das Meiste" ("to each his own, to me the most"), has been known in the reservoir of German idioms for a long time, including its inclusion in Carl Zuckmayer's 1931 play The Captain of Köpenick.

In 1937, the Nazis constructed the Buchenwald concentration camp, 7 km from Weimar, Germany. The motto Jedem das Seine was placed in the camp's main entrance gate. The gates were designed by Franz Ehrlich, a former student of the Bauhaus art school, who had been imprisoned in the camp because he was a communist.[5][6]


Several modern advertising campaigns in the German language, including ads for Nokia, REWE grocery stores, Burger King, and Merkur Bank, have been marred by controversy after using the phrase Jedem das Seine or Jedem den Seinen.

An ExxonMobil ad campaign in January 2009 touted Tchibo coffee drinks at the company's Esso stores with the slogan Jedem den Seinen!. The ads were withdrawn after protest from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and a company spokesman said its advertising contractor had been unaware of the proverb's association with Nazism.[7]

In March 2009, a student group associated with the Christian Democratic Union used the slogan for an education campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), but later withdrew it due to public outcry.[8]

In May 2018, Peek & Cloppenburg started a campaign using the motto and defended its use publicly after much criticism.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Luther, Martin (1569). Haußpostill Doc. Martin Luthers über die Sonntags unnd der fürnembsten Fest Evangelia durch das gantze Jar. Nürnberg: Ulrich Newber. p. 54.
  2. ^ Spitta, Philipp (1899). Johann Sebastian Bach: his work and influence on the music of Germany, 1685-1750. Vol. 1. London: Novello & Co. p. 555.
  3. ^ Rochlitz, Friedrich (1803). Jedem das Seine. Lustspiel in einem Aufzuge. Züllichau: In der Darnmannschen Buchhandlung.
  4. ^ Bernstein, Caroline (1832). Jedem das Seine! Original-Lustspiel in Versen und drei Aufzüge. ("E. Karoli," pseudonym). Iserlohn: W. Langewiesche.
  5. ^ Neil MacGregor (2016). Chapter 25: At the Buchenwald Gate. pp. 467–468. ISBN 978-0-141-97978-6. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  6. ^ Nicholas Fox Weber (23 December 2009). "Deadly Style: Bauhaus's Nazi Connection". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  7. ^ David Wroe, Petrol station used Nazi slogan on posters, The Telegraph, 14 January 2009.
  8. ^ jol, dpa/ddp Nazi Slogan: CDU stoppt Kampagne "Jedem das Seine", der Spiegel, 12 March 2009. (in German)
  9. ^ "In einem Prospekt wirbt die Firma mit der Zeile "Jedem das Seine". Der Spruch steht auch am Tor des KZ Buchenwald". Hamburger Abendblatt. 24 May 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2018.