There were red faces galore the other night at the Swiss TV channel SRG during the Germany-Austria Euro 2008 match. Someone had the bright idea of subtitling the national anthems. Unfortunately, that someone was using an outdated lyric book, as the German anthem came with the words, “Deutschland, Deutschland Uber alles… (Germany over all)”. Yep, the infamous first verse which was amputated after the second world war for being too invasive (the anthem has since been reduced to the third verse).
According to Associated Press, “The full anthem was written by poet Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841, and expressed a yearning for unity in a splintered nation.” It was particularly dear to the Nazi’s hearts, who were hurting after the embarrassment of the First World War. The third verse is a call for “unity, justice and liberty for the German fatherland” – an altogether more PC sentiment.
What’s funny is that it is based on a tune by the composer Haydn who was… Austrian (just to add insult to injury).
But I have to ask: if it’s so embarrassing to subtitle national anthems, should we be singing them at all?