German national anthem

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Song of the Germans
country GermanyGermany Germany
Usage period 1922–1945,
since 1952
text August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben
melody Joseph Haydn
Sheet of music JPG
Audio files Instrumental , MIDI
Instrumental version of the German national anthem

The German national anthem consists of the third stanza of the 1991 song of the Germans by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben . The melody comes from the old Austrian imperial hymn by Joseph Haydn , composed in 1796/97.

After the founding of the (North) German state in 1867/71 there was no official national anthem. Heil dir in the wreath was often played on important occasions. It was not until 1922 that Reich President Friedrich Ebert determined a national anthem, namely the three stanzas of the German song . The National Socialists kept the song, but after the first stanza also played their party anthem, the Horst Wessel song .

After World War II , the Allies did not ban the German song , but public singing was prohibited in the American Zone . Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer campaigned for it to be reintroduced; at state events only the third verse should be sung. Federal President Theodor Heuss finally put his concerns aside and agreed to Adenauer's concerns in an exchange of letters. Their successors, Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker and Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl , stated in an exchange of letters in 1991 that the third stanza was the national anthem.

As a state symbol, the national anthem is specially protected from denigration. The first and second stanzas are not protected and also not prohibited. However, singing the first verse leads to negative reactions in society.

Text and melody

The song of the Germans : manuscript from Hoffmann's estate

The text of the hymn is the third stanza of the poem Das Lied der Deutschen , written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in Heligoland in 1841 .

Unity and law and freedom
for the German fatherland!
Let us all strive for that
with brotherly heart and hand!
Unity and justice and freedom
are the pledge of happiness:
|: Blossom in the splendor of this happiness,
   blossom, German fatherland! : |

The melody comes from the song Gott get Franz, the Kaiser , which Joseph Haydn composed in 1796/1797 in Vienna in honor of the Roman-German Emperor Franz II ( Hob XXVIa: 43) and which was later sung as the Austrian imperial anthem .

The traditional words unity and law and freedom were found on the edge of the 2 DM and 5 DM coins . Today they can be read on the edge of the German 2 euro coins . According to the Austrian Germanist Paul Portmann-Tselikas, they have the character of an “official motto of the FRG ”.


First steps

Prince Eugene, the noble knight , composed in 1719, can be regarded as the oldest German-language song with the character of a folk anthem . A German fatherland, which includes all countries with the German tongue, called for the song Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland? (Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?), Composed by Ernst Moritz Arndt before the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 . Later the Rheinlied by Nikolaus Becker and Die Wacht am Rhein by Max Schneckenburger , composed as a reaction to the Rhine crisis of 1840, became popular, as did Hoffmann's song. In the German Empire , founded in 1871, the hymn of the Prussian King Heil dir in the wreath was also the hymn of the German Emperor . Their melody, derived from the British national anthem God Save the Queen , was and is also used in anthems in other countries.

However, none of these songs was designated as the national anthem ; there was no official anthem. On official occasions, however, the imperial anthem was usually played, but when Heligoland was handed over on August 10, 1890, Hoffmann's song, written there, was also played. This became more and more widespread in the following years and was often regarded as a national anthem at the beginning of the 20th century, at least in the sense of a folk anthem (in contrast to the ruler's anthem).

During the First World War , more patriotic songs were sung, rewritten or used for propaganda purposes , such as the Deutschlandlied with the Langemarck myth .


As early as June 1841, Hoffmann von Fallersleben referred to the idea of ​​a united Germany beyond individual princely interests in his poem Eins und Alles , published in the Unpolitische Liedern :

Germany only united in itself!
On! we want to bond ,
and we can
overcome any enemy loyal to each other.

The “unity” in the third stanza is probably influenced by the words of the dying Attinghausen in Schiller's Wilhelm Tell (“Seid einig - einig - einig”) and by Seee's poem To the German People (“Hatred and division prevail in our tribes, unity only can inhibit ruin ”).

Between the world wars

Kaiserlied - piano version with the first stanza by Lorenz Leopold Haschka , handwriting by Joseph Haydn

With the revolution of 1918, the imperial anthem lost its meaning. The search for a new anthem for the Weimar Republic was slow. Approaches by the President of the National Assembly, Constantin Fehrenbach ( center ), the Reich Defense Minister Otto Geßler ( DDP ) and the Reich Interior Minister Erich Koch (DDP) went unheard. Only after a request from the British Embassy, ​​which had acted at the behest of its Foreign Minister Lord George Curzon , did the anthem matter move in the summer of 1920.

But it took a good two years until the new hymn was officially proclaimed. This was due on the one hand to various diplomatic entanglements that made it appear to be waiting, and on the other hand to the fact that the majority Social Democratic Party in particular had reservations about the favored song of Germany . The murder of Walther Rathenau (DDP) prompted Reich Interior Minister Adolf Köster ( SPD ), on the advice of Arnold Brecht , to find a quick solution to the anthem question. Those responsible hoped to bind the moderate right to the republic.

On the eve of Constitution Day , on August 10, 1922, President Friedrich Ebert declared the German song with all three stanzas to be the national anthem of the German Reich . On August 17, 1922, Ebert instructed the Reichswehr to use the Deutschlandlied “as a national anthem”. However, the Reich President did not issue a generally binding ordinance on the proclamation of the national anthem . Rather, the now official recognition gave the Deutschlandlied final validity under customary law. All of this happened after the conclusion of the Paris suburb agreements , which required Germany and German-Austria to cede the peripheral areas mentioned in the first stanza and which prohibited the unification of the two German-speaking countries. Therefore, the hymn, primarily by supporters of the right-wing political spectrum, is also interpreted as a reminder of the ceded areas and a denied unity in the sense of unity .

German coins, which were minted from aluminum in 1923 in the denominations of 200 and 500 marks and were brought into circulation as inflation coins of the Weimar Republic, have the imperial eagle with the inscription Unity and Law and Freedom on their reverse . The 5 Reichsmark coin, made from silver between 1927 and 1933, shows a tree with the same inscription on the obverse.

In the Nazi state , only the first stanza was sung, followed directly by the Horst Wessel song , which were used together instead of a single hymn.

After the Second World War

Federal Republic of Germany

"Unity and Justice and Freedom": postage stamp from 1957
Memorial plaque in Biedenkopf / Lahn

After the German surrender in May 1945 , the Allied Control Council banned the use of characteristic Nazi or military forms of greeting. It followed a law of the American military government that did not concern the ban on the Deutschlandlied. In the American Zone, only his singing in public was prohibited. There was no ban at all in the French zone, nor in the British zone. An ordinance of the military government of September 15, 1945 merely prohibited "singing or playing military or Nazi songs or melodies in public". The Allied High Commission lifted all of these bans in 1949 after the establishment of the Federal Republic .

While the black, red and gold federal flag was enshrined in Article 22 of the Basic Law in 1949 as the national symbol of the Federal Republic of Germany , there was no legal stipulation of a national anthem after the Federal Republic was founded. After the promulgation of the German Basic Law, the members of the Parliamentary Council sang Hans Ferdinand Maßmann's song Ich hat sich sich ich / With heart and with hand ; later, on official occasions, the first stanza of Schiller's poem To Joy in the setting by Ludwig van Beethoven from the fourth movement of the 9th symphony was used as a substitute anthem. The suggestion of the then Federal President Theodor Heuss to use the hymn to Germany composed by Rudolf Alexander Schröder and set to music by Hermann Reutter as a new beginning did not succeed.

For the diplomatic protocol , however, an official anthem was required. Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer found it embarrassing that, for example, at a German-Belgian soccer game in Cologne, the carnival hit " We are the natives of Trizonesia " was played after the Belgian anthem ; he himself was received on his first state visit to Chicago in 1953 with “ Heidewitzka, Herr Kapitän ”, which also came from the Krätzchensinger Karl Berbuer . In April 1950, on his first visit as Chancellor in Berlin , Adenauer asked his audience in the Titania Palace to sing the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied. To be on the safe side, he had had text sheets placed on the rows of seats beforehand. With that he caused a scandal ; for while the auditorium rose from its seats to sing, the three city ​​commanders present ostentatiously remained seated. Most of the SPD politicians present reacted indignantly and left the event. The then Lord Mayor of West Berlin Ernst Reuter was an exception . Some SPD politicians spoke of a “ coup d'état ”, while Kurt Schumacher commented positively on the Deutschlandlied as an anthem. The response abroad was downright negative: the London Foreign Office and the French Foreign Ministry spoke of tactlessness and bad taste. A French newspaper rated the singing as an indication of the “persistence of a nationalist sentiment”. Adenauer later justified himself to the High Commissioners by claiming that singing the third verse was "forbidden under the Nazis".

Federal President Heuss finally gave in to the urging of the Federal Cabinet to make the third stanza the national anthem. However, he refused a “solemn proclamation”. Instead, he proposed a formulation for Adenauer's letter to him and for his answer to it. The Federal Chancellor should then address the “request from the Federal Government to recognize the third stanza of Hoffmann-Haydn's song as a national anthem” to Heuss. In his answer, Heuss admitted that he had “ underestimated traditionalism and its need to persevere”, and continued: “So if I comply with the request of the federal government, it will be done in recognition of the facts”. The draft was changed by the German federal government so that Adenauer expressed the "request of the federal government to recognize the Hoffmann-Haydn'sche Lied as the national anthem" and added: "The third verse should be sung at state events". Heuss accepted this deviation from his suggestion, and so the two letters, dated April 29, 1952 and May 2, 1952, were published on May 6, 1952 in the bulletin of the Federal Press Office . The song of the Germans thus became the national anthem of the Federal Republic of Germany, with the third verse emphasized.

With his reluctant consent, Federal President Heuss, as the bearer of the honorary sovereignty of the Federation, made use of his power to determine state symbols - including the national anthem - as far as constitutional ( Art. 22 GG ) or statutory provisions do not conflict. This is an unwritten right inherent in the office of head of state .

The choice of the third stanza initially had little effect in practice, in which mostly only music was played by band or sound carrier. The acceptance of the anthem by the public was more evident at sporting events through the degree of audience participation by singing along. At the award ceremony after winning the soccer world championship in 1954 , the text of the first verse, which is still known to all, was audibly intoned in the Wankdorf Stadium. From the 1980s onwards in particular, the anthem was usually only played instrumentally on official occasions, as the text was perceived as politically inappropriate due to the largely accepted division of Germany. This changed in the time of the fall . According to Helmut Berschin , the hymn had its “historic hour” on November 9th, 1989, when, after the opening of the Wall became known, the members of the Bundestag who took part in a regular session all rose and spontaneously sang the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied.

German Democratic Republic

In the GDR on November 5, 1949, the resurrection from ruins (the so-called "Becher Hymn") , composed by Johannes R. Becher and set to music by Hanns Eisler , was designated as the national anthem. In the first eight of the nine lines of a stanza, it follows the meter of the imperial hymn. The lyrics of both German hymns therefore partly harmonize with the melody of the other hymn, but because of the different ending they cannot be sung alternately.

In the Federal Republic of Germany allegations of plagiarism were raised, according to which Eisler had taken over the first notes of the piece Goodbye Johnny from Peter Kreuder . An attempt by Kreuders to obtain royalties for his play from the UN Copyright Commission failed because both titles were very similar to Ludwig van Beethoven's Bagatelle, Op. 119 No. 11 . Becher's text was no longer sung after about 1970 on the instructions of the SED ; because the GDR had meanwhile given up German unity. The line “Germany, united fatherland” no longer fitted the new guideline to regard the GDR as an independent “socialist nation”.


In 1950, in the autonomous Saarland , on the occasion of the first game of the Saarland national soccer team , the Saarland song (also Saarlied ) was introduced, its own national anthem. The song remained there in what would later become Saarland as a federal state of Germany (since 1957).

United Germany

Sheet music of the national anthem

In the unification process, some citizens' initiatives and various media campaigned unsuccessfully for Brecht's children 's anthem as the new German national anthem. During the negotiations for the unification treaty in 1990, Lothar de Maizière , Prime Minister of the GDR, suggested combining the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied with the text of the Becher, Resurrected from Ruins .

With a ruling of March 7, 1990, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the correspondence between Adenauer and Heuss did not expressly state that the German song should only be declared an anthem with its third stanza. However, the Federal Constitutional Court went on to say that it was clearly stipulated that the third stanza should be sung at state events, and this was already in line with general practice for decades at the time of the decision. At least in the criminal sense - for the addressee of § 90a Paragraph 1 No. 2 StGB (denigration of the hymn of the Federal Republic of Germany) - the recognizable literal meaning of the term “hymn of the Federal Republic of Germany” therefore does not go beyond the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied ( BVerfGE 81, 298 ff.). The Federal Minister of Justice , on behalf of the Federal Government, had declared in this procedure that the entire Deutschlandlied, consisting of three stanzas, constituted the national anthem and that the restriction on singing only the third stanza on official occasions was to be distinguished from it. The Federal Constitutional Court did not confirm this view.

After German reunification , Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker declared in a letter to Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl on August 19, 1991 only the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied as the official national anthem; Kohl agreed to this in his reply of August 23. The correspondence was published in the Bulletin of the Federal Government of August 27, 1991 and again as an announcement of November 19, 1991 in the Federal Law Gazette ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 2135 ).

"The 3rd stanza of the song of the Germans by Hoffmann von Fallersleben with the melody by Joseph Haydn is the national anthem for the German people."

- From the letter from Federal President v. Weizsäcker to Federal Chancellor Kohl on August 19, 1991

“The will of the Germans for unity in free self-determination is the central message of the 3rd stanza of the Deutschlandlied. That is why I agree, on behalf of the Federal Government, that it is the national anthem of the Federal Republic of Germany. "

- From the reply from Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl to Federal President Richard v. Weizsäcker, August 23, 1991

Criminal law protection of the Deutschlandlied

In contrast to the national anthems of other countries such as France, Poland or Hungary, the Deutschlandlied is not anchored in the constitution. There is also no formal law stipulating the national anthem. However, it is assumed that common law applies here.

As a state symbol and constitutional value, the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied is protected against denigration as a national anthem in accordance with Section 90a of the Criminal Code . The protection under criminal law is limited by the fact that authors of adaptations and parodies of the national anthem can for their part invoke the artistic freedom of Article 5, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law.


Error in use

There were always mistakes and mistakes when playing and singing the German anthem. So was z. B. 1995 played for Federal President Roman Herzog on a state visit to Brazil in Porto Alegre Risen from Ruins , the anthem of the former GDR . That happened u. a. even at the World Ski Championships 1985 in Italian Bormio at the award ceremonies for Markus which Meier (giant slalom) and for the two-seater at the Luge World Championships in 2015 in Latvian Sigulda .

In February 2017, the first verse of the German song was sung for the German Fed Cup team in Lāhainā in the US state of Hawaii . With the first line of this stanza the Chilean President Sebastián Piñera signed the guest book of the then Federal President Christian Wulff in October 2010 .

Other language versions

In the course of the debate on the integration of immigrants in 2006, with reference to the Spanish version of the American national anthem, the idea of translating the national anthem into Turkish was brought up . The Greens - member of parliament Christian Stroebele from the district of Berlin-Kreuzberg with a high ethnic Turkish population share, which had been publicly criticized in the debate and hostility, said he had this other than reported by some media, not suggested, but it support. He pointed out that there were already several translations, including a version published by the Public Relations Department of the German Bundestag in 2000 and a version prepared by the Turkish editorial staff of the WDR .

Gender neutrality

In March 2018, the Equal Opportunities Commissioner in the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs , Kristin Rose-Möhring , proposed that the text of the national anthem be reformulated to be gender-neutral. Thus fatherland should be exchanged for homeland and brotherly for courageous . The gender-neutral adjustments served the Austrian as a model national anthem in 2011, and the national anthem of Canada 2018th

The public reaction ranged from cautious approval to outraged rejection.

See also


  • Clemens Escher: “Deutschland, Deutschland, Du mein Alles!” The Germans in search of their national anthem 1949–1952 . Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2017 (dissertation, Technical University Berlin, 2016).

Web links

Wikisource: Song of the Germans  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Deutschlandlied  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paul Portmann-Tselikas: Contexts, Discursive Strategies and Blind Spots. In: Peter Ebenbauer, Christian Wessely, Reinhold Esterbaue (eds.): Religious appeals and slogans. Interdisciplinary analyzes on a new form of language. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2008, p. 84. (
  2. ^ Ingrid Heinrich-Jost: August Heinrich von Fallersleben - Prussian Heads - Literature. Verlag Wolfgang Stapp, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-87776-158-5 , p. 85.
  3. Winfried Klein: Who are we, and what do we want to sing with it? In: FAZ . September 5, 2012, p. N4.
  4. Heeres-VOBl. 4th vol., No. 47 of September 23, 1922, p. 407 (No. 590) and Marine-VOBl. Volume 53, no. 22 of October 1, 1922, p. 365 (No. 376)
  5. So also Günter Spendel , JZ 1988, p. 744 ff.
  6. Control Council Act No. 8 of November 30, 1945, Official Gazette of the Control Council 1945, No. 2, p. 33.
  7. a b Act No. 154 of the American Military Government on “Elimination and Prohibition of Military Training”, Official Gazette of the Military Government of Germany, American Control Area, 1945, p. 52.
  8. G. Clemens: British cultural policy in Germany 1945-1949. Stuttgart 1997, pp. 143, 144.
  9. Art. II no. 2 lit. d) Ordinance No. 8 of September 15, 1945, Official Gazette of the Military Government of Germany, British Control Area 1945, p. 7.
  10. Law No. 16 of December 16, 1949, Official Gazette of the Allied High Commission in Germany 1949, No. 7.
  11. The melody of this song was used in 1991 for the national anthem Patriots of Micronesia of the Federated States of Micronesia , whose territory belonged to the German colony of German New Guinea at the beginning of the 20th century . The text is also clearly based on this song, as it contains, among other things, a literal translation of the phrase "with heart and with hand" ( source ).
  12. Germany is looking for the super anthem , one day , August 19, 2011.
  13. National anthem and Basic Law: CDU sings Adenauer's song., December 14, 2015, accessed on February 20, 2020 .
  14. Harald Wiederschein: National Anthem: That is why the “Song of the Germans” causes so many problems. Focus, February 15, 2017, accessed February 20, 2020 .
  15. ^ A b Henning Köhler: Adenauer - A political biography. Propylaea, Berlin 1994, p. 582.
  16. ^ A b Benjamin Ortmeyer: Arguments against the Deutschlandlied: History and Presence of a Song of Praise to the German Nation . Bund-Verl., Cologne 1991, ISBN 3-7663-2236-2 ( online [PDF]).
  17. Georg Ismar: Adenauer's hymns coup . In: Frankfurter Rundschau . May 15, 2009.
  18. ^ Frank-Lothar Kroll, Manfred Nebelin (edit.): Files on the foreign policy of the Federal Republic of Germany. Adenauer and the High Commissioners 1949–1951. Oldenbourg, Munich 1989, p. 199.
  19. ^ Federal Archives (Ed.): Cabinet protocols online
  20. The Deutschlandlied is the national anthem. An exchange of letters between Federal President Theodor Heuss and Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer . Bulletin of the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government, No. 51 of May 6, 1952, p. 537;
    Later online publication by the Federal Chancellor Adenauer House Foundation (PDF)
  21. The current term. No. 22/96 of October 21, 1996 (Scientific Service of the German Bundestag)
  22. Helmut Berschin: Das Lied der Deutschen ( video clip on YouTube ).
  23. GDR anthem - a stolen song? . In: Der Spiegel . No. 11, March 7, 1977.
  24. Innocent thieves.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archives ). In: Weltwoche . March 25, 2004, issue 13/04.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  25. Helmut Kohl: Memories. 1990-1994 . Droemer, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-426-27408-8 .
  26. BVerfGE 81, 298
  27. Bulletin of the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government No. 89 of August 27, 1991, p. 713, on
  28. Announcement of the letters of the Federal President of August 19, 1991 and of the Federal Chancellor of August 23, 1991 on the determination of the third stanza of the German song for the national anthem of the Federal Republic of Germany
  29. Winfried Klein: "Unity and Law and Freedom" in the Basic Law? ZRP 2016, p. 12 ff .; Günter Spendel, JZ 1988, p. 744 ff.
  30. Marina Küchen: "Des Volkes Unterpfand": Why Sarah Connor is not alone among the Germans with her mistake at the national anthem. Welt Online , June 4, 2005, accessed February 18, 2017 .
  31. ^ Roman Herzog Brazil 1995. YouTube, accessed February 18, 2017 .
  32. ^ German national anthem: Caught ice cold. In: Spiegel Online . June 2, 2005, accessed February 18, 2017 .
  33. Breakdown at World Cup award ceremony: German gold tobogganists honored with GDR anthem. In: Focus Online . February 14, 2015, accessed February 18, 2017 .
  34. That was the epitome of ignorance. In: Nürnberger Nachrichten . February 13, 2017, p. 22.
  35. US singer sings "Deutschland über alles" - Germany song - hymn scandal Fed Cup in Hawaii / USA. YouTube, accessed on August 23, 2017 .
  36. ^ Piñera's visit to the Federal President: Chile's President and the false hymn. In: Spiegel Online. October 25, 2010, accessed February 18, 2017 .
  37. ^ Christian Ströbele on the proposal for a Turkish translation
  38. ^ Report: Women's Representative in the Family Ministry wants to change the national anthem . In: The time . 4th March 2018.
  39. Canada receives a gender-neutral national anthem . In: The time . 1st February 2018.
  40. Why don't screws have a father? In: image . March 3, 2018.
  41. Claudia Becker: Women in the hymns are not a gender madness! In: The world . February 2, 2018.
  42. Damir Fras: Symbols do not eliminate inequality . In: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger . 4th March 2018.
  43. Change the national anthem. The proposal causes outrage. In: Münchner Merkur . Retrieved March 5, 2018.