The National Anthem of Austria is what every child has to learn in 5th grade, yet I seem to be the only one who knows all 3 verses.
On April 9, 1946 the Austrian Federal Government advertised a competition for the text of a new national anthem. It was to be “a song of hymn-like character paying tribute in words and music to the new Austrian federal state and its people both at home and abroad.” Agreement was soon reached on the melody, which was drawn from a masonic cantata (K 623a) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The work, supposedly dating from the last year of Mozart's life, is now thought by many musicologists to be falsely attributed to Mozart.
More than 1,800 entries were submitted for the new anthem's text. In the final selection barely thirty remained. These included entries by the distinguished contemporary writers Alexander Lernet-Holenia (1897-1976), Rudolf Henz (1897-1987) and Franz Theodor Csokor (1885-1969). The winner of the first prize would receive the sum of ten thousand Schillings, a considerable amount in those days. At the same time several leading political figures in the cultural field informally contacted other well-known authors with a view to encouraging them to participate in the competition. Fritz Molden (*1924), a resistance fighter who later became a journalist and then a publisher, recalls that Education Minister Felix Hurdes (1901-1974) persuaded his mother, the writer Paula von Preradovic (1887-1951) - herself the grand-daughter of the Croatian national poet Petar von Preradovic (1818-1872) - to submit an entry for the competition. Molden was summarising the widespread views of the age on the issue of a national anthem when he wrote: “The Federal Government had reluctantly concluded that the fine old Haydn anthem, which had survived revolutions and wars and was still being sung with the engaging Kernstock text when I was a boy, could no longer be used. For the Deutschlandlied, the anthem of the Third Reich, had employed the same melody, so that the whole world inevitably associated it with Hitler and regarded it as the Nazi hymn.”
Paula von Preradovic, who was busy working on a new novel, had little time to spare for her entry, and Education Minister Hurdes had to jog her memory several times. When her unaffected, artlessly affecting lines did finally reach the jury - made up of literary figures, musicians and politicians - they awarded Preradovic's text the highest points. To facilitate the decision, the entries in the final round were read by the popular actor Oskar Werner (1922-1984), who was renowned for his unmistakable voice. On February 25, 1947 the cabinet issued a decision declaring the new national anthem to consist of Paula von Preradovic's text and the melody from Mozart's masonic cantata. The text was never published in the official Legal Gazette but appeared in the March 22, 1947 issue of Die Presse newspaper. A fortnight previously the anthem had been played on the radio. It established its popularity relatively fast, although the melody was considerably more complex than that of the Haydn anthem had been.
When Education Minister Hurdes reported to the cabinet on the outcome of the competition, the cabinet passed a motion - at the instigation of the Federal President - that in the course of state treaty negotiations Austria should insist that “Germany be prohibited from using the Haydn anthem because it is a long-standing Austrian cultural asset”.
In 1992 the two sons of the poetess Paula von Preradovic, encouraged by the introduction of more stringent international copyright laws, sued the Republic of Austria for royalties. Three years later their case was dismissed on the grounds that prize money of ten thousand Schillings had been paid at the time.
There follows a prose translation of the text of the Austrian national anthem:
Land of mountains, land on the river,
Land of fields, land of cathedrals,
Land of hammers, rich in outlook.
You are the native home of great sons,
A people uniquely gifted for the beautiful,
Fiercely embattled, ferociously contested,
You lie at the centre of Europe,
Like a strong heart.
Since the days of your early ancestors
You have borne the burden of a sublime calling,
Courageously we stride
Into the new times, free and devout,
Industrious and of firm heart.
In unison choruses of brotherhood
We pledge our allegiance to thee, Fatherland,
Land der Berge, Land am Strome,
Land der Äcker, Land der Dome,
Land der Hämmer, zukunftsreich.
Heimat, bist du großer Söhne,
Volk, begnadet für das Schöne,
Heiß umfehdet, wild umstritten,
liegst dem Erdteil du inmitten,
einem starken Herzen gleich.
Hast seit frühen Ahnentagen
hoher Sendung Last getragen,
Mutig in die neuen Zeiten
frei und gläubig sieh uns schreiten
arbeitsfroh und hoffnungsreich.
Einig laß in Bruderchören,
Vaterland, dir Treue schwören,