BERLIN — A multimillion-dollar campaign to boost Germans’ low self-confidence has backfired after it emerged that its slogan was coined by the Nazis.
The $34 million “Du Bist Deutschland — You Are Germany” — campaign was devised to inspire Germans to stop moaning and do something good for their country.
Beethoven, Einstein and the sports stars Franz Beckenbauer and Michael Schumacher have been cited in advertisements encouraging Germans to take more pride in their homeland.
But a historian from Ludwigshafen has provoked an uproar with his discovery that the same “Du Bist Deutschland” cry was used at Nazi rallies in the 1930s.
Stefan Morz uncovered photographs of a 1935 Nazi convention in which soldiers display a banner reading, in Gothic script, “Denn Du Bist Deutschland (Because You Are Germany).” The slogan was topped with the head of Adolf Hitler. Leading Nazis such as Hermann Goring and Joseph Goebbels attended the event.
“Every time I see the slogan ‘Du Bist Deutschland’ I am reminded of this rather disturbing parallel with the past,” said Mr. Morz, a historian and archivist.
Researchers have now set to work to discover how widespread the slogan was, even if most agree it was not one of the Nazis’ official mantras. Its intended effect then is believed to be similar to that of the modern version: “You have the potential to make this country great once again.”
The backers of the modern campaign, the brainchild of several blue-chip media companies, expressed shock at the discovery but quickly distanced themselves from the Third Reich connection.
Indeed, one of its aims is to release today’s Germans from the collective guilt and depression they still feel about the Nazi era, they said.
The project’s image has now been battered by that same legacy.
“We are not very happy,” said Lars Christian Cords, the campaign’s coordinator. “Our campaign stands for the values human dignity, democracy, respect of the individual and pluralism. ‘Du Bist Deutschland’ is a message to everyone that every one of us has a responsibility for the well-being and future of Germany.”
The campaign has been compared to the “I’m Backing Britain” campaign launched during the economic depression in the late 1960s.
Studies show that Germans are among the world’s most pessimistic and unhappy peoples. The gloom stems mainly from Germany’s economic woes and chronically high unemployment.