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Das Lied der Deutschen
English: The Song of the Germans
Facsimile of Hoffmann von Fallersleben's manuscript of "Das Lied der Deutschen"

National anthem of  Germany
(formerly  West Germany 1949–1990)

Also known as Deutschlandlied
English: The Song of Germany
Lyrics August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, 1841
Music Joseph Haydn, 1797
Adopted 1922
Music sample
National anthem of Germany

The "Deutschlandlied" (English: "Song of Germany", German pronunciation: [ˈdɔʏtʃlantˌliːt]; also known as "Das Lied der Deutschen" or "The Song of the Germans"), or part of it, has been the national anthem of Germany since 1922, except in East Germany, whose anthem was "Auferstanden aus Ruinen" ("Risen from Ruins") from 1949 to 1990.

Since World War II and the fall of Nazi Germany, only the third stanza has been used as the national anthem. The stanza's beginning, "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" ("Unity and Justice and Freedom") is considered the unofficial national motto of Germany,[1] and is inscribed on modern German Army belt buckles and the rims of some German coins.

The music was written by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn in 1797 as an anthem for the birthday of Francis II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and later of Austria, using a tune from a Croat peasant song and on a text beginning with "Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser" (God save emperor Franz). In 1841, the German linguist and poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the lyrics of "Das Lied der Deutschen" as a new text for that music, counterposing the national unification of Germany to the elogy of a monarch, lyrics that were considered revolutionary at the time.

The song is also well known by the beginning and refrain of the first stanza, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" ("Germany, Germany above all else"), but this has never been its title. The line "Germany, Germany above all else" meant that the most important goal of 19th-century German liberal revolutionaries should be a unified Germany which would overcome loyalties to the local kingdoms, principalities, duchies, and palatines (Kleinstaaterei) of then-fragmented Germany.[2] Along with the flag of Germany, it was one of the symbols of the March Revolution of 1848.

In order to endorse its republican and liberal tradition, the song was chosen as the national anthem of Germany in 1922, during the Weimar Republic. West Germany adopted the "Deutschlandlied" as its official national anthem in 1952 for similar reasons, with only the third stanza sung on official occasions. Upon German reunification in 1990, only the third stanza was confirmed as the national anthem.


Portrait of Haydn by Thomas Hardy, 1792

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The melody of the "Deutschlandlied" was originally written by Joseph Haydn in 1797 to provide music to the poem "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" ("God save Franz the Emperor") by Lorenz Leopold Haschka. The song was a birthday anthem honouring Francis II (1768–1835), Habsburg emperor, and was intended as a parallel to the British "God Save the King".

It has been conjectured that Haydn took the first four measures of the melody from a Croatian folk song.[3] Supporters of this theory note that a similar melody appears in a composition by Telemann.[4] This hypothesis has never achieved unanimous agreement; the alternative theory is that Haydn's original tune was adapted from a folk song of different origin.

The same melody was later used by Haydn as the basis for the second movement (poco adagio cantabile) of his Opus 76 No. 3, a string quartet, often called the "Emperor" or "Kaiser" quartet. The melody in this movement is also termed the "Emperor's Hymn."

It should be noted that Haydn's music and Hanns Eislers composition for the GDR's anthem Auferstanden aus Ruinen can be used interchangeably for both texts because the texts have the same meter.

Historical background

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The Holy Roman Empire, stemming from the Middle Ages, was already disintegrating when the French Revolution and the ensuing Napoleonic Wars altered the political map of Central Europe. However, hopes for the Enlightenment, human rights and republican government after Napoleon I's defeat in 1815 were dashed when the Congress of Vienna reinstated many small German principalities. In addition, with the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819, Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich and his secret police enforced censorship, mainly in universities, to keep a watch on the activities of teachers and students, whom he held responsible for the spread of radical liberalist ideas. Since reactionaries among the monarchs were the main adversaries, demands for freedom of the press and other liberal rights were most often uttered in connection with the demand for a united Germany, even though many revolutionaries-to-be had different opinions about whether a republic or a constitutional monarchy would be the best solution for Germany.

The German Confederation (Deutscher Bund 1815–1866) was a loose federation of 35 monarchical states and four republican free cities, with a Federal Assembly in Frankfurt. They began to remove internal customs barriers during the Industrial Revolution, and the German Customs Union (Zollverein) was formed among the majority of the states in 1834. In 1840 Hoffmann wrote a song about the Zollverein, also to Haydn's melody, in which he praised the free trade of German goods which brought Germans and Germany closer.[5]

After the 1848 March Revolution, the German Confederation handed over its authority to the Frankfurt Parliament. For a short period in the late 1840s, Germany was economically united with the borders described in the anthem, and a democratic constitution was being drafted, and with the black-red-gold flag representing it. However, after 1849 the two largest German monarchies, Prussia and Austria, put an end to this liberal movement toward national unification.

Hoffmann's lyrics

August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841

August Heinrich Hoffmann (who called himself Hoffmann von Fallersleben after his home town to distinguish himself from others with the same common name of "Hoffmann") wrote the text in 1841 on holiday on the North Sea island of Heligoland, then a possession of the United Kingdom (now part of Germany).

Hoffmann von Fallersleben intended "Das Lied der Deutschen" to be sung to Haydn's tune, as the first publication of the poem included the music. The first line, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt" (usually translated into English as "Germany, Germany above all else, above all else in the world"), was an appeal to the various German monarchs to give the creation of a united Germany a higher priority than the independence of their small states. In the third stanza, with a call for "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" (unity and justice and freedom), Hoffmann expressed his desire for a united and free Germany where the rule of law, not monarchical arbitrariness, would prevail.[6]

In the era after the Congress of Vienna, influenced by Metternich and his secret police, Hoffmann's text had a distinctly revolutionary and at the same time liberal connotation, since the appeal for a united Germany was most often made in connection with demands for freedom of the press and other civil rights. Its implication that loyalty to a larger Germany should replace loyalty to one's local sovereign was then a revolutionary idea.

The year after he wrote "Das Deutschlandlied", Hoffmann lost his job as a librarian and professor in Breslau, Prussia (now Wrocław, Poland), because of this and other revolutionary works, and was forced into hiding until being pardoned after the revolutions of 1848 in the German states.

Lyrics and translation

The following provides the lyrics of the "Lied der Deutschen" as written by Hoffmann von Fallersleben.

Only the third stanza is now Germany's national anthem.[7]

Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
Über alles in der Welt,
Wenn es stets zu Schutz und Trutze
Brüderlich zusammenhält.
Von der Maas bis an die Memel,
Von der Etsch bis an den Belt,
 |: Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
  Über alles in der Welt! :|

Germany, Germany above everything,
Above everything else in the world,
when, for protection and defense,
it always stands brotherly together.
From the Meuse to the Memel,
From the Adige to the Belt,
 |: Germany, Germany above everything,
  Above everything else in the world! :|

Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang
Sollen in der Welt behalten
Ihren alten schönen Klang,
Uns zu edler Tat begeistern
Unser ganzes Leben lang.
 |: Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
  Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang! :|

German women, German loyalty,
German wine and German song
Shall retain in the world
Their old beautiful chime
And inspire us to noble deeds
During all of our life.
 |: German women, German loyalty,
  German wine and German song! :|

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Für das deutsche Vaterland!
Danach lasst uns alle streben
Brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Sind des Glückes Unterpfand;
 |: Blüh' im Glanze dieses Glückes,
  Blühe, deutsches Vaterland! :|

Unity and justice and freedom
For the German fatherland!
Towards these let us all strive
Brotherly with heart and hand!
Unity and justice and freedom
Are the foundation of happiness;
 |: Flourish in the radiance of this happiness,
  Flourish, German fatherland! :|

Note: The last two lines, between the repeat signs of |: and :|, are repeated once when sung.

Use before 1922

The melody of the "Deutschlandlied" was originally written by Joseph Haydn in 1797 to provide music to the poem "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" ("God save Franz the Emperor") by Lorenz Leopold Haschka. The song was a birthday anthem to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Habsburg, and was intended to rival in merit the British "God Save the King".

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" became the official anthem of the emperor of the Austrian Empire and the subsequent Austro-Hungarian Empire, until the end of the Austrian monarchy in 1918. The first line of the anthem changed with the name of each new emperor until 1918. Austrian monarchists continued to use this anthem after 1918 in the hope of restoring the monarchy. The adoption of the Austrian anthem's melody by Germany in 1922 was not opposed by Austria.

"Das Lied der Deutschen" was not played at an official ceremony until Germany and the United Kingdom had agreed on the Heligoland–Zanzibar Treaty in 1890, when it appeared only appropriate to sing it at the ceremony on the now officially German island of Heligoland. During the time of the German Empire it became one of the most widely known patriotic songs.

The song became very popular after the 1914 Battle of Langemarck during World War I, when, supposedly, several German regiments, consisting mostly of students no older than 20, attacked the British lines on the Western front singing the song, suffering heavy casualties. They are buried in the Langemark German war cemetery in Belgium. The official report of the army embellished the event as one of young German soldiers heroically sacrificing their lives for the Fatherland. In reality the untrained troops were sent out to attack the British trenches and were mown down by machine guns and rifle fire. This report, also known as the "Langemarck Myth", was printed on the first page in newspapers all over Germany. It is doubtful whether the soldiers would have sung the song in the first place: carrying heavy equipment, they might have found it difficult to run at high speed toward enemy lines while singing the slow song. Nonetheless, the story was widely repeated.[8]

Official adoption

The melody used by the "Deutschlandlied" was still in use as the anthem of the Austrian Empire until the demise of the latter in 1918. On 11 August 1922, German President Friedrich Ebert, a Social Democrat, made the Deutschlandlied the official German national anthem. In 1919 the black, red, and gold tricolour, the colours of the 19th century liberal revolutionaries advocated by the political left and centre, was adopted (rather than the previous black, white, and red of Imperial Germany). Thus, in a political trade-off, the conservative right was granted a nationalistic anthem – though Ebert advocated using only the anthem's third stanza (which was done after World War II).[7]

During the Nazi era, only the first stanza was used, followed by the SA song "Horst-Wessel-Lied".[9] The anthem was played at occasions of great national significance such as the opening of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin when Hitler and his entourage, along with Olympic officials, walked into the stadium amid a chorus of three thousand Germans singing "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles". In this way, the first verse of the anthem became closely identified with the Nazi regime.[10]

Use after World War II

After the Second World War ended in 1945, singing "Das Lied der Deutschen" was banned, along with other symbols of Nazi Germany, by the Allies.[citation needed]

After its founding in 1949, West Germany did not have a national anthem for official events for some years, despite the growing need for the purpose of diplomatic procedures. In lieu of an official national anthem, popular German songs such as the Trizonesien-Song, a carnival song mocking the occupying Allied powers, were used at some sporting events. Different musical compositions were discussed or used, such as the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which is a musical setting of Friedrich von Schiller's poem "An die Freude" ("Ode To Joy"). Though the black, red and gold colours of the national flag had been incorporated into Article 22 of the (West) German constitution, a national anthem was not specified. On 29 April 1952, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer asked President Theodor Heuss in a letter to accept "Das Lied der Deutschen" as the national anthem, with only the third stanza being sung on official occasions. President Heuss agreed to this on 2 May 1952. This exchange of letters was published in the Bulletin of the Federal Government. Since it was viewed as the traditional right of the President as head of state to set the symbols of the state, the "Deutschlandlied" thus became the national anthem.[11]

Meanwhile, East Germany adopted its own national anthem, "Auferstanden aus Ruinen" ("Risen from Ruins"). As the lyrics of this anthem called for "Germany, united Fatherland", they were no longer officially used, from about 1972,[12] after the DDR abandoned its goal of uniting Germany under communism. With slight adaptations, the lyrics of "Auferstanden aus Ruinen" can be sung to the melody of the "Deutschlandlied" and vice versa.

When West Germany won the 1954 FIFA World Cup Final in Bern, Switzerland, the lyrics of the first stanza dominated when the crowd sang along[citation needed] to celebrate the surprise victory that was later dubbed Miracle of Bern. The anthem had not been widely used then, and older people simply sang the first stanza which they knew from earlier times.[citation needed]

In the 1970s and 80s, efforts were made by conservatives in Germany to reclaim all three stanzas for the anthem. The Christian Democratic Union of Baden-Württemberg, for instance, attempted twice (in 1985 and 1986) to require German high school students to study all three stanzas, and in 1989 CDU politician Christean Wagner decreed that all high school students in Hesse were to memorise the three stanzas.[13]

On 7 March 1990, months before reunification, the Constitutional Court declared only the third stanza of Hoffmann's poem to be legally protected as a national anthem under German law; Section 90a of the Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) makes defamation of the national anthem a crime – but does not specify what the national anthem is.[14]

In November 1991, President Richard von Weizsäcker and Chancellor Helmut Kohl agreed in an exchange of letters to declare the third stanza alone to be the national anthem of the enlarged republic.[15] On official occasions, Haydn's music is used, and only the third stanza is sung.

The word "FREIHEIT" (freedom) on Germany's 2-Euro coin

The opening line of the third stanza, "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" ("Unity and Justice and Freedom"), is widely considered to be the national motto of Germany, although it was never officially proclaimed as such. It appears on Bundeswehr soldiers' belt buckles (replacing the earlier "Gott mit uns" ("God with Us") of the Imperial German Army and the Nazi-era Wehrmacht). "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" appeared on the rim of 2 and 5 Deutsche Mark coins, and is present on 2 Euro coins minted in Germany.



File:Maas memel etsch belt.svg
German linguistic area (green) and political boundaries around 1841 (grey) in comparison to the text’s geographic references (bold blue) — compare with their modern equivalents

The first verse, which is no longer part of the national anthem and is not sung on official occasions, names three rivers and one strait – the Meuse (Maas in German), Adige (Etsch), and Neman (Memel) Rivers and the Little Belt strait – as the boundaries of what the author viewed as Deutschtum. These geographical references have been variously criticized as irredentist or misleading.[16] Of these the Meuse and the Adige were parts of the German Confederation during the time when the song was composed. The Belt (strait) and the Neman later became actual boundaries of Germany (the Belt until 1920, the Neman until 1945), whereas the Meuse and Adige were not parts of the Deutsches Reich as of 1871. Today, no part of any of the four places mentioned in the "Deutschlandlied" lies in Germany.

In an ethnic sense, none of these places formed a distinct ethnic border. The Duchy of Schleswig (to which the Belt refers) was inhabited by both Germans and Danes, with the Danes forming a clear majority near the strait. Around the Adige there was a mix of German speakers and Gallo-Italian speakers, and the area around the Neman was not homogeneously German, but also accommodated Lithuanians. The Meuse (if taken as referencing the Duchy of Limburg, nominally part of the looseknit 19th-century German Confederation), was ethnically Dutch with few Germans.

Nevertheless, such nationalistic rhetoric was relatively common in 19th-century public discourse. For example: Georg Herwegh in his poem "The German Fleet" (1841), gives the Germans as the people "between the Po and the Sund (Øresund)," and in 1832 Philipp Jakob Siebenpfeiffer, a noted journalist, declared at the Hambach Festival that he considered all "between the Alps and the North Sea" to be Deutschtum.[17]


Despite the text and tune of the song being quite peaceful compared to some other national anthems, the song has frequently been criticised for its generally nationalistic tone, the immodest geographic definition of Germany given in the first stanza, and the alleged male-chauvinistic attitude in the second stanza.[18][19] A relatively early critic was Friedrich Nietzsche, who called the grandiose claim in the first stanza ("Deutschland über alles") "die blödsinnigste Parole der Welt" (the most ridiculous slogan in the world), and in Thus Spoke Zarathustra said, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles – I fear that was the end of German philosophy."[18] The pacifist Kurt Tucholsky was also negative about the song, and in 1929 published a photo book sarcastically titled Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, criticising right-wing groups in Germany.

German grammar distinguishes between über alles i.e. above all else [for me], and über allen, meaning "above everyone else." However, the latter misleading translation was chosen by the Allies during both World Wars for propaganda purposes.[20]

Modern use of the first stanza

German president Theodor Heuss, upon request from chancellor Konrad Adenauer, declared the Lied der Deutschen the national anthem of the German Federal Republic in May 1952, along with the provision that only the third verse was to be sung at official occasions.[21] The declaration was a compromise between Heuss, who wanted to retain only the third verse, and the Cabinet's wish to keep the first two verses. As a result, the Lied (implicitly in its entirety) was declared the national anthem, with the provision that the third verse would have precedence.[22]

In 1977, German pop singer Heino produced a record of the song, including all three verses, for use in primary schools in Baden-Württemberg. The inclusion of the first two verses was met with criticism at the time.[23] After German Reunification in 1990, the German national anthem was redefined as the third verse of the song only.[24]

The first two verses are therefore no longer part of the national anthem, and the performance of the first verse in some cases been portrayed as controversial.

In 2009, Pete Doherty was supposed to sing the German national anthem live on radio at Bayerischer Rundfunk in Munich. As he sang the first verse, he was booed by the audience.[25] Three days later Doherty's spokesperson declared that the singer was "not aware of the historical background and regrets the misunderstanding". A spokesperson for Bayerischer Rundfunk welcomed the response, stating that otherwise further cooperation with Doherty would not have been possible.[26]

When the first verse was played as the German national anthem at the canoe sprint world championships in Hungary in August 2011, German athletes were reportedly "appalled".[27] Eurosport, under the headline of 'Nazi anthem', erroneously reported that "the first stanza of the piece [was] banned in 1952."[28]

Similarly, in 2017 the first verse of the anthem was mistakenly sung by Will Kimble, a U.S. soloist, during the welcome ceremony of the Fed Cup tennis match between Andrea Petkovic (Germany) and Alison Riske (U.S.) at the Center Court in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. In an unsuccessful attempt to drown out the soloist, German tennis players and fans started to sing the third verse instead.[29]

Variants and additions

Additional or alternative stanzas

Hoffmann von Fallersleben also intended the text to be used as a drinking song; the second stanza's toast to German women and wine are typical of this genre.[citation needed] The original Heligoland manuscript included a variant ending of the third stanza for such occasions:

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Für das deutsche Vaterland!
Danach lasst uns alle streben
Brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Sind des Glückes Unterpfand;
 |: Stoßet an und ruft einstimmig,
 Hoch, das deutsche Vaterland. :|

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 fortune.
 |: Lift your glasses and shout together,
 Prosper, German fatherland. :|

An alternative version called "Kinderhymne" (Children's Hymn) was written by Bertolt Brecht shortly after his return from American exile to a war-ravaged, bankrupt and geographically smaller Germany at the end of World War II and set to music by Hanns Eisler in the same year. It gained some currency after the 1990 unification of Germany, with a number of prominent Germans opting for his "antihymn" to be made official:[30]

Anmut sparet nicht noch Mühe
Leidenschaft nicht noch Verstand
Daß ein gutes Deutschland blühe
Wie ein andres gutes Land.

Daß die Völker nicht erbleichen
Wie vor einer Räuberin
Sondern ihre Hände reichen
Uns wie andern Völkern hin.

Und nicht über und nicht unter
Andern Völkern wolln wir sein
Von der See bis zu den Alpen
Von der Oder bis zum Rhein.

Und weil wir dies Land verbessern
Lieben und beschirmen wir's
Und das Liebste mag's uns scheinen
So wie anderen Völkern ihr's.

Grace spare not and spare no labour
Passion nor intelligence
That a decent German nation
Flourish as do other lands.

That the people give up flinching
At the crimes which we evoke
And hold out their hand in friendship
As they do to other folk.

Neither over or yet under
Other peoples will we be
From the North Sea to the Alps
From the Oder to the Rhineland

And because we'll make it better
Let us guard and love our home
Love it as our dearest country
As the others love their own.

Notable performances and recordings

Max Reger quotes the tune in the final section of his organ pieces Sieben Stücke, Op. 145, composed in 1915/16 when it was a patriotic song but not yet a national anthem.

The Unitarian Universalist hymnbook published in 1993, Singing the Living Tradition, contains two versions of Samuel Longfellow's "Light of Ages and of Nations"; the second hymn (#190) is sung to the tune of the Emperor's Hymn, labelled as "Austria". John Newton's hymn "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" has, among others, been set to Haydn's melody. (It appears as hymn No. 522 in The Hymnal 1982 of The Episcopal Church in the United States). Though it is often performed with a different tune due to associations with Nazi Germany.[31]

The German musician Nico sometimes performed the national anthem at concerts and dedicated it to militant Andreas Baader, leader of the Red Army Faction.[32] She included a version of "Das Lied der Deutschen" on her 1974 album The End.... In 2006, the Slovenian "industrial" band Laibach incorporated Hoffmann's lyrics in a song titled "Germania", on the album Volk, which contains fourteen songs with adaptations of national anthems.[33][34] Performing the song in Germany in 2009, the band cited the first stanza in the closing refrain, while on a video screen images were shown of a German city bombed during World War II.[35]


  1. The Complete Guide to National Symbols and Emblems, James Minahan, Google Books
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  3. Excerpt from Notes Toward the Study of Joseph Haydn by Sir William H. Hadow, London (1897, reprinted New York, 1971)
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  9. Geisler, p.71.
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  13. Geisler, p.72.
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  16. A History of Modern Germany: 1800 to the Present (2011) M. Kitchen.
  17. Music and German National Identity (2002) by C. Applegate. pp. 254
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  21. Briefwechsel zur Nationalhymne von 1952, Abdruck aus dem Bulletin der Bundesregierung Nr. 51/S. 537 vom 6. Mai 1952.
  22. Das Deutschlandlied ist Nationalhymne. Ein Briefwechsel zwischen Bundespräsident Theodor Heuss und Bundeskanzler Konrad Adenauer. Bulletin des Presse- und Informationsamtes der Bundesregierung, Nr. 51 vom 6. Mai 1952, S. 537.
  23. Michael Jeismann: "Die Nationalhymne". In: Etienne Francois, Hagen Schulze (ed.): Deutsche Erinnerungsorte. Vol. III. C.H. Beck, München 2001, ISBN 3-406-47224-9, p. 663. "Natürliches Verhältnis. Deutschlandlied – dritte oder/und erste Strophe?", Die Zeit, 31 March 1978.
  24. Bulletin des Presse- und Informationsamts der Bundesregierung Nr. 89 vom 27. August 1991, p. 713. Bekanntmachung der Briefe des Bundespräsidenten vom 19. August 1991 und des Bundeskanzlers vom 23. August 1991 über die Bestimmung der 3. Strophe des Liedes der Deutschen zur Nationalhymne der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bundesgesetzblatt 1991 Part I Nr. 63, p. 2135.
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  29. "US Tennis says sorry for using Nazi-era anthem before Germany Fed Cup match", The Guardian, 2017-02-12
  30. Geisler p. 75.
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External links

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