What happened during the summer of 2006 was not expected from anybody. Whenever Germany's soccer national team had played in previous World Cups, the German fans were always very shy about showing their patriotism. Too long had the pride for Germany been associated with the Nazis and showing the flag or singing the national anthem was seen as admitting that one was a Nazi. Even the national team would not sing the anthem on the field while it was playing. Knowing the lyrics was seen as so shameful that nobody would even think about it singing the anthem in public.
The beginning of 2006, my husband took me to a movie theatre on the army post he was stationed at in Germany. I hadn't been around too many Americans and knew little about their culture at that point. Before the movie started playing, the American national anthem was played (they do that on military bases) and everybody got up and hold their right hand to their hearts and sang with pride their anthem. I was like paralyzed and couldn't really understand what was going on. I was raised in post WWII Germany with no sense at all for patriotism and even the thought of somebody saying they were proud of being German made me sick to my stomach. Somebody singing so proud the anthem and even standing up, where everybody could see you, was unthinkable to me. My husband could not understand my reaction, neither could I understand his patriotism.
When the summer of 2006 came and with it the Wold Cup, which was hosted in Germany, everything changed. There was such an exictement about our country hosting such a big event. We wanted to represent our country in the best way. There was also some kind of movement in the younger generations, where out of nowhere it became fashionable to wear the colors of the German flag. Everything and everybody was is red, black and gold for months and the exitement grew the longer the national team stayed in the World Cup. Suddenly you could hear people singing the anthem on the streets, with big German flags in their hands. Something that had been unthinkable just a few years ago. I would have been to scared too get arrested (which has literally happened before, people getting arrested for singing the anthem). Their was a relief in the air that everybody could sense. We could finally show our colors again and sing the lyrics of our anthem on the top of our lungs.
I remember when the German national team made it to the semi- finals and Germany was almost bursting of patriotism. We were watching the game on a big screen on a market place in the middle of my town. There must have been at least 10.000 people. And before the game started everybody was cheering when our team entered the stadium and ligned up on the field. When the anthem started playing, and not only the national team but the 10.000 voices around me started singing the German national anthem, I had tears in my eyes.
The video shows the national soccer team singing the anthem with thousands of proud Germans in the audience.