When should the national anthem be sung?

Background current

On August 11, 1922, President Friedrich Ebert chose the Deutschlandlied as the anthem of the Weimar Republic. The decision was intended to strengthen the unity of the young republic in terms of symbolism - but it was not undisputed.

The German national anthem has been set to music many times in its history - for example here in this picture: Pop singer Heino recorded the "Deutschlandlied" on record in September 1977. (& copy dpa - report)

"Unity and justice and freedom! This triad from the poet's song gave expression to the longing of all Germans in times of internal fragmentation and suppression; it should now also accompany our hard path to a better future." [1] With these words, Reich President Friedrich had In his celebratory address on the third constitutional day of the Weimar Republic, Ebert justified his decision to make the Deutschlandlied the hymn of the German Empire. In his speech on August 11, 1922, Ebert also emphasized that the anthem should in no way be an "expression of nationalistic arrogance" [2]. A large part of the Weimar public welcomed Ebert's decision. Criticism came from the political left in the Weimar parliament. In particular, the imperialist tone of the first stanza ("Deutschland, Deutschland ├╝ber alles ...") went too far for them.


from the Berliner Tageblatt of August 11, 1922

Friedrich Ebert's speech

On August 11, 1922, Friedrich Ebert had an address printed on the third constitutional day of the Weimar Republic in numerous German daily newspapers.
It read:

"Unity and justice and freedom! This triad from the poet's song gave expression to the longing of all Germans in times of inner fragmentation and suppression; it should also accompany our hard way to a better future now. A song sung against discord and arbitrariness should not be misused find in the party struggle that it should not be the battle song of those against whom it was directed, nor should it serve as an expression of nationalistic arrogance. But just as the poet once did, we love Germany above all else today the black, red and gold flags the song of unity and justice and freedom the festive expression of our patriotic feelings. "

Facsimile of the third stanza of the handwritten version of "Das Lied der Deutschen" by Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841 (& copy picture-alliance / dpa - report, photo: Peer Grimm)
The text and melody of the Deutschlandlied, also known as the "Lied der Deutschen" (German song), are significantly older than the Weimar Republic. The text was written by the poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798-1874) on August 26, 1841 on the island of Helgoland - Fallersleben wanted to express his wish for a national unity in Germany. In the middle of the 19th century, 'Germany' still consisted of a large number of small princes and duchies that were combined in the German Confederation. The melody of the Deutschlandlied originally belonged to the Austrian imperial hymn "Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser" by the composer Joseph Haydn (1732-1809).

During the Nazi era, the anthem, like the flag, was reinterpreted in the sense of dictatorship: the first stanza of the Deutschlandlied was sung in conjunction with the Horst-Wessel-Lied, a National Socialist battle song.

The young Federal Republic found it difficult to decide on a national anthem. In contrast to the federal flag, the Basic Law does not provide for any rules on the anthem. It was not until 1952 that the then Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer asked Federal President Theodor Heuss in a letter to recognize the Deutschlandlied as the national anthem [Link: www.bpb.de/39421] of the Federal Republic of Germany. The third verse should be sung at state events. Theodor Heuss gave his consent to this with his reply of May 2, 1952. His previous attempt to initiate a new anthem had been unsuccessful.

After German reunification, intellectuals repeatedly tried to suggest a new, more cautious anthem, such as Bertolt Brecht's children's anthem.


From Friedrich Ebert's call on August 11, 1922 for the third constitutional day of the Weimar Republic, in: Berliner Tageblatt (1922), vol. 51, August 11, 1922, http://zefys.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de