Joseph Haydn spielt Quartett. 1790.
Joseph Haydn spielt Quartett. 1790.

The melody that would become the national anthem of Germany was composed by Joseph Haydn for the birthday celebration of Emperor Franz II who turned 29 in 1797. Franz II was the last emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. It was first played in Vienna, and the melody, which was called "Das Kaiserlied" spread quickly in combination with changing texts across German speaking states. It became "Das Lied der Deutschen" (Song of the Germans). The official text for the national anthem was written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841, who promoted the idea of a unified Germany during the time of the German Confederation, in which Germany consisted of 39 German states.


In 1922, the year in which the 1st President of the Weimar Republic declared the song to be Germany's official anthem, all three stanzas formed the national anthem. Even though the first stanza came under attack due to Germany's exaltation, one has to take the historical context into account. August Heinrich Hofmann von Fallersleben emphasized, like many of his contemporaries, the priority of a unified country in order to fulfill democratic values, as the third stanza points out. The first stanza can also be seen as a desire to materialize, at least in the composer's mind, the idea of a unified nation. The German Confederation was only a loose alliance of German-speaking states. Unfortunately, the first stanza was misused and combined with the Horst Wessel song during the dark age of National Socialism.


There was no official German anthem before 1922. Instead, the song "Heil dir im Siegerkranz," with its well-known British melody, became the unofficial national anthem (It is the same tune that Americans hear when playing "America - My Country 'Tis of Thee." It is also the same melody as that of the national anthem of Great Britain, "God Save the Queen.")

In 1949 only the third stanza was able to hold an official status as West Germany's national anthem. In 1990 the anthem was sung by all Germans. Today, the national anthem, more specifically the third stanza, represents the values that can be found in Articles 1 - 19 of the Basic Law in Germany.