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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

June 17, 2008

"Deutschland über alles"

Filed under Life in Europe

Before last night’s European Cup soccer match between Germany and Austria it was "Deutschland über alles" again – but not because of the Germans.

Germany defeated Austria last night to advance to the quarterfinal round of the European Cup soccer German anthem championship. During the pre-game ceremony the national anthems of the two countries were played, and suddenly it was "Deutschland über alles" again – at least on Swiss TV. The Swiss channel SF2 broadcasting the game had subtitles available for the hard-of-hearing and for those watching the game in loud pubs and public places. Subtitles were also broadcast with the text of the German and Austrian anthems and lo and behold – the first verse of the "Deutschlandlied" flashed across the screen. That verse was used by Germany’s Nazi government as its anthem, and since World War II it hasn’t been sung anymore. Instead, the third verse of the hymn is now Germany’s national anthem, which opens with the words "Unity and Right and Freedom". While "Deutschland über alles" was flashed across the screen, the well-behaved German players sang the text of the third verse. :-)

It seems that the two young Swiss ladies responsible for subtitling that part of the game looked up the German national anthem on the internet and just copied the first verse. They seemed to be unaware that the first verse is no longer sung in Germany. Or maybe they had heard a recording of the awards ceremony from the 1954 World Cup soccer tournament played in Switzerland. In the final game, to this day called "The Miracle of Bern" in Germany, the Germans defeated Hungary 3-2 to win the tournament. When the trophy was awarded to the German team, Germany’s national anthem was played. Guess what verse the 20,000 German fans in Bern’s old Wankdorf stadium sang? Only 9 years after World War II, they sang "Deutschland über alles". I guess they were right – after all, Germany had won the tournament.

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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