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Sunday, Jul 9, 2006, 8:21 am

The German National Anthem: What The Lyrics Are (And Aren’t), And What They Really Mean

By Brian Zick

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Steve Gilliard calls attention to the informative explanation that "Deutschland über alles" ('Germany above all') is not the German national anthem, but the first stanza of the Deutschlandlied (Song of the Germans) written in 1841. And moreover that the meaning of "above all" (or "over all") was purposefully misconstrued by both the Nazis and the WWII Allies, desecrating its original meaning of "unity" or "togetherness."

Steve links to the Done With Mirrors blog, which explains what "Deutschland über alles" originally meant:

"Von Fallersleben wrote his hymn when Germany was fragmented and yearned for unity, repressed by tinhorn tyrants and yearned for freedom. (...) The first line, Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt is not meant as a literal "over all," as in Germany "ruling over all in the world," but more of a "before all others." It's an urging to the Germans of the 1840s to put national unity above local loyalties and petty rivalries of religion and regionalism. To stop thinking of themselves as Catholic or Protestant, Bavarian or Rhinelander or Saxon, and start thinking as Germans.
The Nazis ditched most of the symbolism of the despised and decadent Weimar Republic, but they kept the anthem, leaning heavily on the first verse and trimming off the third stanza, in which von Fallersleben called for a Germany built on Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit -- "unity, justice, and freedom." In fact, the Nazis tended to play the first stanza only and then break into the Horst Wessel Lied. The Allies also pumped up the distorted meaning of Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt as part of their propaganda, which is why so many people in the U.S. think it means what they think it means."
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