was uncertain


Das Deutschlandlied ("The Song of Germany", also known as Das Lied der Deutschen, "The Song of the Germans") has been used wholly or partially as the national anthem of Germany since 1922. Outside Germany it is sometimes 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 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 was chosen for the national anthem of Germany in 1922, during the Weimar Republic. In 1952, West Germany adopted Deutschlandlied as its official national anthem, with only the third stanza sung on official occasions. Upon reunification in 1991, the third stanza only was confirmed as the national anthem.


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 Francis the Emperor") as a birthday anthem to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Habsburg. 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. Haydn also used the melody in the second movement the "Kaiserquartett", a string quartet that is still widely performed today.

The tune is often used in the English-speaking world for the hymn "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken" by John Newton. In this context, the tune is called "Austria", "Austrian Hymn", or "Emperor's Hymn. The tune is also used for the hymn "Not Alone for Mighty Empire" by William Merrill. The music was adopted for the "Alma Mater" of the University of Pittsburgh.

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. The new German Confederation was a collection of more than 30 quarreling monarchies and republican free cities, with their own currencies, laws, armies etc. All sorts of conflicts, from trade tariffs to wars, resulted.

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.

Hoffmann's lyrics

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 British territory.

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" (Germany, Germany above everything, above everything 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.

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, 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 everything,
Above everything in the world,
When, for protection and defence, it always
takes a brotherly stand together.
From the Meuse to the Neman,
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 songs
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. :|


In the 1840s, when the text was written, there was no unified German state and it was uncertain if there would ever be one. 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 significant percentage of German speakers lived at the time, as encountered in his studies. Nineteenth century nationalists generally relied on linguistic criteria to determine the borders of the nation-states they desired. Thus, the borders mentioned in the first stanza reflected the breadth of territory across which German speakers were spread at the time, although inside the borders some territories were inhabited mainly by non-German speakers.

Von der Maas bis an die Memel,
Von der Etsch bis an den Belt.
From the Meuse River to the Neman River,
From the Adige River to the Little Belt.

  • To the north, the border between Denmark and Germany ran through the Little Belt between Jutland and Funen following the Second war of Schleswig (1864). It was moved to the current location by plebiscite in 1920, and is now part of Denmark.
  • In the west, the Meuse River (German: Maas) runs through what is now France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The river roughly defines the boundary separating the formerly German regions of Alsace (German: Elsass) and Lorraine (Lothringen) from the rest of France, as well the German-speaking areas from the rest of Belgium.
  • In the east, the lower part of the Memel was located within East Prussia, part of the Kingdom of Prussia, which actually stretched beyond the river Neman (Niemen or Nemunas in other languages), with the border – positioned a few kilometres north of the Neman/Memel river in Memelland – to Lithuania being stable since 1422.
  • In the south, the Adige river (German: Etsch) runs through Italy's Bolzano-Bozen.

In the south and in the west, Hoffmann's definition of Germany coincided with the borders of the German Confederation as it existed then. The southernmost member of the Confederation was the Austrian Empire (founded in 1804); the westernmost members were Luxembourg and Limburg. However, Hoffmann went beyond the Confederation boundaries of 1841 in the north and in the east; neither 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).

Use between the World Wars

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 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 "Mythos von Langemarck", was printed on the first page in newspapers all over Germany.

In 1921, a stanza was written that reflected the situation after Germany's defeat (see below for lyrics). This stanza was popular at that time, but never became part of the official anthem, and is largely forgotten today.

As a result of the war, the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell apart. The German-speaking part declared itself the Republic of German Austria and intended to join Germany. With this, the united Germany as described 80 years earlier in the Deutschlandlied would have been achieved.

Yet, the Treaty of Saint-Germain prohibited this, and required the use of the name Austria instead. In addition, the southern part of Tyrol was occupied and annexed by Italy which now controlled the river Adige in its full length. Also, among other territories, the Treaty of Versailles stripped Germany of areas near the other borders that were described 80 years earlier in the Deutschlandlied:

  • in the North, Northern Schleswig at the Belt was ceded to Denmark after the Schleswig Plebiscites
  • in the West, the cities Eupen and Malmedy located well East of the Maas, became part of Belgium in 1925 after plebiscites that required names and addresses of the voters
  • in the East, Memelland beyond the Memel was put under control of France and later transferred to Lithuania without plebiscite, making the Memel the new border
  • in the South, Italy annexed the southern part of Tyrol, and thus all of the river Adige

On 11 August 1922 President Friedrich Ebert made Das Lied der Deutschen the official German national anthem.

During the Nazi era, the first stanza was used while the remainder was the Nazi song Horst-Wessel-Lied.

National anthem of Germany during the Nazi era English translation
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.

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.

Germany, Germany above everything,
Above everything in the world,
When it always for protection and defence,
Brotherly sticks together.
From the Meuse to the Neman,
From the Adige to the Belt.
Germany, Germany above everything,
Above everything in the world.

The flag high! The ranks tightly closed!
SA marches with a calm, firm pace.
Comrades whom Red Front and Reaction shot dead,
March in spirit within our ranks.

In the Anschluss of 1938, Hitler added Austria to the German Reich, and in 1939, pressured Lithuania into returning Memelland. His deal with Mussolini regarding Bolzano-Bozen became the Alto Adige Option Agreement; the population there was required to choose either emigrating to neighboring Nazi Germany or remaining in the province and being forcefully integrated into the mainstream Italian culture, losing its language and cultural heritage.

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 described border near the Memel river in the East was now a thing of the past. Germans were expelled up to 500 km to the West, behind the Oder and Neisse rivers. Also, the call for "protection and defiance" and even for "unity and justice and freedom" was not welcome, as Germany was occupied, under martial law and split among four Allies plus Poland. As after the first war, some bitter parodies were written to reflect the situation.

After its founding in 1949, West Germany simply 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 Lied der Deutschen thus became the national anthem.

The GDR adopted its own national anthem, Auferstanden aus Ruinen (Risen from the Ruins), which was originally written to fit the same Haydn melody, but later got its own. As the lyrics called for "Germany, united Fatherland", they were not sung anymore when this idea was dropped in the 1970s.

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. This might have been due to a lack of knowledge among Germans about the third stanza lyrics, while the first stanza was still well known, even among foreigners.

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 singing of the first stanza, however, is considered by many as an expression of right-wing or nationalist political views, depending on the context.

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit (unity and justice and freedom) from the third stanza appears on soldiers' belts. It was engraved into the rim of former 5-Deutsche Mark coins, and is shown on current 2-Euro coins minted in Germany.

Apart from official state visits, the music of Haydn is played primarily after German sports victories or before games of the German national football team without any vocals, apart from the crowd present or the athletes involved.

Modern misconceptions

The song has frequently been criticised because of its generally nationalist theme, because of the geographic definition of Germany given in the first stanza and the somewhat male chauvinist attitude in the second one. The main negative associations come from the use by the Nazi Party, about 100 years after it was written.

Unlike many other anthems (e.g., La Marseillaise, God Save the Queen, The Star Spangled Banner), it does not praise or even mention war, which may have played a role in the decision to continue using it after World War II. Also, it was originally viewed as a drinking song, which may explain the reference to wine and women in the second stanza.

However valid the propagandists' interpretation may have been in regard to the Nazis, that interpretation does not reflect Hoffmann's original intention, which was that in times of strife, Germany's welfare and unity must be put "above all else in the world." There was no real, united Germany at the time Hoffmann was writing, only a large number of scattered German states above which Germany was supposed to be held. Hoffmann and many Germans longed for these states to unite, a wish that only came true (except for Austria) when the German Empire was proclaimed in Versailles in 1871. There were no international claims made.

The concept of nationalism changed drastically during the century after the song was composed. In the middle of the 19th century, nationalism was a liberal, progressive idea aimed at overcoming monarchy and the often transnational borders these states had. By the middle of the 20th century, after two World Wars and the establishment of states often according to the nationality of people, nationalism had become, in the opinion of many, a very conservative, chauvinist, jingoist, even fascist concept aimed at territorial expansion.

Variants and additions

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. The original Helgoland manuscript included a variant ending of the third stanza for such occasions:

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.:|

The German musician Nico sometimes performed the national anthem at concerts and dedicated it to militant Andreas Baader, leader of the Red Army Faction who killed himself in a German prison. Her version was thought to be an attempt to re-interpret the anthem in a similar way to Jimi Hendrix's version of the Star Spangled Banner. She included a version of Das Lied der Deutschen on her 1973 album The End. The song California Über Alles by the Dead Kennedys is also inspired heavily from this song. 2006 saw another interpretation of the song by the Slovenian Industrial band Laibach titled Germania. In P.D.Q. Bach's opera parody, "Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice," one of the characters is named Alice über Deutschland.


See also

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