Germany’s national anthem has quite a history behind it, and the music's opening bars are amongst the most instantly recognisable in the Western world.
In Britain it is sung with the lyrics, “Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion city of our Lord”, while various US universities use the tune for university hymns, however it was originally written by the Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn, in honour of the Emperor of Austria at the end of the 18th Century, Emperor Francis, and it was known as “God save Emperor Francis” or “Kaiser Lied”, Emperor’s Song.
Haydn’s inspiration came during a visit to London when on hearing the British national anthem, God Save the King, the first ever national anthem anywhere in the world, he decided to write the music for a hymn in praise of the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, with lyrics by an Austrian poet Lorenz Leopold Haschka, “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser” was first performed on February 12, 1797, the Emperor’s birthday.
The song became so popular that from that time onwards, regardless of the circumstances the Austro-Hungarian Empire at any given moment and despite several changes of words, it remained the unofficial national anthem until the Empire was broken up and the monarchy ended at the end of World War I.
Nevertheless the melody had travelled out of Austria and been modified through the intermarriage of various European monarchies together with the success of aristocratic German Austro-Hungarians in diplomacy and politics, and, when Bismark’s plan to form a German state succeeded, Haydn’s melody later became Germany's national anthem.
However initially the Prussian national anthem, “Heil Dir im Siegerkranz”, 'Hail to thee in Victor’s Laurels', ironically set to the tune of the British national anthem, became the most commonly used.
A German poet and professor of literature, August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, had written a utopian text in support of a Germany of united Germanic states to accompany Haydn’s tune, which was first performed in an October 1841 procession, but even then it had its critics.
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called the first words “Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles”, Germany, Germany over all, “the dumbest phrase in the world”.
Despite the official forming of the German Empire, a unified modern nation state, having taken place in 1871 it was not until 1890 that the Deutschlandlied, 'The Song of Germany', also known as Das Lied der Deutschen or 'The Song of the Germans', was first sung in public, and the first Social Democratic Government made it Germany's national anthem 81 years after it had been completed, on 11 August, 1922.
Unfortunately the later National Socialist Government used only the disputed first verse, banning the two others, and after World War II the anthem was prohibited.
Public opinion, and political pressure, eventually succeeded in getting the third verse rehabilitated in May 1952, but it was not until November 1991 that former Federal President Richard von Weizsacker made a written agreement with then Chancellor Helmut Kohl that the third verse of the Deutschlandlied be once again confirmed as Germany's national anthem, the anthem of a peaceful and reunited Germany.
Germany's National Anthem, beautifully sung and, opening with Cologne Cathedral, is accompanied by some wonderful and evocative photos
The Deutschlandlied - Germany's National Anthem
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Fuer das Deutsche Vaterland
Danach lasst uns alle streben
Bruederlich mit Herz und Hand
Einigheit und Recht und Freiheit
Sind des Glueckes Unterpfand
Blueh’ im Glanze dieses Glueckes
Bluehe deutsches Vaterland.
Unity and Rights and Freedom
For the German Fatherland
Let us all strive for that
Brotherly with heart and hand
Unity and Rights and Freedom
Are the foundation for happiness
Bloom in the glow of happiness
Bloom German Fatherland.
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