[FOUNTAIN]True patriotsThere are several taboos in Germany, the host of this year’s World Cup. One is that Germans are not allowed to sing the first and second verses of the national anthem at official events. August Heinrich Hoffmann, a 19th century poet, wrote the three-stanza lyrics of “Das Lied der Deutschen,” or “The Song of Germany.” The anthem was banned after World War II. After the unification of Germany in 1991, only the third stanza was declared the national anthem.
“Unity and justice and freedom, For the German fatherland, This let us all pursue, Brotherly with heart and hand. Unity and justice and freedom are the pledge of happiness. Prosper in this fortune’s blessing. Prosper, German fatherland.”
The first stanza describes the German dominion “from the Maas to the Memel, from the Etsch to the Belt,” areas where German-speaking people lived in the past, but are now territories of Belgium, Lithuania, Italy and Denmark.
The lyrics can cause diplomatic trouble. The second verse, which begins “German women, German loyalty, German wine and German song,” sounds almost like a drinking song and is hardly suitable for a national anthem.
The Constitutional Court of West Germany has declared that only the third stanza of “The Song of Germany” was to be recognized as a national anthem in March, 1990, a month before the reunification.
With the decision, the Germans showed repentance of their disgraceful history, including the Holocaust and Nazi invasions, and also showed consideration to its neighbors.
With the German government so careful not to offend others, publicly praising patriotism was also banned. The Germans believe that by encouraged blind patriotism, the Nazis started a war of aggression and committed the Holocaust. Therefore, singing the first stanza of the national anthem or openly emphasizing patriotism became a coming-out statement for the radical right. However, with the opening of the World Cup, the Germans have shown a completely different attitude.
They are waving the national flag, singing the anthem aloud and cheering for their national soccer team. The Germans are displaying unprecedented patriotism. Nevertheless, no one wants to criticize the Germans, for they have repented from their past consistently and sincerely, not with words but with actions. The Germans deserve to express unaffected patriotism as much as they like, as long as the patriotism does not lead to nationalism that puts others down.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.