Dutch broadcaster apologises for using Nazi-era subtitles to German anthem during Euros match

A Dutch broadcaster has apologised after subtitling the German national anthem sung with lyrics associated with Nazi Germany at the start of Tuesday’s European Championship football match against England.

The NPO channel showed the text of the first verse of the Lied der Deutschen, which has not been used since 1952 due to its links with Adolf Hitler’s regime, in its subtitle service for the deaf and hard of hearing. 

Only the third verse of the song, which stresses unity, freedom, and justice, is the official anthem of Germany.

"The wrong verse was displayed by mistake. This is a mistake by one of our subtitlers," NPO tweeted. "We apologise to viewers who were disturbed by this."

Germany and the Netherlands, which suffered a brutal occupation by Nazi forces in World War II, both regard each other as their biggest football rivals. 

The first stanza includes the infamous words "Deutschland über alles/ Über alles in der Welt", which means "Germany, above all/ above everything in the world".

National anthem first used by Nazis from 1933

From 1933, the Nazis used the first verse with the SA’s Horst-Wessel-Lied as the national anthem at rallies and official occasions. The second verse, which praises German women and wine, is seen as sexist and distasteful. 

The lyrics were written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben  in 1841 on the then British-owned island of Helgoland. 

The poet supported the idea of unifying Germany into a modern state rather than the groups of smaller regions with their own rulers that existed at the time. 

The music was composed by Joseph Haydn and first performed in 1797 to honour the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. 

In 1922, the entire anthem was adopted by the Weimar Republic in a bid to shore up the government in the turbulent times after the defeat in World War One. 

Song outlawed by Allies in 1945

The Allies outlawed the song in 1945 after the defeat of the Nazis. In 1952, it was reintroduced with only the third verse before being adopted by a reunified Germany in 1991. 

The Dutch gaffe is not the first. In February 2017, a soloist performed the first verse at a Fed Cup tennis match on the Hawaiian island of Maui. 

In 2008, a Swiss broadcaster apologised after using the offending verse to subtitle a Euro 2008 match between Germany and Austria. The channel compounded the error by inviting fans to sing along.

In 2009, British singer Pete Doherty was booed before being dragged off stage at a festival in Munich after crooning the first verse. 

Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal in Germany to sing the whole anthem in public. 

England went on to win 2-0 at Wembley and will now face Ukraine in the quarter-finals of the tournament. 

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