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For other uses of "die Wacht am Rhein" see Watch on the Rhine . For the World War II German offensive, see Battle of the Bulge.


"Die Wacht am Rhein" (English: The Watch/Guard on the Rhine) is a Germanmarker patriotic anthem. The song's origins are rooted in historical conflicts with Francemarker, and it was particularly popular in Germany during the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War.

History

In the Rhine Crisis of 1840, French prime minister Adolphe Thiers advanced the claim that the Rhine Rivermarker should serve as Francemarker's "natural eastern border". Germans feared that France was planning to annex the left bank of the Rhine, as it had sought to do under Louis XIV, and had temporarily accomplished during the Napoleonic Wars a few decades earlier. In the two centuries from the Thirty Years' War to the final defeat of Napoleon, the German inhabitants of these lands suffered from repeated major and minor French invasions (see French-German enmity).

Nikolaus Becker answered to these events by writing a poem called "Rheinlied", in which he swore to defend the Rhine. The Swabian merchant Max Schneckenburger, inspired by the German praise and French opposition this received, then wrote the poem "Die Wacht am Rhein".

In the poem, with five original stanzas, a "thunderous call" is made for all Germans to rush and defend the German Rhine, to ensure that "no enemy sets his foot on the shore of the Rhine" (4th stanza). Two stanzas with a more specific text were added by others later.

Unlike the older "Heil dir im Siegerkranz" which praised a monarch, "Die Wacht am Rhein" and other songs written in this period, such as the "Deutschlandlied" (Germany's current national anthem) and "Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?" (What is the German's Fatherland?) by Ernst Moritz Arndt, called for Germans to unite, to put aside sectionalism and the rivalries of the various German kingdoms and principalities, to establish a unified German state, (not least) in order to be able to defend Germany.

Author Max Schneckenburger worked in Switzerland, and his poem was first set to music in Bernemarker by Swissmarker organist J. Mendel, and performed by tenor Methfessel for the Prussianmarker ambassador, von Bunsen. This first version did not become very popular. Schneckenburger died in 1849 and never heard the more famous tune.

When the musical director of the city of Krefeldmarker, Karl Wilhelm, received the poem in 1854, he wrote a version of his own, and performed it with his men's choir on June 11, the day of the silver anniversary of the marriage of Prinz Wilhelm von Preussen, who would later become German Emperor Wilhelm I. This version was spread in song festivals.

In response to the Ems Dispatch incident, which occurred in Bad Emsmarker, not far from the Rhine, France initiated the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. In the aftermath of the subsequent French defeat the German Empiremarker was established in 1871. The song became famous, and both the composer and the family of the author were honoured, and granted an annual pension by Bismarck.

Today, the lands along the left bank of the Rhine between Switzerlandmarker and the Netherlandsmarker are mainly part of Germany. The Saarlandmarker, Rhineland-Palatinatemarker and North Rhine-Westphaliamarker are German federal states; Alsacemarker and northern Lorrainemarker are parts of France with a German cultural element to them.

Text

The following is the complete text of the original five verses of the "Die Wacht am Rhein", plus additions:

German lyrics Approximate translation
1st stanza
Es braust ein Ruf wie Donnerhall,

wie Schwertgeklirr und Wogenprall:

Zum Rhein, zum Rhein, zum deutschen Rhein,

wer will des Stromes Hüter sein?
A call roars like thunderbolt,

like clashing swords and splashing waves:

To the Rhine, the Rhine, to the German Rhine,

who guards tonight my stream divine?
refrain
Lieb' Vaterland, magst ruhig sein,
lieb' Vaterland, magst ruhig sein,
Fest steht und treu die Wacht, die Wacht am Rhein!
Fest steht und treu die Wacht, die Wacht am Rhein!
Dear fatherland, put your mind at rest,

dear fatherland, put your mind at rest,

Fast stands, and true, the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!

Fast stands, and true, the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!
2nd stanza
Durch Hunderttausend zuckt es schnell,

und aller Augen blitzen hell;

der Deutsche bieder, fromm und stark,

beschützt die heil'ge Landesmark.
Through hundreds of thousands it quickly twitches,

and everybody's eyes brightly flash;

the German, respectablealternative: the German youth, pious, and strong

, pious, and strong,

protects the sacred county border.
3rd stanza
Er blickt hinauf in Himmelsau'n,

wo Heldenväter niederschau'n,

und schwört mit stolzer Kampfeslust:

Du Rhein bleibst deutsch wie meine Brust!
He looks up to the meadows of heaven,

where ancient heroes glance down,

and swears with proud pugnacity:

You Rhine will remain German like my chest!
4th stanza
Solang ein Tropfen Blut noch glüht,

noch eine Faust den Degen zieht,

und noch ein Arm die Büchse spannt,

betritt kein Feind hier deinen Strand!
As long as a drop of blood still glows,

a fist still draws the dagger,

and one arm still holds the rifle,

no enemy will here enter your shore!
Additional stanza inserted between 4th and 5th
Und ob mein Herz im Tode bricht,

wirst du doch drum ein Welscher nicht.

Reich, wie an Wasser deine Flut,

ist Deutschland ja an Heldenblut!
And even if my heart breaks in death,

You'll never ever become foreign territory.

As rich in water is your flood,

is Germany in heroes' blood.
5th stanza
Der Schwur erschallt, die Woge rinnt

die Fahnen flattern hoch im Wind:

Am Rhein, am Rhein, am deutschen Rhein

wir alle wollen Hüter sein.
The oath rings out, the billow runs

the flags wave high in the wind:

On the Rhine, on the German Rhine

we all want to be the guardian.
Additional 7th stanza on war postcards of the First World War
So führe uns, du bist bewährt;

In Gottvertrau'n greif' zu dem Schwert!

Hoch Wilhelm! Nieder mit der Brut!

Und tilg' die Schmach mit Feindesblut!
So lead us, you are approved;

With trust in God, grab the sword!

Hail Wilhelm! Down with all that brood!

Erase the shame with foes' blood!


Trivia

Usage in Germany

From World War I through 1945 the "Watch on the Rhine" was one of the most popular songs in Germany, almost rivaling the "Deutschlandlied" as the de-facto national anthem. The song's title was also used as the codename for the World War II German offensive in 1944 known today as the Battle of the Bulge.

The so-called German-French hereditary hostility ended in 1963 with the Elysée Treaty, so that the danger of a French invasion that loomed for centuries over Germany no longer existed. Today, the song has only historical significance in Germany and is rarely sung or played. However, singer Heino has performed it on a record.

The expression Er/sie hat einen Ruf wie Donnerhall is used for describing someone who has a very strong, intimidating reputation.

Stage and film

The song has figured into stage works and motion pictures.

The tune is quoted near the end of César Cui's opera Mademoiselle Fifi (composed 1902-1903), set in France during the Franco-Prussian War.

In Jean Renoir's 1937 film La Grande Illusion, the two songs were juxtaposed in exactly the same way as in Casablanca five years later. In that film, "Die Wacht am Rhein" was sung by German soldiers, who then were drowned out by exile French singing the "Marseillaise" (which originally was the "War Song for the Army of the Rhine", written and composed at the Rhine). Originally the "Horst-Wessel-Lied" was slated to be used in the scene as the German song, since it was at that time part of the de facto national anthem of Nazi Germany. However, the producers realized that the "Horst Wessel Lied" was under copyright protection. While it would not have been a problem in the United States, the UK or other Allied nations, a copyright dispute would have hurt or prevented showings in neutral nations which still upheld German copyrights. Therefore the producers of Casablanca went with "Die Wacht am Rhein".

The song provides the title for Lillian Hellman's cautionary pre-World War II play Watch on the Rhine.

In the first and second part of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1980 epic film adaptation of Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz, Franz Biberkopf starts singing the song (as in the novel).

Adaptations as an alma mater

The tune for the alma mater of Yale Universitymarker, "Bright College Years", was taken from Carl Wilhelm's "Die Wacht am Rhein", with new lyrics written by Henry Durand, a "Grey Friar" in Wolf's Head Society, in 1881 to the "splendid tune".

The tune was also used by Hotchkiss School for their hymn "Fair Hotchkiss" and by St. Scholastica's College for their hymn, "Let's Cheer for St.Scholastica."

See also

Unification of Germany

External links




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