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Das Lied der Deutschen
English: The Song of the Germans
Facsimile of Hoffmann von Fallersleben's manuscript of Das Lied der Deutschen. The original is kept in Kraków, Poland in the Berlinka collection.[1]
National anthem of  Germany
Also known as Das Deutschlandlied
English: The Song of Germany
Deutschland über alles
English: Germany above all
Lyrics August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, 1841
Music Joseph Haydn, 1797
Adopted 1922
Music sample
Das Lied der Deutschen (Instrumental)

Das Deutschlandlied ("The Song of Germany"; German pronunciation: [ˈdɔʏtʃlantˌliːt], also known as "Das Lied der Deutschen" or "The Song of the Germans"), has been used wholly or partially as the national anthem of Germany since 1922. The music was written by Joseph Haydn in 1797 as an anthem for the birthday of the Austrian Emperor Francis II of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1841, the German linguist and poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the lyrics of "Das Lied der Deutschen" to Haydn's melody, lyrics that were considered revolutionary at the time.

The song is as well-known by the opening words and refrain of the first stanza, "Deutschland über alles" (Germany above all), but this has never been its title. The line "Germany, Germany above all" meant that the most important goal of the Vormärz revolutionaries should be a unified Germany overcoming the perceived anti-liberal Kleinstaaterei. Alongside 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 for national anthem of Germany in 1922, during the Weimar Republic. Out of similar reasons in 1952, West Germany adopted the Deutschlandlied as its official national anthem, with only the third stanza sung on official occasions. Upon reunification in 1990, the third stanza only was confirmed as the national anthem.



Haydn portrait by Thomas Hardy, 1792

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 Emperor Francis") as a birthday anthem to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Habsburg. It is the Adagio of string quartet opus 76, no3. After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, where Francis continued to rule as Austrian Emperor, "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" became the official anthem of the emperor of the Austrian Empire and the subsequent Austria-Hungary until the end of the Austrian monarchy in 1918.

Historical background

The Holy Roman Empire was already weak when the French Revolution and the ensuing Napoleonic Wars altered the political map of Central Europe. Hopes for the Enlightenment, human rights, republican government, democracy, and freedom after Napoleon's defeat in 1815 were dashed, however, when the Congress of Vienna reinstated many monarchies. In addition, with the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819, Chancellor Prince Metternich and his secret police enforced censorship, mainly in universities, to keep a watch on the activities of professors and students, whom he held responsible for the spread of radical liberal ideas. Particularly since hardliners 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 whether a republic or a constitutional monarchy would be the best solution for Germany.

The German Confederation or German Union (Deutscher Bund) was a loose confederation of 39 monarchial states and republican free cities, with a Federal Assembly in Frankfurt. They began to remove internal customs barriers during the Industrial Revolution, though, 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.[2]

After the March Revolution of 1848, the German Confederation handed over its authority to the Frankfurt Parliament, and Eastern Prussia joined the Confederation. For a short period in the late 1840s, Germany was united with Hoffman's borders, with a democratic constitution in the make, and with the black-red-gold flag to represent it. The two big monarchies put an end to this, and waged the Austro-Prussian War against each other.

Hoffmann's lyrics

August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841

August Heinrich Hoffmann (who called himself von Fallersleben after his home town to distinguish himself from others with the same common name of Hoffmann) wrote the text in 1841 on vacation on the North Sea island Helgoland, then a possession of the United Kingdom.

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, above all in the world"), was an appeal to the various German sovereigns 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.[3]

In the era after the Congress of Vienna, which was influenced by Prince Metternich and his secret police, Hoffmann's text had a distinctly revolutionary, and at once liberal, connotation, since the demand for a united Germany was most often made in connection with demands for freedom of press and other liberal rights. Its implication that loyalty to a larger Germany should replace loyalty to one's sovereign personally was in itself a revolutionary idea.

The year after he wrote Das Deutschlandlied, Hoffmann von Fallersleben lost his job as a librarian and professor in Breslau, Prussia because of this and other revolutionary works, and was forced into hiding until being pardoned after the revolutions of 1848.

Lyrics and translation

The following provides the lyrics of the "Lied der Deutschen" as written by Hoffmann von Fallersleben. Only the third verse is currently the Federal Republic of Germany's national anthem.

German lyrics Approximate translation
First stanza

Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
Über alles in der Welt,
Wenn es stets zu Schutz und Trutze
Brüderlich zusammenhält.
Von der Maas bis an die Memel,
Von der Etsch bis an den Belt,
 |: Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
  Über alles in der Welt! :|

Germany, Germany above all,
Above all in the world,
When, for protection and defence, it always
takes a brotherly stand together.
From the Meuse to the Memel,
From the Adige to the Belt,
 |: Germany, Germany above everything,
  Above everything in the world. :|

Second stanza

Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang
Sollen in der Welt behalten
Ihren alten schönen Klang,
Uns zu edler Tat begeistern
Unser ganzes Leben lang.
 |: Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
  Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang! :|

German women, German loyalty,
German wine and German song
Shall retain in the world
Their old beautiful chime
And inspire us to noble deeds
During all of our life.
 |: German women, German loyalty,
  German wine and German song! :|

Third stanza
(Germany's National Anthem)

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Für das deutsche Vaterland!
Danach lasst uns alle streben
Brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Sind des Glückes Unterpfand;
 |: Blüh' im Glanze dieses Glückes,
  Blühe, deutsches Vaterland. :|

Unity and justice and freedom
For the German fatherland!
For these let us all strive
Brotherly with heart and hand!
Unity and justice and freedom
Are the pledge of fortune;
 |: Flourish in this fortune's blessing,
  Flourish, German fatherland. :|


Geography according to the first stanza, with modern borders (dark green) and territories where German is an official language today (light green)

In 1841, when the text was written, the German Confederation was not a unified state in the modern sense. It also included a few regions inhabited largely by non-German speakers, but excluded large areas inhabited primarily by German-speakers, like parts of Eastern Prussia. Hoffmann, who in his research had collected German writings and tales, based his definition of Germany on linguistic criteria: he described the approximate area where a majority of German speakers lived at the time, as encountered in his studies. 19th century nationalists generally relied on such linguistic criteria to determine the borders of the nation-states they desired. Thus, the borders mentioned in the first stanza loosely reflected the breadth of territory across which German speakers were spread at the time.

Von der Maas bis an die Memel,
Von der Etsch bis an den Belt.

From the Meuse River to the Memel River,
From the Adige River to the Little Belt.

The German Confederation.
This map does not include the Memel river in the northeast.
  • In the west, the river known as the Maas or the Meuse ran through the Dutch-ruled and Limburgish-speaking Duchy of Limburg which was joined to the German Confederation between September 5, 1839 and August 23, 1866. The modern German border is close to the river in that area.
  • In the east, the lower part of the Memel, known in other languages as the Neman, was located within East Prussia, part of the Kingdom of Prussia, which actually stretched north beyond the river, and beyond the city of Memel (Klaipeda). In 1920, the area north of the river was detached from Germany and became known as Memelland. Only few German speakers remained in the area after 1945.
  • In the south, the Adige river (German: Etsch) runs to the Adriatic. In 1841, the Austrian Empire ruled all of its length, and much of the population of its area was German. The river's northern part was within Austrian Tirol, but became part of Italy after 1918. Now, as then, the town of Salorno (German: Salurn), marks the linguistic border between the German and the Italian speaking population in the valley.
  • To the north, the strait known as the Little Belt (Danish: Lillebælt) ran alongside the ethnically mixed Danish Duchy of Schleswig, part of an area subject to a highly complex dispute, known as the Schleswig-Holstein Question, between Denmark and its neighbors. After wars in 1848 and 1864 the Danish-German border for some time ran through the strait, but ultimately, with the Schleswig Plebiscite, the border was moved to its current location, to the south of the Little Belt.

In the south and in the west, Hoffmann's definition of Germany coincided with the borders of the German Confederation as it existed then. Hoffmann went beyond the Confederation boundaries of 1841 in the north and in the east, as neither South Schleswig nor East Prussia (although both German-speaking) belonged to it at that time yet, but joined before 1866. Thus, when the German Empire was finally founded in 1871, both were parts of the German Empire, whereas Luxemburg, Limburg, and Austria were not (see Kleindeutsche Lösung). Hoffmann picked only one marker in the south and, possibly to avoid confrontation, made no mention of other areas inhabitated by German speakers, like Alsace, Switzerland, or the Eastern part of the Austrian Empire.

Use before the Second World War

Das Lied der Deutschen was not played at an official ceremony until Germany and Britain had agreed on the Helgoland-Zanzibar Treaty in 1890, when it appeared only appropriate to sing it at the ceremony on the now officially German island of Helgoland.

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 16, attacked the British lines singing the song, suffering heavy casualties. They are buried in the Langemark German war cemetery. 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 side by side and were mowed down by machine guns. This report, also known as the "Langemarck Myth", was printed on the first page in newspapers all over Germany. It is doubtful that they soldiers would have sung the song in the first place: carrying heavy equipment, they might have found it difficult to run at high speeds toward enemy lines while singing the very slow song. Nonetheless, the story was widely repeated, and Adolf Hitler himself, who had "received his baptism by fire at Langemarck," claimed to have heard the song as machine gun fire killed his fellow soldiers.[4]

On 11 August 1922 President Friedrich Ebert made the Deutschlandlied the official German national anthem, as one element of a complex political negotiation. In essence, the political right was granted the very nationalistic anthem, while the left had its way in the selection of the national colors (the right wanted red, black, and white, the old imperial colors; the left wanted red, black, and yellow). Considering the post-World War II history of the anthem, it is worthwhile noting that Ebert already advocated using only the anthem's third stanza.[5]

Use during the Nazi rule

During the Nazi era, only the first stanza was used, while the remainder was the SA song Horst-Wessel-Lied.[6]

Use after World War II

In 1945, after the end of World War II, singing Das Lied der Deutschen and other symbols used by Nazi Germany were banned for some time by the Allies. The Germans were expelled up to 500 km to the West, behind the Oder and Neisse rivers.

After its founding in 1949, West Germany did not have a national anthem for official events for some years despite the growing need for proper diplomatic procedures. Different songs were discussed or used, such as Beethoven's Ode 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 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.[7]

Meanwhile, East Germany adopted its own national anthem, Auferstanden aus Ruinen (Risen from the Ruins). As the lyrics called for "Germany, united Fatherland", they were not sung anymore when this idea was dropped in the 1970s. It is a legend that it was originally written to fit the same Haydn melody, but later got its own: The lyrics do not fit completely to the Haydn melody.

When West Germany won the 1954 FIFA World Cup Final in Berne, 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 [8].

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, 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 make German high school students study all three stanzas, and in 1989 CDU politician Christean Wagner decreed that all high school students in Hesse were to memorize the three stanzas.[9]

On 7 March 1990, months before reunification, the Constitutional Court declared only the third stanza of Hoffmann von Fallersleben's poem to be protected as a national anthem under criminal 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.

In November 1991, President Richard von Weizsäcker and Chancellor Helmut Kohl agreed in an exchange of letters to declare the third stanza alone the national anthem of the enlarged republic. On official occasions, Haydn's music is used, and only the third stanza is supposed to be sung. For other uses, all stanzas may be performed. The opening line of the third stanza, Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit, ("Unity and justice and freedom") appears on soldiers' belts, was engraved into the rim of former 5-Deutsche Mark coins, and is currently present on 2-Euro coins minted in Germany.

Modern criticisms

The song has frequently been criticised for its generally nationalist theme, the geographic definition of Germany given in the first stanza, and the somewhat male chauvinist attitude in the second stanza.[10][11] An early critic was Friedrich Nietzsche, who called the grandiose claim in the first stanza ("Deutschland über alles") "the dumbest phrase in the world."[10]

Variants, additions, controversial performances

Variants and additional or alternate 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.[citation needed] The original Helgoland manuscript included a variant ending of the third stanza for such occasions:

Alternate third stanza

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Für das deutsche Vaterland!
Danach lasst uns alle streben
Brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Sind des Glückes Unterpfand;
 |: Stoßet an und ruft einstimmig,
 Hoch, das deutsche Vaterland. :|

Unity and justice and freedom
For the German fatherland;
This let us all pursue,
Brotherly with heart and hand.
Unity and justice and freedom
Are the pledge of fortune.
 |: Lift your glasses and shout together,
 Prosper, German fatherland. :|

In 1921, Albert Matthai wrote a stanza in reaction to Germany's losses in and after World War I. This stanza was never used as a national anthem and was not part of the Deutschlandlied.

Stanza by Matthai, 1921

Deutschland, Deutschland über alles
Und im Unglück nun erst recht.
Nur im Unglück kann die Liebe
Zeigen ob sie stark und echt.
Und so soll es weiterklingen
Von Geschlechte zu Geschlecht:
 |: Deutschland, Deutschland über alles
 Und im Unglück nun erst recht. :|

Germany, Germany above everything,
And in times of misfortune more than ever,
Only through misfortune can love
Show whether it's strong and true;
And so shall the song continue
From generation to generation
 |: Germany, Germany above everything,
 And in times of misfortune more than ever.:|

An alternate version by Bertolt Brecht gained currency after the unification of Germany, with a number of prominent Germans opting for his "antihymn":[12]

Kinderhymne by Bertolt Brecht (tr. Michael E. Geisler)

Anmut sparet nicht noch Mühe
Leidenschaft nicht noch Verstand
Dass ein gutes Deutschland blühe
Wie ein andres gutes Land.
Dass die Völker nicht erbleichen
Wie vor einer Räuberin
Sondern ihre Hände reichen
Uns wie andern Völkern hin.
Und nicht über und nicht unter
Andern Völkern wolln wir sein
Von der See bis zu den Alpen
Von der Oder bis zum Rhein.
Und weil wir dies Land verbessern
Lieben und beschirmen wir's
Und das Liebste mag's uns scheinen
So wie anderen Völkern ihr's.

Grace spare not and spare no labor
Passion nor intelligence
That a decent German nation
Flourish as do other lands.
That the people give up flinching
At the crimes which we evoke
And hold out their hand in friendship
As they do to other folk.
Neither over or yet under
Other peoples will we be
From the Oder to the Rhineland
From the North Sea to the Alps
And because we'll make it better
Let us guard and love our home
Love it as our dearest country
As the others love their own.

Notable performances, covers

The German musician Nico sometimes performed the national anthem at concerts and dedicated it to militant Andreas Baader, leader of the Red Army Faction.[13] She included a version of Das Lied der Deutschen on her 1973 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.[14][15] 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.[16]

In November 2009, the English singer Pete Doherty caused a stir when, live on the Bayerischer Rundfunk radio in Munich, he sang the first stanza of the anthem; he was booed by the audience and after a few more songs the radio station pulled the plug on the show and the radio transmission.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Rückgabe von Beutekunst, Die letzten deutschen Kriegsgefangenen, Online-Artikel v. 26. Juli 2007. (13 Aug 2007 16:38)
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Staatssymbole Zeichen politischer Gemeinschaft". Blickpunt Bundestag. February 2005. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  4. ^ Mosse, George L. (1991). Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars. Oxford UP. pp. 70-73. ISBN 9780195071399. 
  5. ^ Geisler, Michael E. (2005). National symbols, fractured identities: contesting the national narrative. UPNE. p. 70. ISBN 9781584654377. 
  6. ^ Geisler, p.71.
  7. ^ "Briefwechsel zur Nationalhymne 1952". Bundesministerium des Innern. 1952-05-06. Retrieved 2009-12-01. ]
  8. ^
  9. ^ Geisler, p.72.
  10. ^ a b Malzahn, Claus Christian (24 June 2006). "Deutsche Nationalhymne: 'Die blödsinnigste Parole der Welt'" (in German). Der Spiegel.,1518,422419,00.html. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  11. ^ "Germans Stop Humming, Start Singing National Anthem". Deutsche Welle. 24 June 2006.,,2065774,00.html?maca=en-tagesschau_englisch-335-rdf-mp. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  12. ^ [Geisler p.75.]
  13. ^ Rockwell, John (1979-02-21). "Cabaret: Nico is back". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Hesselmann, Markus (2006-12-07). "Völker, hört die Fanale!" (in German). Der Tagesspiegel.,1975298. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  15. ^ Schiller, Mike (2007-02-16). "Rev. of Laibach, Volk". PopMatters. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  16. ^ "Die slowenische Band Laibach stellte in der Arena ihr Album Volk vor". Märkische Allgemeine. 2009-07-21. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  17. ^ "Rockzanger Pete Doherty Schoffeert Duitsers". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. 2009-11-29. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 

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