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Horst-Wessel-Lied

by

Horst Wessel



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

In a report filed by the paper's Berlin correspondent the previous day, the September 18, 1930 issue of the London Times commented on young Nazi Party supporters who:
'...enthusiastically raise their arms in a Fascist salute to Herr Hitler [and] sing with fervour the "Horst Wessel song" (dedicated to a young Nazi leader shot by Communists some months ago)".

Horst Ludwig Wessel was born October 9, 1907, the son of a Lutheran minister, and entered the Humboldt University of Berlin to study law. He joined the Nazi Party in 1926 and became a prominent activist. On January 14, 1930, he was shot in the face on his own doorstep, and died in hospital six weeks later. A local communist was convicted of the shooting, and sentenced to a surprisingly lenient six years imprisonment, although he was executed after the Nazis came to power.

As well as a law student, Wessel was a musician, and the year before his death he wrote the lyrics to a new Nazi fight song called "Kampflied"; these were published in the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Angriff in September of that year as "Der Unbekannte SA-Mann" - in English "The Unknown SA-Man". Later it became known as "Die Fahne Hoch" and most appropriately as the "Horst-Wessel-Lied".

It is possible that Wessel wrote the music too, and was so credited by the Nazis, but it also is possible it was borrowed or (more likely) adapted from either an existing military song or a folk song, in particular "Der Abenteurer", although other sources have been suggested. Whatever the truth, the "Horst-Wessel-Lied" was first performed at Wessel's funeral.
Unsurprisingly, Wessel became a martyr for the National Socialist cause, and the song that he wrote or co-wrote became the unofficial second part of the German National Anthem, "Das Deutschlandlied". It was recognised as a national symbol by law on May 19, 1933. In 1934, a regulation required the right arm raised in a "Hitler salute" when the first and fourth verses were sung.

Equally unsurprisingly, "Comrades The Voices", the Anthem of the British Union of Fascists, was set to the melody of the "Horst-Wessel-Lied".

After the Second World War, the "Horst-Wessel-Lied" was banned in "democratic" Germany.
The "Horst-Wessel-Lied" is also known as "The Horst Wessel Song", "Horst Wessel Song", and "Die Fahne Hoch" (in English) "The Flag Up High". (thanks, Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3)
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