Merkel rejects plea to make national anthem gender-neutral

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron listen to national anthems during a ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Angela Merkel does not want Germany’s national anthem to be changed, her spokesman said after a member of the chancellor’s Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partner said words such as “fatherland” and “brotherland” should be made gender neutral.

The SPD’s Kristin Rose-Moehring, equality commissioner for Germany since 2001, wrote to family ministry staff to suggest striking male-specific references in the “Song of Germany”, which has been Germany’s national anthem since 1922, media reported on Sunday.

The reports surfaced shortly before the SPD announced that two-thirds of its members had voted in favor of joining an alliance with Merkel’s conservatives, with whom they have been in power since 2013. That paves the way for a new government under Merkel to start work in mid-March.

Rose-Moehring proposed replacing “Vaterland” (fatherland) in the anthem with “Heimatland” (homeland) and ditching “brotherly with heart and hand” in favor of “courageously with heart and hand”.

But Merkel deems any such tweaks unnecessary.

“The chancellor is very happy with our nice national anthem as it is in its traditional form and doesn’t see any need for change,” spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular news conference on Monday.

A spokesman for the family ministry said Rose-Moehring’s letter had been a personal proposal and he could not comment on it, especially as it was an internal letter to employees at the family ministry.

The first stanza of the anthem, which declares “Germany, Germany above all else” - reflecting efforts to unify Germany in the 19th century - and the second, with its refrain of “German women, German loyalty, German wine and German song” were officially dropped in 1991 following reunification.

Reporting by Michelle Martin and Andrea Shalal, Editing by William Maclean