I recently listened to a group of recordings of World War II songs I had gotten years ago on a CD. One of them was Horst Wessel Lied, a title I had never heard of, but I recognized the tune immediately. Horst Wessel was an early Nazi martyr, and Horst Wessel Lied is literally “The Horst Wessel Song.” It became the anthem of the Nazi party, and unofficially of Germany, itself, during the Third Reich.
The version I have with a full men’s chorus, orchestra, and drums is the most inspiring song I have ever heard, at least until I learned of its origin. I wondered why I felt a strange desire to goose-step up and down my street with arm held high shouting, “Sieg heil!”
The tune, I learned from the Internet, is from a northern European folksong. The familiar How Great Thou Art, has similar phrasing and was clearly taken from one or the other. An inspiring tune is inspiring no matter what the words.
My son pointed out that it probably sounded so familiar to me because about twenty years ago it was the theme song of the first 3D computer game, Castle Wolfenstein, where you were an American soldier attempting to shoot your way out of the castle’s maze of rooms and corridors. This genre of computer game has morphed into innumerable variations and today is probably the most popular type of game. Even now I could find my way around the castle.
You can hear Horst Wessel Lied at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYIU09o1gsI, but don’t blame me if you get carried away.