Die Wacht am Rhein

For other uses of "die Wacht am Rhein" see Watch on the Rhine (disambiguation). For the World War II German offensive, see Battle of the Bulge.

"Die Wacht am Rhein" (English: The Watch/Guard on the Rhine) is a German patriotic anthem. The song's origins are rooted in historical conflicts with France, and it was particularly popular in Germany during the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War.

In the Rhine Crisis of 1840, French prime minister Adolphe Thiers advanced the claim that the Rhine River should serve as France's "natural eastern border". Germans feared that France was planning to annex the left bank of the Rhine, as it had sought to do under Louis XIV, and had temporarily accomplished during the Napoleonic Wars a few decades earlier. In the two centuries from the Thirty Years' War to the final defeat of Napoleon, the German inhabitants of these lands suffered from repeated major and minor French invasions (see French-German enmity).

Nikolaus Becker answered to these events by writing a poem called "Rheinlied", in which he swore to defend the Rhine. The Swabian merchant Max Schneckenburger, inspired by the German praise and French opposition this received, then wrote the poem "Die Wacht am Rhein".

In the poem, with five original stanzas, a "thunderous call" is made for all Germans to rush and defend the German Rhine, to ensure that "no enemy sets his foot on the shore of the Rhine" (4th stanza). Two stanzas with a more specific text were added by others later.

Unlike the older "Heil dir im Siegerkranz" which praised a monarch, "Die Wacht am Rhein" and other songs written in this period, such as the "Deutschlandlied" (Germany's current national anthem) and "Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?" (What is the German's Fatherland?) by Ernst Moritz Arndt, called for Germans to unite, to put aside sectionalism and the rivalries of the various German kingdoms and principalities, to establish a unified German state, (not least) in order to be able to defend Germany.

Author Max Schneckenburger worked in Switzerland, and his poem was first set to music in Bern by Swiss organist J. Mendel, and performed by tenor Methfessel for the Prussian ambassador, von Bunsen. This first version did not become very popular. Schneckenburger died in 1849 and never heard the more famous tune.

When the musical director of the city of Krefeld, Karl Wilhelm, received the poem in 1854, he wrote a version of his own, and performed it with his men's choir on June 11, the day of the silver anniversary of the marriage of Prinz Wilhelm von Preussen, who would later become German Emperor Wilhelm I. This version was spread in song festivals.

In response to the Ems Dispatch incident, which occurred in Bad Ems, not far from the Rhine, France initiated the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. In the aftermath of the subsequent French defeat the German Empire was established in 1871. The song became famous, and both the composer and the family of the author were honoured, and granted an annual pension by Bismarck.

Today, the lands along the left bank of the Rhine between Switzerland and the Netherlands are mainly part of Germany. The Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia are German federal states; Alsace and northern Lorraine are parts of France with a German cultural element to them.



The following is the complete text of the original five verses of the "Die Wacht am Rhein", plus additions:

German lyrics Approximate translation Verse translation
1st stanza

Es braust ein Ruf wie Donnerhall,
wie Schwertgeklirr und Wogenprall:
Zum Rhein, zum Rhein, zum deutschen Rhein,
wer will des Stromes Hüter sein?

A call roars like thunderbolt,
like clashing swords and splashing waves:
To the Rhine, the Rhine, to the German Rhine,
who guards tonight my stream divine?

The cry resounds like thunder's peal,
Like crashing waves and clang of steel:
The Rhine, the Rhine, our German Rhine,
Who will defend our stream, divine?

Lieb' Vaterland, magst ruhig sein,
lieb' Vaterland, magst ruhig sein,
Fest steht und treu die Wacht, die Wacht am Rhein!
Fest steht und treu die Wacht, die Wacht am Rhein!

Dear fatherland, put your mind at rest,
dear fatherland, put your mind at rest,
Firm stands, and true, the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!
Firm stands, and true, the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!

Dear fatherland, no fear be thine,
dear fatherland, no fear be thine,
Firm and True stands the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!
Firm and True stands the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!

2nd stanza

Durch Hunderttausend zuckt es schnell,
und aller Augen blitzen hell;
der Deutsche bieder,[1] fromm und stark,
beschützt die heil'ge Landesmark.

Through hundreds of thousands it quickly twitches,
and everybody's eyes brightly flash;
the German, respectable,[2] pious, and strong,
protects the sacred county border.

They stand, a hundred thousand strong,
Quick to avenge their country's wrong,
With filial love their bosoms swell
They shall guard the sacred landmark well.

3rd stanza

Er blickt hinauf in Himmelsau'n,
wo Heldenväter niederschau'n,
und schwört mit stolzer Kampfeslust:
Du Rhein bleibst deutsch wie meine Brust!

He looks up to the meadows of heaven,
where ancient heroes glance down,
and swears with proud pugnacity:
You Rhine will remain German like my chest!

He casts his eyes to heaven's blue,
From where past heroes hold the view,
And swears pugnaciously the oath,
You Rhine and I, stay German, both.

4th stanza

Solang ein Tropfen Blut noch glüht,
noch eine Faust den Degen zieht,
und noch ein Arm die Büchse spannt,
betritt kein Feind hier deinen Strand!

As long as a drop of blood still glows,
a fist still draws the sword,
and one arm still holds the rifle,
no enemy will here enter your shore!

While still remains one breath of life,
While still one fist can draw a knife,
One gun still fired with one hand,
No foe will stand on this Rhine sand.

Additional stanza inserted between 4th and 5th (Also sometimes inserted between the 3rd and 4th stanza)

Und ob mein Herz im Tode bricht,
wirst du doch drum ein Welscher nicht.
Reich, wie an Wasser deine Flut,
ist Deutschland ja an Heldenblut!

And even if my heart breaks in death,
You'll never ever become foreign territory.
As rich in water is your flood,
is Germany in heroes' blood.

Should my heart not survive this stand,
You'll never fall in foreign hand,
Much, as your waters without end,
Have we our heroes' blood to spend.

5th stanza

Der Schwur erschallt, die Woge rinnt
die Fahnen flattern hoch im Wind:
Am Rhein, am Rhein, am deutschen Rhein
wir alle wollen Hüter sein.

The oath rings out, the billow runs
the flags wave high in the wind:
On the Rhine, on the German Rhine
we all want to be the guardian.

The oath resounds, on rolls the wave,
The banners fly high, proud, and brave,
The Rhine, the Rhine, the German Rhine
We all shall stand to hold the line!

Additional 7th stanza on war postcards of the First World War

So führe uns, du bist bewährt;
In Gottvertrau'n greif' zu dem Schwert!
Hoch Wilhelm! Nieder mit der Brut!
Und tilg' die Schmach mit Feindesblut!

So lead us, you are approved;
With trust in God, grab the sword!
Hail Wilhelm! Down with all that brood!
Erase the shame with foes' blood!

So lead us with your tried command,
With trust in God, take sword in hand,
Hail Wilhelm! Down with all that brood!
Repay our shame with the foes blood!

Usage in Germany

When Otto von Bismarck unified Germany by defeating Denmark, Austria and France "Die Wacht am Rhein" was the second hymn of the German Empire.[citation needed]

From World War I through 1945 the "Watch on the Rhine" was one of the most popular songs in Germany, almost rivaling the "Deutschlandlied" as the de-facto national anthem. The song's title was also used as the codename for the World War II German offensive in 1944 known today as the Battle of the Bulge.

The so-called German-French hereditary hostility ended in 1963 with the Elysée Treaty, so that the danger of a French invasion that loomed for centuries over Germany no longer existed. Today, the song has only historical significance in Germany and is rarely sung or played. However, singer Heino has performed it on a record.

The expression Er/sie hat einen Ruf wie Donnerhall is used for describing someone who has a very strong, intimidating reputation.

Wacht am Rhein Lyrics, under the Kaiser Relief.

The song's lyrics also appear on the 1883 Niederwalddenkmal monument located just outside of Rüdesheim am Rhein.

Stage and film

The song has figured in stage works and motion pictures.

The tune is quoted near the end of César Cui's opera Mademoiselle Fifi (composed 1902-1903), set in France during the Franco-Prussian War.

In Louis Milestone's 1930 film All Quiet on the Western Front, the song is played at the end of the first scene as schoolboys, whipped into a patriotic frenzy by their instructor, abandon their studies and head off to enlist in the military.

In Jean Renoir's 1937 film La Grande Illusion, the two songs were juxtaposed in exactly the same way as in Casablanca five years later. In the latter film, "Die Wacht am Rhein" was sung by German soldiers, who then were drowned out by exiled French singing the "Marseillaise" (which originally was the "War Song for the Army of the Rhine", written and composed at the Rhine). Originally the "Horst-Wessel-Lied" was slated to be used in the scene as the German song, since it was at that time part of the de facto national anthem of Nazi Germany. However, the producers realized that the "Horst Wessel Lied" was under copyright protection. While it would not have been a problem in the United States, the UK or other Allied nations, a copyright dispute would have hurt or prevented showings in neutral nations which still upheld German copyrights. Therefore the producers of Casablanca went with "Die Wacht am Rhein".

The song provides the title for Lillian Hellman's cautionary pre-World War II play Watch on the Rhine.

In the first and second part of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1980 epic film adaptation of Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz, Franz Biberkopf starts singing the song (as in the novel).

The title of John Ringo's Science Fiction novel "Watch on the Rhine" is derived from the song (the book's plot deals with cannibalistic alien hordes landing in France and then advancing towards Germany, which must quite literally try to maintain a Watch on the Rhine).

Adaptations as an alma mater

The tune for the alma mater of Yale University, "Bright College Years",[3] was taken from Carl Wilhelm's "Die Wacht am Rhein", with new lyrics written by Henry Durand, a "Grey Friar" in Wolf's Head Society, in 1881 to the "splendid tune".[4]

The tune is also used by School Of The Holy Spirit Of Quezon City (Philippines) for their Alma Mater Song, "SHS Hymn"

The tune was also used by Hotchkiss School for their hymn "Fair Hotchkiss"

The tune is also used by Doshisha University for its school song, "Doshisha College Song"[5]

See also


  1. ^ alternative: der deutsche Jüngling, fromm und stark
  2. ^ alternative: the German youth, pious, and strong
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ http://www.doshisha.ac.jp/information/fun/c_song/

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Wacht am Rhein — Die Wacht am Rhein ist der Name/Titel von: eines deutschen Liedes, siehe Die Wacht am Rhein (Lied) eines US amerikanischen Films, siehe Die Wacht am Rhein (Film) anderer Name der Ardennenoffensive im Zweiten Weltkrieg anderer Name für das… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Wacht am Rhein — can refer to:* Die Wacht am Rhein , a patriotic German song * , a German WWII offensive that resulted in the Battle of the Bulgeee also*Watch on the Rhine (disambiguation) …   Wikipedia

  • Wacht am Rhein — Wacht am Rhein, Titel eines patriotischen, von M. Schneckenburger 1840 gedichteten, von K. Wilhelm 1854 komponierten Liedes, das im deutsch französischen Krieg 1870/71 zu ungemeiner Popularität gelangte. Die Originalhandschrift des Liedes ist im… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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