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"Jedem das Seine" is a German translation of "Suum cuique", the Latin phrase meaning "to each his own". The English idiomatic meaning of "Jedem das Seine" is "to each according to his merits."



The Latin phrase goes back an old Greekmarker principle of justice which translates literally into English as "to each his own," but with the idiomatic meaning of "to each what he deserves" or "to each according to his merits." In his Republic, Plato concluded that "justice is when everyone minds his own business, and refrains from meddling in others' affairs" (Greek: "...τὸ τὰ αὑτοῦ πράττειν καὶ μὴ πολυπραγμονεῖν δικαιοσύνη ἐστί...", 4.433a). Everyone should do according to his abilities and capabilities, to serve the country and the society as a whole. Also, everyone should receive "his own" (e.g., rights) and not be deprived of "his own" (e.g., property) (433e).

The phrase was made famous by the Romanmarker author, orator and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC): "Justitia suum cuique distribuit." ("Justice renders to everyone his due." (De Natura Deorum, III, 38.) De Finibus, Bonorum et Malorum, liber V, 67: "(...) ut fortitudo in laboribus periculisque cernatur, (...), iustitia in suo cuique tribuendo." - "so that fortitude may be seen in hardship and danger, (...), justice in attributing to each his own".)


The Order of the Black Eagle (German: Hoher Orden vom Schwarzen Adler) was the highest order of chivalry in King Frederick the Great's Kingdom of Prussiamarker. The Order of the Black Eagle's motto was "Suum cuique" (idiomatically, "to each according to his merits") and this motto is still used by the Germanmarker military police (the Feldjäger). It was a symbol of the liberalism and religious tolerance of the Prussian Kingdom, which meant that "each can do as they choose", but all citizens must unite in their support of Prussia.

Nazi Germany

In 1937, the Nazis constructed the Buchenwald concentration campmarker, near Weimarmarker, Germany. The slogan "Jedem das Seine" (literally "to each his own", but figuratively "everyone gets what he deserves") was placed over the camp's main entrance gate. "Jedem das Seine" was a typical propaganda phrase of the time, similar to "Arbeit macht frei". (In English, "Arbeit macht frei" means "work shall set you free".) "Arbeit macht frei" was the slogan placed above the entrances at other Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitzmarker, Dachau concentration campmarker, Gross-Rosenmarker, Sachsenhausen and the Theresienstadtmarker.

Other uses

The phrase is still used commonly as a proverb in German-speaking countries. It is also the title of one of John Sebastian Bach's cantata (BWV 163): Nur jedem das seine, which was composed for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity.

Several modern advertising campaigns in the German language, including ads for Nokia, REWE grocery stores, Burger King, and Merkur Bank have been marred by controversy after using the phrase "Jedem das Seine" or "Jedem den Seinen". An ExxonMobil ad campaign in January 2009 touted Tchibo coffee drinks at the company's Esso stores with the slogan "Jedem den Seinen!" The ads were withdrawn after protest from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and a company spokesman said its advertising contractor had been unaware of the proverb's association with Nazism. In March 2009, a student group associated with the Christian Democratic Union used the slogan for an education campaign in North Rhine-Westphaliamarker (Germany), but later withdrew it due to public outcry.

See also


  1. David Wroe, Petrol station used Nazi slogan on posters, The Telegraph, 14 January 2009.
  2. jol, dpa/ddp Nazi Slogan: CDU stoppt Kampagne "Jedem das Seine", der Spiegel, 12 March 2009. (in German)

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