Kristin Rose-Möhring, equality commissioner in the Federal Family Ministry, believes it is high time that Germany changes the wording of its national anthem to make it more gender equal, newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported.
The word Vaterland (fatherland) should be replaced by Heimatland (home land) and the word brüderlich (brotherly) should be replaced by couragiert (courageous), she suggested in an internal government letter seen by the tabloid.
“Why don't we make our national anthem, das Deutschlandlied, gender equal? Rose-Möhring reportedly wrote. “It wouldn’t really hurt and it would befit the recent establishment of a ministry for building and the homeland.”
If Germany were to rewrite its famous national anthem, it would not be the first country do do so. Neighbouring Austria has already changed the words “home of great sons” to “home of great sons and daughters” in its anthem. Canada has also recently made its anthem more gender equal.
But the German commissioner's suggestion was slapped down by Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose spokesman Steffen Seibert said she is “satisfied with the current anthem”.
Julia Kloeckner of Merkel's CDU party also opposed the suggestion, saying: “I would have thought that other things were more important for women than changing the national anthem.”
And the general secretary of the CDU, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, likewise said she saw no need for change.
“I am an emancipated woman and I never felt excluded by this anthem,” she said.
The far-right Alternative for Germany also hit out on Twitter, saying: “We will not yield our fatherland!”
Debates surrounding German identity have become hot potato issues as the anti-immigration AfD seize on the theme to win over voters fed up with the more than one million asylum seekers who arrived in Germany since 2015.
The party also recently called for German to be inscribed in the constitution as the country's official language.
The text of the German national anthem is based on a poem written in 1841 by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, sung to a melody composed at the end of the 18th century by Joseph Haydn.
The online reactions to Rose-Möhring’s suggestion were varied.
One user on Twitter wrote “national anthem goes female too… Hopefully… made my day.”
— Cornelia Spachtholz (@Spachtholz_C) March 5, 2018
The conservative Die Welt columnist Henryk Broder also ironically commented that he was pleased with the suggestion, saying that “if that is a real problem that this country faces, then we can be happy.”
He added however that making the national anthem was “complete madness.”