Horst Wessel Lied: Wikis

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Horst Wessel

The Horst-Wessel-Lied ("Horst Wessel Song"), also known as Die Fahne hoch ("Raise the flag") from its opening line, was the anthem of the Nazi Party from 1930 to 1945. From 1933 to 1945 the Nazis made it a co-national anthem of Germany.[1]

The lyrics were written in 1929 by Horst Wessel, commander of the SA in the Friedrichshain district of Berlin. Wessel was murdered by a Communist party member in February 1930, and Nazi propagandist Gauleiter Dr. Joseph Goebbels made him a martyr of the Nazi movement. The song was first performed at Wessel's funeral, and was thereafter extensively used at party functions as well as being sung by the SA during street parades.

When Adolf Hitler became chancellor three years later, the Horst-Wessel-Lied was recognised as a national symbol by a law on May 19, 1933. The following year a regulation required the right arm raised in a "Hitler salute" when the first and fourth verses were sung. Nazi leaders can be seen singing the Horst-Wessell Lied at the finale of Leni Riefenstahl's 1935 film Triumph of the Will.

With the end of the Nazi regime in 1945, the Horst-Wessel-Lied was banned, and the words and music are illegal in both Germany and Austria, except for educational purposes.



Die Fahne hoch - Horst Wessel Lied.ogg

The words to the Horst-Wessel-Lied were published in September 1929 in the Nazi Party's berlin newspaper, Der Angriff. They were attributed to "Der Unbekannte SA-Mann" ("the Unknown SA-Man"):

German original English translation
Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig, festem Schritt.
Kam'raden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen,
Marschier'n im Geist in unser'n Reihen mit.
Die Straße frei den braunen Batallionen.
Die Straße frei dem Sturmabteilungsmann!
Es schau'n aufs Hakenkreuz voll Hoffnung schon Millionen.
Der Tag für Freiheit und für Brot bricht an!
Zum letzten Mal wird schon Appell geblasen!
Zum Kampfe steh'n wir alle schon bereit!
Bald flattern Hitlerfahnen über alle straßen.
Die Knechtschaft dauert nur mehr kurze Zeit!
Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig-festem Schritt.
Kameraden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen,
Marschieren im Geist in unseren Reihen mit.
The flag high! The ranks tightly closed!
SA march with calm, firm steps.
Comrades shot by the Red Front and reactionaries
March in spirit in our ranks.
Clear the streets for the brown battalions,
Clear the streets for the stormtroopers!
Already millions look with hope to the swastika
The day of freedom and bread is dawning!
Roll call has sounded for the last time
We are all already prepared for the fight!
Soon Hitler's flag will fly over all streets.
Our servitude will soon end!
The flag high! The ranks tightly closed!
SA marches with a calm, firm pace.
Comrades shot by the Red Front and reactionaries
March in spirit in our ranks.

The Rotfront, or "Red Front," was the Rotfrontkämpferbund, the paramilitary organization of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). The Nazi Sturmabteilung and the Communist Red Front fought each other in violent street confrontations, which grew into almost open warfare after 1930. The "reactionaries" were the conservative political parties and the liberal democratic German government of the Weimar Republic period, which made several unsuccessful attempts to suppress the SA. "Bondage" is what the Nazis saw as Germany's "servitude" under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, in which the victorious powers imposed huge reparations on Germany, stripped her of her colonies in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Ocean, and even gave parts of Germany to Belgium, Denmark, France, Poland, and Lithuania.

Some changes were made to the lyrics after Wessel's death:

Stanza 1, line 2 SA marschiert mit mutig-festem Schritt     The stormtroopers march with bold, firm step.
  SA marschiert mit ruhig festem Schritt     The stormtroopers march with calm, firm step
Stanza 3, line 1 Zum letzten Mal wird nun Appell geblasen!     The call is sounded for the last time!
  Zum letzten Mal wird Sturmalarm geblasen!     The storm warning is sounding for the last time!
Stanza 3, line 3 Bald flattern Hitlerfahnen über Barrikaden     Soon Hitler's banners will flutter over the barricades
  Schon (Bald) flattern Hitler-Fahnen über allen Straßen     Already (Soon) Hitler's banners will flutter over all the streets

The dropping of the reference to "barricades" reflected the Nazi Party's desire in the period 1930-33 to be seen as a constitutional political party aiming at taking power by legal means rather than as a revolutionary party.

The line "Kameraden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen" is technically ambiguous. It could either mean Kameraden, die von Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen wurden ("Our comrades who were shot dead by the Red Front and Reactionaries") or Kameraden, welche die Erschießung von Rotfront und Reaktion durchführten ("Our comrades who have shot the Red Front and Reactionaries dead"). In spite of this obvious syntactic problem, which was mentioned by Victor Klemperer in his LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii, the line was never changed.

After Wessel's death, new stanzas added composed in his honour. These were frequently sung by the SA, but did not become part of the official lyrics used on party or state occasions.

Sei mir gegrüßt, Du starbst den Tod der Ehre!
Horst Wessel fiel, doch tausend neu erstehen
Es braust das Fahnenlied voran dem braunen Heere
SA bereit, den Weg ihm nachzugehen
Die Fahnen senkt vor Toten, die noch leben
Es schwört SA, die Hand zur Faust geballt
Einst kommt der Tag, da gibts Vergeltung, kein Vergeben
wenn Heil und Sieg durchs Vaterland erschallt
Receive our salute, thou died an honorable death!
Horst Wessel fell, but thousands newly arise
The anthem roars ahead of the brown army
The stormtroopers ready to follow his path
The flags sink before the dead who still live
The stormtrooper swears, his hand balled into a fist,
That the day will come for revenge, no forgiveness,
When Heil and Sieg will ring through the fatherland.


After Wessel's death, he was officially credited with having composed the music, as well as having written the lyrics, for the Horst-Wessel-Lied. Between 1930 and 1933, however, German critics disputed this, pointing out that the melody had a long prior history. Such criticism became unthinkable after 1933.

The most likely immediate source for the melody was a song popular in the German Imperial Navy during World War I, which Wessel would no doubt have heard being sung by Navy veterans in the Berlin of the 1920s. The song was known either by its opening line as Vorbei, vorbei, sind all die schönen Stunden, or as the Königsberg-Lied, after the German cruiser Königsberg, which is mentioned in one version of the song's lyrics. The opening stanza of the song is:

Vorbei, vorbei sind all die schönen Stunden
die wir verlebt am schönen Ostseestrand
Wir hatten uns, ja uns so schön zusamm'n gefunden
es war für uns der allerschönste Ort.
Gone, gone are all the happy hours
that we spent on the beautiful Baltic shore.
Things were so beautiful between us all
and it was for us the finest place of all.

Another German song, Der Abenteurer (The Adventurer), begins:

Ich lebte einst im deutschen Vaterlande
Bei goldner Freiheit achtzehn Jahr dahin.
Da zog die Neubegierde mich zum Strande,
Und ich bestieg ein Schiff mit frohem Sinn.
Once I lived in the German fatherland
In golden freedom for eighteen years.
Then curiosity lured me to the beach
And I boarded a ship in cheerfulness.

In 1936, a German music critic, Alfred Weidemann, published an article in which he identified the melody of a song composed in 1865 by the Weimar composer Peter Cornelius as the "Urmelodie" (source-melody). According to Weidemann, Cornelius described the tune as a "Viennese folk tune". This appeared to him to be the ultimate origin of the melody of the Horst-Wessel-Lied. [2]

See also the Wikipedia article on Carl Boberg (1859-1940), particularly the note on similarities and dissimilarities between "Horst Wessel Lied" and the Swedish tune "O STORE GUD" (widely sung as "How Great Thou Art").

Other uses

During the 1930s and '40s, the Horst-Wessel-Lied was adapted by fascist groups in other European countries. The anthem of the British Union of Fascists was set to the same tune, and its lyrics were to some extent modelled on the Horst-Wessel-Lied, though appealing to British nationalism. Its opening stanza was:

Comrades, the voices of the dead battalions,
Of those who fell, that Britain might be great,
Join in our song, for they still march in spirit with us,
And urge us on, to gain the fascist state!

In Spain, the Falange fascist movement sang to the same tune:

Por el honor, la Patria y la justicia,
luchamos hoy en este amanecer.
Y si la muerte llega y nos acaricia,
¡Arriba España! Diremos al caer.
For honour, Fatherland, and justice,
we fight today in the dawn,
And if death comes and embraces us,
Long live Spain! we shall say in falling.

In Vichy France the fascists of the radical Milice sang:

Nous châtierons les juifs et les marxistes,
Nous vengerons nos frères tués par eux,
Afin que l'idéal national-socialiste
Puisse être un jour fier et victorieux
We shall smite the Jews and the Marxists,
We shall avenge our brothers killed by them,
So that the National Socialist ideal
Should one day be proud and victorious


Before 1933, the German Communists and the Social Democrats sang parodies of the Horst-Wessel-Lied during their street battles with the SA. Some version simply changed the political character of the song:

Die Fahne hoch, die Reihen fest geschlossen
Rotfront marschiert mit eisenfestem Schritt
Genossen, die vom Stahlhelm Hakenkreuz erschossen
Marschier'n im Geist in uns'ren Reihen mit.
The flag high! The ranks tightly closed!
Red Front marches with iron-firm pace.
Comrades, shot dead by the Steel Helmet Swastika
March in spirit in our ranks.

The Stahlhelm, or "Steel Helmet," was a veterans's organisation closely aligned with the Nazis.

Others substituted completely new lyrics:

Ernst Thälmann ruft uns auf die Barrikaden!
Bauer, steh auf! Erheb dich, Arbeitsmann
Gewehre nehmt! Gewehre gut und scharf geladen!
Tragt rote Fahnen hoch im Kampf voran!
Ernst Thälmann calls us to the barricades
Farmer arise, workman lift yourself up
To arms! Load the guns well with live ammunition
Carry high red flags onward into the fight

Ernst Thälmann was the KPD leader.

These versions were banned once the Nazis came to power and the Communist and Social Democratic parties repressed, but during the years of the Third Reich the song was parodied in underground versions, poking fun at the corruption of the Nazi elite. One version went:

Die Preise hoch, die Läden dicht geschlossen
Die Not marschiert und wir marschieren mit
Frick, Joseph Goebbels, Schirach, Himmler und Genossen
Die hungern auch doch nur im Geiste mit
The prices high, the shops tightly closed
poverty marches and we march with it
Frick, Joseph Goebbels, Schirach, Himmler and their comrades
they go hungry as well, but only in spirit

Wilhelm Frick was the Interior Minister, Baldur von Schirach was the Hitler Youth leader and Heinrich Himmler was head of the SS and police.

In the first year of Nazi rule, radical elements of the SA sang their own parody of the song, reflecting their disappointment that the "socialist" element of National Socialism had not been realised[3]:

Die Preise hoch, Kartelle fest geschlossen
Das Kapital marschiert mit leisem Schritt.
Die Börsianer sind nun Parteigenossen
Und für das Kapital sorgt nun Herr Schmitt.
The prices high, the cartels are tightly closed
Capital marches with a quiet step.
The stockbrokers are now party comrades
And capital is now protected by Herr Schmitt.

Kurt Schmitt was Economics Minister between 1933 and 1935.

With the dismemberment and division of the Reich into occupation zones at the end of the World War II, a version of 'Die Preise hoch' became popular in the Soviet zone, targetting Communist functionaries. [4]:

Die Preise hoch die Läden fest geschlossen
Die Not marschiert mit ruhig-festem Schritt.
Es hungern nur die kleinen Volksgenossen,
Die Großen hungern nur im Geiste mit.
The prices high, the shops are tightly closed
Poverty marches with a quiet, firm step.
Only the little folk are hungry
The bigwigs hunger only in spirit.
Komm, Wilhelm Pieck, sei unser Gast
Und gib, was du uns versprochen hast.
Nicht nur Rüben, Kraut und Kohl
Sondern was du isst, und Herr Grotewohl.
Come Wilhelm Pieck and be our guest
And give to us what you promised us.
Not just cabbage, kale and beet,
But what you and Herr Grotewohl eat.

Wilhelm Pieck and Otto Grotewohl were leading German communists.

See also


This entry draws significantly on the scholarly article by George Boderick, "The Horst-Wessel-Lied: A Reappraisal," International Folklore Review Vol. 10 (1995): 100-127, available online here.

  1. ^ It was appended by the Nazis at the end of the "Lied der Deutscher", which had become the German national anthem after the end of the monarchy in November 1918.
  2. ^ Alfred Weidemann: Ein Vorläufer des Horst-Wessel-Liedes? In: Die Musik 28, 1936, S. 911f. Zitiert nach Wulf 1989, S. 270. Die Musik was published in Switzerland. Articles departing from the Nazi doctrine that Horst Wessel had originated both the lyrics and the tune could not be published in Nazi Germany.
  3. ^ Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (Allen Lane 2006), 71
  4. ^ Namark, N, The Russians In Germany - a history of the Soviet occupation 1945 - 1949

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Horst Wessel Lied
by the Nazi Party of Germany
The Horst Wessel Lied ("Horst Wessel Song"), also known as Die Fahne Hoch ("The flag on high", from its opening line), was the anthem of the Nazi Party of Germany, chosen to glorify Horst Wessel as a Nazi martyr. Today it is still banned in Germany under Strafgesetzbuch §86 and §86a.

— Excerpted from Horst Wessel Lied on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.

Lyrics in German

Die Fahne hoch die Reihen fest geschlossen
S.A. marschiert mit ruhig festem Schritt
Kam'raden die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen
marschier'n im Geist in unsern Reihen mit

Die Straße frei den braunen Batallionen
Die Straße frei dem Sturmabteilungsmann
Es schau'n auf's Hakenkreuz voll Hoffnung schon Millionen
Der Tag für Freiheit und für Brot bricht an

Zum letzen Mal wird nun Appell geblasen
Zum Kampfe steh'n wir alle schon bereit
Bald flattern Hitler-Fahnen über allen Straßen
Die Knechtschaft dauert nur mehr kurze Zeit

Die Fahne hoch Die Reihen fest geschlossen
S.A. marschiert mit ruhig festem Schritt
Kam'raden die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen
marschier'n im Geist in unsern Reihen mit

Lyrics in English

The flag held high, the ranks stand tight together,
S.A. marches on with silent forward pace.
Comrades shot by Red Front and Reaction
still march with us, their spirits in our ranks.

The street free for the brown battalions,
The street free for the Storm-Trooper.
Up at the swastika millions already look, full of hope;
The day breaks for freedom and for bread.

For the last time the call will now be blown;
For the struggle we all stand ready.
Soon will fly Hitler-flags over every street;
Slavery will last only a short time longer.

The flag held high, the ranks stand tight together,
S.A. marches on with silent forward pace.
Comrades shot by Red Front and Reaction
still march with us, their spirits in our ranks.

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