World Cup: BBC Commentator Apologizes After German Anthem Gaffe

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Steve Wilson referenced the old lyrics that haven't been used since the end of World War II and Nazi rule in Germany.

LONDON – A BBC soccer commentator has apologized for a gaffe during the Brazil-Germany semifinal on Tuesday night.

As the teams walked onto the pitch for the game, the commentator, Steve Wilson, told the audience on the U.K. public broadcaster's flagship TV network BBC One: "First you'll hear the German anthem "Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles," "Das Deutschland-Lied," and then Brazil's."‎

He made references to the lyrics during the match as well.

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Some viewers quickly criticized the comments on Twitter, pointing out that Wilson was referring to the anthem's old lyrics that haven't been used since 1945. The song became the country's anthem in 1922, but since the end of World War II and Nazi rule in Germany, only its third stanza has been used.

The third stanza's lyrics of "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit," or "unity and justice and freedom" in English, are Germany's national motto.‎

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The lyrics referenced by Wilson, which were the opening lines and refrain of the first stanza, mean "Germany, Germany above all." They were meant as a call for a unified and united country in the 1800s, but under Nazi rule the lyrics were used for propaganda purposes.

After the war, Germany was initially governed by the Allies and had no official anthem. When West and East Germany became independent states in 1949, initially West Germany had no official anthem. In 1951, "Das Deutschlandlied," or "Song of Germans," was reinstated as the anthem, but only the third stanza was used.

Among Twitter users criticizing Wilson on Tuesday night, one said: "BBC commentator Steve Wilson—are you sure the fans were singing 'Deutschland uber alles' and not 'Einigkeit und recht und...' #research."

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Tweeted another: "BBC Sport, the German national anthem is NOT Deutschland Uber Alles. And that's actually incredibly insulting, to them and many others."

Wilson ended up apologizing on Twitter. "If I upset anyone with my mistake on the German anthem, of course I apologize," he tweeted.

Twitter: @georgszalai