Merkel Dismisses German Official's 'Gender-Neutral' National Anthem Proposal

Germany may soon implement a gender-neutral national anthem after a government commissioner on equality called for the removal of “fatherland” from the lyrics. Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday rejected a "gender sensitive" move by a government commissioner on equality who called for the removal of the word "Fatherland" from the country's national anthem.

A leaked internal letter was obtained by the German weekly Bild am Sonntag from Germany's Family Ministry equal opportunity commissioner, Kristin Rose-Möhring. Looking to follow the route of Canada last month and Austria in 2012, the German bureaucrat proposed a national anthem language change to staff members: "Why don't we make our national anthem gender sensitive? It wouldn't hurt, would it?"

Specifically, Rose-Möhring is looking to replace the German word "Vaterland," or "Fatherland," with "Heimatland," which roughly translates to English as "homeland." Additionally, she is looking for support in changing the phrase "brotherly with heart and hand" to a phrase translating to "courageously with heart and hand."

The leaked letter prompted immediate gender debate on social media, with right-wing party leaders and feminists clashing over whether phrases such as "mother tongue" would also need to be made more "gender neutral." Stefan Möller, spokesman for the Thuringia state branch of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, tweeted Sunday, "When women with double last names want to misappropriate a masterpiece like the national anthem, hopefully I'm not the only one getting angry."

Others suggested revisions from the country's gay community, prompting several calls for "multicuralism" and "queerness" to be written into the "Song of Germany," or "Deutschlandlied." The song has been used as the official national anthem of Germany since 1922, though the music for it comes from a 1797 hymn, "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser," by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn.

After the rise and fall of the Nazi Party between 1920 and 1945, only the third stanza of the original 1841 lyrics from August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben have been used for the performance of the national anthem. The former first verse, "Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles" was used as Nazi propaganda during the era. The U.S. Tennis Association issued an apology last year after accidentally playing the verse during the 2017 Fed Cup. The second verse, also a taboo subject in Germany, flatly discusses the benefits of both "German women" and "German wine."

The remaining opening third verse now being targeted by Rose-Möhring reads, "Unity and justice and freedom for the German fatherland," which German broadcaster Deutsche Welle says has become something of an unofficial motto in the country.

But Rose-Möhring's calls for a more "gender sensitive" national anthem have not been met by much government support. Merkel, who has repeatedly rebuked past attempts to label her a "feminist," dismissed the proposed changes to the national anthem.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has repeatedly rebuked past attempts to label her a “feminist,” dismissed the proposed changes to the national anthem. Getty Images

"The chancellor is very happy with our nice national anthem as it is in its traditional form and doesn't see any need for change," Merkel's spokesman told the Telegraph on Monday.