Germany debates making national anthem gender-neutral

The words “fatherland” and “brotherly” could be cut from the German national anthem under proposals from the country’s equalities commissioner.

Kristin Rose-Möhring said she believed the national song should be gender-neutral. However the comments, timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, triggered a backlash.

The far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) labelled the move “gender nonsense”, and even Chancellor Angela Merkel was reported as saying she was “very satisfied” with the current lyrics.

Ms Rose-Möhring, in a letter sent to staff at Germany’s family ministry, recommended changing the word “Vaterland”, or “fatherland”, for “Heimatland”, or “homeland”.

Another line, “brotherly with heart and hand”, could be revised to “courageously with heart and hand”, she suggested.

Angela Merkel gives a bouquet of flowers to her vice-chancellor in celebration of the birth of his daughter. The German federal cabinet met today, International Women’s Day, with domestic violence and women’s employment on the agenda (Getty)

She wrote: “Why don’t we make our national anthem… gender sensitive. It wouldn’t hurt, would it?”

Many disagreed. A spokesman for Ms Merkel told German media: “The chancellor is very happy with our nice national anthem as it is.”

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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, widely viewed as Ms Merkel’s likely successor as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, insisted: “Anthems are not written for the moment. I wouldn’t want our anthem to be changed just so it fits in with the zeitgeist.”

In a statement, the right-wing and anti-immigration AfD said: “If you like the national anthem from the politically correct perspective of all this gender nonsense, then don’t sing it.”

The controversial Alternative for Germany party, which takes a hard-line view on immigration, have sparked protests (Getty)

Stefan Möller, a prominent AfD politician, wrote on Twitter: “When women with double-barrelled names want to misappropriate a masterpiece like the national anthem, hopefully I’m not the only one getting angry.”

Other critics on social media suggested that if the anthem were changed then the phrase “mother tongue” should also be made gender-neutral.

Germany’s national anthem has historically gone through changes to its lyrics. A line in the first verse, “Germany, Germany, above all else”, was dropped because some considered it reminiscent of the Nazi era.

Other countries have altered their national anthems to make them gender-neutral, including Canada and Austria, meaning citizens of Germany’s southern neighbour now sing of their “great daughters” as well as their “great sons”