Banned Nazi version of German national anthem played 2 days at Malaga medal ceremonies

Thomas Stewens prepares to get M50 gold in decathlon — and hear wrong version of German national anthem.

In Germany, singing “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” (Germany, Germany above everything) is a Bozo No-No. Although the lyric was written in 1841 by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben — and had nothing to do with the Nazis — it was adopted by Hitler and sung at the opening of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Since 1952, the German national anthem has dropped the “Deutschland über alles” stanza.

Thomas Stewens at Malaga worlds.

Thomas Stewens at Malaga worlds. Photo via Facebook

But WTF. Guess what was played for two days at Malaga medal ceremonies? Yup — the “banned” version. According to the German masters website, the nonkosher version (with the correct 1797 melody by Joseph Haydn) was played for German gold medalists Silke Finkbeiner, Lothar Huchthausen, Roland Heiler, Jana Müller-Schmidt and finally M50 decathlon champ Thomas Stewens.

As soon as Thomas heard the opening words, he began singing the correct version for “Deutschlandlied” (The Song of Germany). He sang: “Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit” (Unity and Justice and Freedom).

After the ceremony, he complained to German officials, and organizers yanked the Nazi version. An instrumental version was used for the 50-plus succeeding Germany gold medalists.

“Of course, we sang the right verses so loud that the pretty soft version was barely heard (on the video, unfortunately, you can hear it pretty loud),” Thomas told me via Facebook. “Afterwards, I told the German officials about it. They told me that they checked, but the Spanish officials must have removed that wrong version already. I am sure it was just a mistake.”

I wrote to former WMA President Stan Perkins and Germany’s Margit Jungmann — the new WMA prez — asking for comment. They didn’t respond.

Video of the medal ceremony was first posted on YouTube by Rolf Griesberg His title was: “Verbotene Nazi-Strophe als gesungene Version der Nationalhymne bei den Deutschen Titelträgern.” You get the drift.

A comment on the video, posted in German under a pseudonym, said (in a Google translation): “It is not forbidden to sing the first verse of the Deutschlandlied. My generation sang the whole song in the 1960s at the Musikunterrieocht in school. And now concretely to the recording of the first stanza to the award ceremony: One should always believe in the good. Probably the one responsible for the award ceremony at the venue, who theoretically must provide all the national anthems of the countries participating in the championship, has made a mistake. Point off. It has nothing to do with Nazi propaganda. And who claims something else, who wants to scapegoat someone scapegoat.”

But wait! There’s more!

When Thomas was announced as world champion, he was credited with a world record.

Thomas reminded me that 2015 Lyon worlds champion Jean-Luc Duez of France has a better mark — noted on my old site — “which has not been officially recognized for unknown reasons.”

Jean-Luc’s 8106 on Oct. 10, 2015, in Tournefeuille, France, is superior to Thomas’ 8068 at Malaga. But Thomas will be the listed WR man. Hope he gets another shot next year.

BTW, I interviewed Thomas in 2016, who noted that he met his American wife when he competed for the University of Arizona. (My wife, Chris, also is a UofA Wildcat.) So we have that in common.

Anyhoo, one hopes Toronto 2020 will vet its national anthems carefully. Or I’ll be writing, “Oh, Canada….”

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at or Story tips always welcome!

3 Comments on "Banned Nazi version of German national anthem played 2 days at Malaga medal ceremonies"

  1. About world records: on wikipedia there is a page with all world records, both those approved by WMA and some pending ones. Some remain pending for always but we do not hear the reasons. It would be nice to have a register with unapproved records better than the approved one with those reasons. I see some unapproved ones where I have no clue at all why they could be wrong. For example when they are approved as European record or a national record..

  2. Thanks for posting this, Ken. I believe that a better translation of “uber alles” would be “above all” (i.e., above all other countries).

    Weia, you and I are of similar mind on these records. As I recall, some years ago the listed record in the US for W40 in the 1500 run actually dropped out of the “top 10” performances in that age group. Just another example of how tough it is in some situations to get a record approved. My only suggestion continues to be that records be accepted automatically from top meets (Penn Relays, Drake Relays, etc.) with the proviso that if someone thinks an error was made in the official time/distance/height he/she can protest the posting. For the meet I know best, the Penn Relays, I have never heard of an incorrect recording of a time.

    One could extend this thinking, Weia, to records accepted as European or national records, as you may well be indicating. They should be world records unless someone knows of a compelling reason that they should not be.

  3. I changed “about” to “above,” Pete. Damn autocorrect got me again.

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