Saturday, April 29, 2017

Deutschland uber alles?

What a jarring moment in The Promise, just released film about a love triangle during the Armenian genocide, 1915-1923.

German officers in Constantinople standing at a party with Turkish leaders in 1915 began singing their national anthem "Deutschland, Deutschland, uber alles..."  

That really threw me, hearing Hayden's beautiful tune sung in this context.  I associate the melody with a beloved hymn, "Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God...."

I'd never before heard the tune sung to the ugly words "Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles."

I ended up doing an internet search on the subject afterwards.

The German lyrics, written in 1841, begin: "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, / Über alles in der Welt."

The correct translation is "Germany, Germany, over all other things, over all in the world," a personal statement of loyalty to Germany above other things one might value: city, family, health, even life.

As Wikipedia says, it "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."

In order to mean "Germany over all other nations," it would have to be "Deutschland uber alle," not "alles," as in "Deutschland uber alle anderen Nationen."

Nevertheless, Germans don't sing the first two verses today because after the two world wars, any extreme statement of nationalism feels inappropriate. They sing only the third verse, which is about unity, freedom, and justice.

At any rate, it's a chilling moment in the film to hear German soldiers sing these words as World War I begins, three years before the National Socialist German Workers Party is founded, and eighteen years before Adolf Hitler gained power over Germany.

It's also a revelation in the film to see the close relationship between Turks and Germans in 1915.  Here's part of what Wikipedia has to say on it: 

The Ottoman–German Alliance was an alliance between the German Empire and the Ottoman Empire made on August 2, 1914, shortly following the outbreak of World War I. The alliance was created as part of a joint-cooperative effort that would strengthen and modernize the failing Ottoman military, as well as provide Germany safe passage into neighboring British colonies. The treaty came from the initiative of he Ottomans. It was replaced in January 1915 by a full-scale military alliance that promised Ottoman entry into the war.[6][7][8]

On the positive side, Germany came out in January, 2016, as officially recognizing the Turkish killing 1915-1923 as a genocide, just after the 100th anniversary of its beginning in 1915.  

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