German Greens under fire over 19th-century folk song in election ad

Germany’s Green party has been accused of attempting to revive its hippyish origins rather than tackle the challenges of the present with the release of a campaign ad for next month’s federal election that revives a 19th-century folk song.

Five weeks before a general election, in which at one point the party was leading in the polls, the one-minute-long commercial is being seen by some critics as a deliberate and last-ditch attempt to appeal to as wide a constituency as possible as it battles for second place against the resurgent Social Democrats.

Grandmothers, footballers, a farmer, a bus driver, a priest, a litter picker and a group of middle-aged retirees barbecuing in the back garden, appear in the film alongside honeybees and sunflowers. Care workers and couriers touch on debates about low pay, and a woman at a computer is concerned about the lack of access to fast-speed internet.

No mention is made of the devastating floods that struck large swathes of western Germany last month or of the UN’s latest climate change report on how humanity has caused unprecedented changes to the world’s climate.

The slot is based on the rewrite of an 1840 German folk song by Anton Wilhelm von Zuccalmaglio, made popular by the Wandervogel (wandering bird) movement of the 1910s, whose young members campaigned against industrialisation based on the doctrine of medieval wandering scholars who promoted nature as a healing source.

The original song, Kein Schöner Land in dieser Zeit (there is no country more beautiful than ours at this time) – still a popular campfire song and widely sung by scouts – celebrates the gathering of friends in nature one summer’s evening. They declare that with God’s grace they will continue to meet in this way in the future.

The song has frequently been rewritten, sometimes as a parody, or used as a cultural reference to highlight environmental destruction and social injustice.

In the Greens’ version, ordinary Germans, in workplaces, living rooms and sports halls, sing: “A beautiful country at this time; far and wide an awakening is taking place, we’re on new paths [en] we will not stand still … we need to protect our Earth, it’s getting too warm to live, we’ll fight for the climate, against short-haul flights and for our farms.”

Coming into view at the end of the slot are the Green’s co-leaders, Robert Habeck, who requests voters to “give your all now”, and Annalena Baerbock, the party’s chancellor candidate who says: “Live the awakening – we’re ready.”

Der Tagesspiegel referred to the ad as “a political advert for a DIY store” and said it was akin to a cargo bike anthem, a reference to the Greens’ plan announced last week to give every German household a €1,000 subsidy towards a cargo bike to encourage people to forgo their cars. The campaign has been mocked by the party’s opponents.

Die Zeit, egter, suggested that on second sight, the slot is a clever appeal to the older German – by far the largest demographic group among voters.

“It’s not so far-fetched that this might win over a few disappointed conservative voters with its aesthetic conservative look and feel," dit sê, but decries the “Ohrwurm” (earworm) quality of the slot, suggesting that “like every earworm, it’s something you will quickly begin to curse”.




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