Two clarifications about Germany-related stuff

There was a mishap at a canoe world championship in Hungary a few days ago. The first instead of third strophe of the German national anthem was played.

The first one has a bad reputation because of its text (which is outright nice in comparison to the bloodthirsty French national anthem!) and only the third strophe of the song is therefore the recent German national anthem.

Even many Germans are ill-informed and believe that the first strophe is even illegal. It isn't.

The first strophe has the famous line "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles", which means translated literally "Germany, Germany over everything". It means primacy, obviously.

The misunderstanding - which I as a German want to counter here because most of my readers aren't Germans - is about the context.
The text dates back to 1841, and Germany looked at that time like this (follow the link; cannot include image here due to a stupid copyright law).

It was a patchwork of small states, not united at all (unlike Russia, England, France, Spain) - a late-comer in terms of nation state building. The context of the primacy of Germany in the song was therefore not the primacy of Germany over its neighbours, Europe or the world - it was the primacy of the idea of a nation over the many small reactionary states in the germanophone world.

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A similar confusion is about what "Großdeutschland" (~great Germany) means.

There were multiple scenarios for a German unification before 1870:

* Kleindeutsche Lösung (small german solution) - a Germany led by Prussia, without the German-speaking Austrian countries.
This was realised in 1870.

* A Großdeutsche Lösung - a Germany including both Prussia and Austria.
This was realised (kind of) in 1938-1945, when Hitler annexed the then small power Austria.

Again, neither really included any consideration about Germany's relations to non-German speaking countries in the first place. Even the Swiss were ignored.

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This wasn't much about defence and/or freedom, but I think it was nevertheless worth an entry on this blog. Too many people still cling to wrong interpretations in regard to the national anthem strophes or the word "Großdeutschland".



  1. In the 8-1/2 years I lived there, most of the Germans I knew were sort of sheepishly apologetic about the lyrics of the anthem. One man, however, was pretty damn hostile about it and couldn't understand why it hadn't been changed in 1951 or so.

  2. Let's face it; about 80-95% of the Germans have no clue about the 1840's.