One event currently has, during evenings, swept almost half of Europe’s population off the streets (the other half is most likely watching it in so called public viewing zones) – the European Football championship.
Now this Monday, Swiss TV who together with Austrian TV for the two hosting nations Austria and Switzerland is transmitting the TV footage from the games, had a bit of a problem staying up to date with changes in neighboring Germany during the last 60 years. To be more precise it turned back time to the 1940s of Nazi Germany.
When the two teams at the beginning of the match between Germany and Austria were singing their National Anthems, Swiss TV used the verse for the German Anthem in its sub titles that was sung until the fall of the Third Reich.
The TV station mentioned in their apology, that it all happened by mistake. Officially the incident was blamed on two junior members of the TV team that have “copied the wrong text from the Internet“. And while these sub titles are not always shown automatically – normally they are for the hearing impaired – many of the public viewing areas, bars and restaurants have them turned on due to noise levels during the matches.
A bit of background on the German Anthem:
The German National Anthem (Lied der Deutschen) was written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841 to a melody composed by Joseph Haydn who had originally created it for the Austrian Emperor.
While the original lyrics by Hoffmann were an appeal to create one united Germany over the dozens of small kingdoms, principalities and other small states existing at that time on German territory, later – much after the formation of an unified German state and the revolution of 1848 – is was used by Imperial and Nazi Germany to express the greatness and the superiority of Germany over other nations. It should be noted that August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben due to the text not only lost his job as Professor he was also – to phrase it in today’s commonly used new-speak – hunted as a terrorist throughout Germany.
After the end of WW2 the new West-Germany removed the first two verses from the National Anthem and in 1991 (after the reunification of East and West Germany) the 3rd verse became the official Anthem. To our knowledge it is now actually illegal to sing the first verse in Germany (the one that was show on Swiss TV).
Now – ahem – for foreigners this might all seems pretty confusing and hard to keep up with.
Austria at the time the lyrics were written was considered part of Germany (it became part of Nazi Germany in the 1930s again), and the other areas referred to in the verse played on Swiss TV this Monday (“…von der Maas bis an die Memel, von der Etsch bis an den Belt…“) refer to areas that are now part of France, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Austria, Italy and Denmark. In short this could now – in the sense of August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben – be merely an European appeal than a German Anthem (with some adaptions and if it wouldn’t have been for the Nazis that abused the lyrics so much).
Side Note 1: We are not aware if Swiss TV also used that version of the German Anthem before the game against Poland last week. Anyway, the Polish National team lost against the German equipe at that day with or without being part of the Deutsche Reich. (no offense – just kidding). The winning goals were shot by a player of Polish descent who plays for Germany.
Side note 2: When the German Anthem was sung and within the sub titles the part “Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles – Germany, Germany above everything, above everything in the world!” was displayed, the Swiss TV broadcast had just switched to the camera showing German Canceler Angela Merkel together with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier singing the anthem in the football stadium. Luckily the most sensitive part of the anthem with references to the areas (see above) was just over at that very moment. It might have otherwise got the German Foreign minister into a rather uneasy situation after the game.
Our suggestions: As the story is just making its way around the globe from Australia to the USA: Stop thinking in National states – think horizontally – think about Europe and its people. But this will require the politicians and the European people to do something about it – the bureaucrats will for sure not change their approach (26 states = 27 times the administrative overhead and many, many more posts for the bureaucrats.)
And to the Swiss – don’t worry – we believe the most important was the actual football game and not some glitches with your sub title system however these happened.
The Swiss daily newspaper Blick has a story and image of the incident (in German)
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