Bismarckian Musical Nationalism: Modern Fallout

On a day when the Chinese Vice-Premier is meeting with the Japanese leadership, it seems appropriate to think about reconciling remaining differences from the Second World War.

From my perspective as a sometime scholar of the Chinese past and its depiction in CCP propaganda, I view France and Germany as among the most active societies and governments on earth in coming to terms with the past.   Yet there is still plenty to argue about.

These differences often reach most emotionally down to the level of art and music.

This article from Le Figaro’s Paris-Berlin blog details one such misunderstanding about that famous prior German national anthem, “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles,” a song and its harmonization brought into being via “Papa” Franz Joseph Hadyn and amped up by the Nazi Party in 1933.  Apparently the French Ministry of Defense, unaware that the Germans had discontinued using the anthem in 1991 (and had cleansed its more militant verses since 1950), put the selection on a program for a French military choir to be sung under the Arc d’Triumphe on November 11, 2009 in honor of Franco-German reconciliation.

German soldiers tread the Champs-Elysees on 14 June 1994 (Bastille Day) for the first time since 1945 -- photo via Le Figaro's "Big Steps to Franco-German Reconciliation" photoblog -- click for link

This very much reminds me of the flap when George W. Bush’s protocol master shouted out “the Premier of the Republic of China!” in the White House red-carpet ceremony just before the U.S. Army Band launched into a version of the “Song of the People’s Volunteers.”

In any case, the comments on the above article indicate there is still plenty of work to do in Franco-German relations.  Once Chinese and Japanese get to debate and discuss face-to-face the meaning of “Kimigayo” and the PRC’s stridently anti-Japanese national anthem, perhaps, we will be getting somewhere.


  1. The first part of the anthem was against the rule of authorian seperated states that were existing where Germany and Austria are nowadays. It was a revolutionary idea to unite the Germans against the feudal rule at the time of the 19th century. From the “Maas” and so on: “Über alles” meant the idea of unification should be ahead or on to top of the nobel dynasties and other rulers in that area. It was not intended to conquer other states. That is what I’ve learned at school.

    1. So in fact, my title should be “Bismarckian Musical Nationalism!” I think I will make a revision…Thanks much for the comment!

      1. Allow me to add my opinion on Bismarck. He did put Prussia ahead of the Germany that had never existed before. Cutting the old center Vienna, Habsburg dynasty, out of it: “Kleindeutsche Loesung”.
        The desaster was the new Germany was founded on a victorious war against France. The new state proclamation happened in France! A very very unhealthy beginning. Latest from here the feeling of beeing “German” started. Before for example one can tell of beeing loyal to the Kingdom Hanover until 1866 and later. Even in the 30ies many people in Hanover were voting for their royal party. At the end of the Republic, and after the end of the Second Reich. They still wanted their king back.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s