Song of Hatred against England

Machine-typed: Lissauer, Song of Hatred
Ernst Lissauer, Song of Hatred against England, machine-typed, 1914
German National Library

Song of Ha­tred against Eng­land

The throttling hatred of seventy million,
They love in union, they hate in union,
They all have only one enemy:

Ernst Lissauer, Song of Hatred against England, 1914

Ernst Lissauer initially published the Haßgesang [Song of Hatred] in August 1914 in the Dammeck’schen Korrespondenz. Sometime later the poem was disseminated along with two others on the flyer Worte in die Zeit. Flugblätter 1914 von Ernst Lissauer […] Erstes Blatt, so that the reception of the work grew dramatically because of the reproduction. 

The author himself described the desired effect of his text in the flyer of 1914: because it was not possible for him to join the fighting, he wanted to contribute with words to the unity of the German people. It was not about “power and supremacy”, but rather the “preservation and impact of German culture”. 

The Song of Hatred became the most popular war poem of the first months of the war. It was reproduced countless times. The head of the Bavarian Army, Crown Prince Rupprecht, had the text distributed to his soldiers. Even Stefan Zweig and Karl Kraus mentioned the poem in their famous works Memoirs of a European and The Last Days of Mankind. Lissauer ultimately received the Order of the Red Eagle, 4th class, for his text. 

Criticism of the Song of Hatred was being expressed in Germany as early as 1915. After the enthusiasm of August 1914 had subsided, Lissauer was accused by anti-Semitic propagandists, including Houston Steward Chamberlain, of “Jewish hatred”. But other contemporaries also condemned Lissauer’s hymn of hate as propaganda and incitement. 

Lissauer himself relativized the issue in 1919, when he wrote: "I have never given cause to claim that I fundamentally acknowledge and preach national hatred as a world view […] and everything that I have written since the Song of Hatred and hope to yet write should suffice to balance out that poem, even in the eyes of neutrals and former enemies" (quoted in: Rainer Brändle, Am wilden Zeitenspaß, 2002). 

For the rest of his life, however, Lissauer could not dissociate himself from the Song of Hatred. Decades later, the name Ernst Lissauer could not be mentioned without thinking of the four verses from August 1914.