Sunday, June 29, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Deutschland über alles, except for Spain

Congratulations to rafa and all of Spain for their gold from Euro 2008! I can't write anything wise about the game so let me focus on the anthems. ;-)

The Spanish anthem, The Royal March, was adopted in 1770. The author is unknown and no lyrics is used these days. However, the video above uses lyrics from Alfonso XIII's reign (1886-1931). As most proper anthems, it is about the glory, future, and flag of their fatherland.

During Franco's years (1939-1975), a new text was chosen. It added a lot of triumph, labor, peace, and other buzzwords. In 2008, a new, fully politically correct lyrics, has been proposed. It talks about the diversity, unity, brotherhood, freedom, justice, democracy, and peace. ;-) While I find this text absurdly dovish, it was rejected because of its supposed nationalist tone. Wow.

The most popular lyrics were the unofficial ones. They explained that Franco's buttocks were white because his wife was using Ariel to wash them. If you're interested in details, other political big shots were using different chemicals to clean this part of their bodies. :-)

Now: Germany

When Germany was playing against Austria, a Swiss TV channel showed subtitles that instructed the viewers to sing Deutschland, Deutschland über alles (Germany above everything). The subtitles became a kind of worldwide scandal. One of its helpful consequences was that I learned that this were no longer the official lyrics.

The Wikipedia article about the German anthem admits that most people outside Germany, including your humble correspondent a few weeks ago, think or thought that "Deutschland über alles" continues to be the name of the anthem. Well, it turns out that it's not!

The music by Haydn will be discussed later. But the text was written in 1841 by August Heinrich Hoffmann (who used the title "von Fallersleben") and it has three stanzas. The composition with this lyrics was used as the German anthem since 1922, long before Adolf Hitler became powerful. The stanzas describe:

  1. Somewhat extended geography and superiority
  2. Women, wine, music, tradition, loyalty
  3. Unity, justice, freedom, co-operation
Not surprisingly, the first stanza was the most popular one during the Third Reich. If you think about it, it is equally unsurprising that in 1945, when Germany lost and everyone else was upset, the first two stanzas were banned in order to punish the German pride. However, Hoffmann wrote the third stanza so perfectly innocently that it could have been used for West Germany since 1949.

At any rate, everyone remembers the "original lyrics". However, we should be a bit more careful about the adjective "original". The music has been used as the German anthem since 1922 and the lyrics is from 1841 but was there any pre-history? You bet. ;-)


The 1797 composition by Joseph Haydn has been actually used for more than 100 years as the anthem of my homeland! :-) In fact, it was the only other modern anthem of the territory where I live besides Where Is My Home?, the current Czech (and first half of the former Czechoslovak) anthem (Wikipedia). You may also watch a creative (but currently untrue and dishonest) Greenpeace's version of the Czech anthem. ;-)

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Austrian Empire was jealous about "The God Save the Queen" in the U.K. (author unknown). So Haydn stole the beginning (14 tones or so) of a Croatian song, refined the flow in the following portions of the composition, and proudly presented the song as an anthem of Francis I, the Austrian emperor: the Kaiserhymne.

This guy was known as Francis II, the German emperor, in his previous life before 1804. His German and Austrian pedigree was almost perfect except for his Spanish mother and Italian father. ;-) The two big empires he has governed earned him the reputation of the only "double kaiser" in the history. There's nothing real to be proud about here because around 1804, Napoleon humiliated the German empire - the most devastating blow came in the 1805 Battle of Austerlitz (Slavkov near Brno, Moravia, Czech lands) - and used the situation to fragment Germany into a chaotic confederation of numerous, small, and hostile kingdoms and republics.

The "core" of the empire was moved towards the East. It became Austria. In 1867, the Eastern portion of the monarchy - Hungary - was promoted and the empire was transformed into a dual state, Austria-Hungary, until it was dissolved in 1918. The first 1797 lyrics of the Austrian anthem were focusing on Francis I of Austria himself. However, newer lyrics were more flexible:

This is still by one century older than "Deutschland über alles".

Haydn's music, one based on the Croatian song, was later recycled by others, including Tchaikovsky, Rossini, and Paganini. This story is a good example how ideas and memes are often combined, recombined, modified, recycled, used, and abused. The history is sometimes complicated.

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