The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Das Lied der Deutschen

Das Lied der Deutschen ("The Song of the Germans") or Das Deutschlandlied ("The Song of Germany") has been the national anthem of Germany since 1922, though the current German anthem is restricted to the third verse.

The music was written by Joseph Haydn in 1797, the words by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841 at Heligoland, then British.

Audio Sample

Image:Audiobutton.png Das Lied der Deutschen.mid ("Das Lied der Deutschen")


Earlier German national anthems

At the beginning of the 19th century, Germany was not a unified country, and the various smaller nation states considered to be German each had their own anthem. The first pan-German anthem prior to 1866 was Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland ("What is the German's fatherland?"), with lyrics composed in 1813 by Ernst Moritz Arndt (1769-1860) and set to music by Gustav Reichardt (1797-1884) in 1825.

Following the unification of Germany in 1871, the Prussian anthem Heil dir im Siegerkranz — sung to the tune of the British anthem God Save the King — became the national anthem of Germany.


The tune of "Das Lied der Deutschen" was written by Haydn, but not as a national anthem; Haydn wrote it because he had been requested to provide music to the poem "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" ("God preserve Francis the Emperor"), an anthem to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Germany, and Archduke of Austria. After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, "Gott erhalte..." came to be considered the unofficial national anthem of Austria.

For additional details on the tune and how it was composed, see "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser."


Fallersleben evidently intended "Das Lied der Deutschen" to be sung to Haydn's tune, as the first publication of the poem included the music. It seems that the idea of using one country's national anthem to provide the tune for a patriotic song of a different country did not strike nineteenth century authors as strange, as other countries likewise borrowed tunes at the time for their patriotic songs (an example is America's My Country, 'Tis of Thee, which borrows its tune from Britain's God Save the King.)

The poem was written at a time when Germany was still a motley collection of quarreling kingdoms and principalities. Fallersleben wanted to express his desire for a united, strong Germany. His poem is in three stanzas, of which the first begins Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, 'Germany, Germany above all'. The anthem is still known in most of the English-speaking world by its first line, even though only the third stanza constitutes the official anthem for reasons that are explained below.

In its historical context, the line "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt" ("Germany, Germany above all, above anything in the world") can be understood as an appeal to the German sovereigns to put aside all other projects and concentrate their efforts on creating a united Germany. In Fallersleben's time, this text also had a distinctly revolutionary, liberal connotation, since the demand for a united Germany was most often uttered in connection with demands for freedom of press and other liberal rights (see The Revolutions of 1848 in the German states). After these rights had been introduced after World War I, President Friedrich Ebert made all three stanzas the German national anthem on August 11 1922.

In the light of German military aggression and nationalist furor during World War II, it was easy to infer a sinister intent behind the exhortation to a "Deutschland über Alles", and the words were so exploited in Allied propaganda. The song still rings with menace today in the ears of some. Many would agree that, however valid the propagandists' interpretation may have been in regard to the Nazis, it does not reflect Fallersleben's original intentions.

In 1921, Albert Matthai wrote a fourth stanza, which was popular at that time, but not part of the official anthem. The text is also given below with an approximate translation. Today this stanza is largely forgotten.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, "Das Lied der Deutschen" was banned by the victors, and for a time West Germany simply did not have an official national anthem. On April 29, 1952, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer asked President Theodor Heuss 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 May 2 1952, but the decision was never formalized. Thus, West Germany officially continued to have no national anthem, but used the third stanza at occasions where a national anthem was needed. The first two stanzas are not actually forbidden, but they are never sung on official occasions. Singing or using the first stanza may be perceived as an expression of right-wing political views. East Germany adopted its own national anthem, Auferstanden aus Ruinen, which was written to fit the same melody, but later got its own.

Following reunification, the constitutional court in March 1990 declared only the third stanza of Fallersleben's poem to be protected by criminal law. In November 1991, president Richard von Weizsäcker and chancellor Helmut Kohl agreed in an exchange of letters to declare the third stanza alone (still with Haydn's music) the national anthem of the reunited republic. However, this has not been formally ratified as a law yet.

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit ("unity and justice and freedom") from the third stanza is also the state's motto and is engraved into the rim of former 5-mark and current 2-euro coins minted in Germany.


Besides the degree of nationalism, which is nowadays considered inappropriate in Germany, but is not uncommon among national anthems, the geography in the first stanza is now outdated and open to major criticism and misuse.

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

In the early 1840s, when the text was written, there was no single German state and it was uncertain if there would ever be. Fallersleben outlines the Deutscher Bund or großdeutsche Lösung (greater Germany) including Austria (without Hungary), which more or less only existed from 1937 to 1945. Thus the southern border is the Adige (South Tyrol), nowadays Italy. To the north there's not as much difference to later real boundaries, but the Little Belt between Jutland and Funen is Danish territory now (see first and second war of Schleswig). In the north-west he names the Meuse, thus implying Dutch Limburg, Luxembourg and the eastern part of Belgium to be a part of Germany. Both Dutch Limburg and Luxembourg were members of the German Confederation. Further south he doesn't name the Rhine explicitly, avoiding a statement about Alsace. In the east East Prussia expanded far into the Baltic region with its border on the Neman, now in Lithuania.

Lyrics and translation

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 all,
above anything in the world,
if it always holds together brotherly
for protection and defense.
From the Meuse to the Memel,
from the Adige to the Belt,
 |: Germany, Germany above all,
  above anything 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 continue to be held in high
esteem all over the world,
and inspire us to noble deeds
all our lives.
 |: German women, German loyalty,
  German wine and German songs! :|

Third stanza

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;
This let us all pursue,
brotherly with heart and hand.
Unity and justice and freedom
are the pledge of happiness.
 |: Flourish in this blessing's glory,
  flourish, German fatherland. :|

Fourth stanza (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 all,
and during disaster more than ever,
only in disaster can love
show whether it's strong and true;
And so shall the song continue
from generation to generation
 |: Germany, Germany above all,
  and during disaster more than ever.:|

External links

Last updated: 05-14-2005 14:54:28