Pinera said he wrote the phrase "Deutschland über alles" (Germany above all) in a book signed by visitors to the office of the German president.
"I simply was unaware that phrase could be linked to a dark history of that country, and as such, I apologize, and ask for forgiveness on this case," Pinera said.
Pinera said that after he met with his German counterpart Christian Wulff, and wrote a message of thanks for German help after Chile's major earthquake, that he repeated a phrase he had learned at a German school as a boy in the 1950s and 60s.
He said he understood the phrase was from the era of Bismarck and German unification, but did not know it was associated with the Nazis.
The phrase “Deutschland über alles” is the first line of the original lyrics to the German national anthem, known as Das Deutschlandlied. The music was written by Joseph Haydn in 1797, and the lyrics were penned by August Heinrich Hoffmann in 1841.
It became the official German anthem in 1922. The Nazis used only the first stanza of the song, and due to this association post-WWII German leaders chose to make only the third stanza part of the official anthem.