Germany embarked on a heated debate about its national anthem as the country continues to wrestle with its identity 70 years after its post-war rebirth and amid lingering tensions over its reunification.
A bout of soul-searching erupted this week when Bodo Ramelow, the premier of Thuringia state in the ex-communist east, said the time had come for a different hymn to better capture the soul of the nation. Ramelow said that while he sang along with the anthem, he could not, when hearing it, "get the image of the Nazi rallies from 1933 to 1945 out of my head." "We need something completely new, new lyrics that are so catchy that everyone can identify with them and say: that belongs to me," he told the Rheinische Post newspaper.
Written in 1841, the anthem "Das Lied der Deutschen" ("The Song of the Germans") has a history as turbulent as the country's own. It only officially became the anthem in 1922, with three verses set to the strains of composer Joseph Haydn and beginning with the now taboo line "Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles" ("Germany, Germany above all"). The Nazis dropped the second two verses and only sang the first combined with another now banned nationalist song.
Only seven years after the war, in 1952, did West Germany return to "The Song of the Germans" but solely the third verse, espousing "unity and justice and freedom," is sung at official events. During national reunification in 1990, calls from the east to incorporate parts of its anthem "Risen from the Ruins" were rebuffed in favor of West Germany's hymn.