Bodo Ramelow, who is the state premier of Thuringia, said many Germans could not identify with the current anthem, Deutschlandlied or Song of Germany, which was composed by Joseph Haydn in 1797.
Ramelow, who belongs to the Left party (Die Linke) said now was a good time to change the anthem, since the country will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this year, which led to German reunification the following year in 1990.
In an interview with the Rheinische Post where he discussed a variety of issues, Ramelow said many Germans from the former communist east did not join in the singing of the current anthem, even 30 years after reunification with the west.
He added: “I would like us to have a collective national anthem. This wish has unfortunately only ever caused an outcry of indignation.”
Ramelow said he himself sings along to the anthem in its modern form but says it still brings to his mind images of the “Nazi marches from 1933 to 1945”.
He suggested the country could find a new “catchy” text “that everybody can identify with and say: 'That is mine.'”
The German national anthem as it is now sung consists of the third verse of the Deutschlandlied by 19th-century poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben. The verse begins with the words “Unity and justice and freedom for the German fatherland.”
The Nazis sang only the first verse of the text, which began with: “Germany, Germany above all, above all in the world.”
However, Ramelow's call provoked a strong reaction.
CSU Secretary General Markus Blume said: “Hands off our national anthem,” the Rheinische Post reported.
“If Mr Ramelow of the Left Party's SED (the Socialist Unity Party of the former East Germany) successors has a problem with unity and justice and freedom, then he should reconsider his attitude, but not change our national anthem,” he added.
Interessant, wie unterschiedlich die Emotionen bei unserer #Nationalhymne sind. Ich verbinde mit ihr die friedl. Revolution, Helmut Kohl & die Dt. Einheit. Die Hymne steht für die wechselvolle Geschichte unseres Landes & muss deshalb bleiben. https://t.co/urDuC2pC6J
— Michael Kretschmer (@MPKretschmer) May 9, 2019
Meanwhile, the satirist and television presenter Jan Böhmermann said he had an idea on the back of the Thuringian premier's wish.
On Twitter Böhmermann proposed that the German broadcaster ZDF run a national anthem competition.
— Jan Böhmermann ??? (@janboehm) May 9, 2019
Call for gender-neutral anthem
Last year Kristin Rose-Möhring, equality commissioner in the Federal Family Ministry, said it was high time that Germany changed the wording of its national anthem to make it more gender equal.
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 German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
“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.”