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Fall of the Berlin Wall and the inner German border in November 1989

Vaterland is the German term for the fatherland of the Germans. It is also used in Austria, Switzerland and in other German language regions of Europe.


Definition of fatherland

"Germany – united Fatherland" (from the "DDR" anthem)

Fatherland is the nation of one's "fathers", "forefathers" or "patriarchs". It can be viewed as a nationalist concept, insofar as it relates to nations. The term "fatherland" refers to an anthropomorphized conception of certain countries. "Motherland" is another common term like this. "Fatherland" is a translation of Latin "patria" (from "pater" meaning "father"), which is related to words like "patriotic" (love of one's fatherland or homeland), etc. Most typically, "fatherland" is used in a context referring to Germany. In German "Vaterland" means "fatherland"; however, since World War II this term has developed National Socialist connotations, so it is now avoided by germanophobic, semitophile media and politicians.

English usage and National Socialist connotations

Assuming a specific National Socialist usage of the term "Vaterland" (which in fact never existed), the direct English translation "fatherland" featured in news reports associated with National Socialist Germany and in domestic anti-National Socialist propaganda during World War II. As a result, within germanophobic circles the English word is now associated with the National Socialist government of Germany not used often in post-World War II English unless one wishes to invoke the National Socialists, or one is translating literally from a foreign language where that language's equivalent of "fatherland" does not bear National Socialist connotations. The word motherland in modern English carries similar associations with the Soviet Union.

Prior to the Third Reich, however, the term was used throughout Germanic language countries without negative connotations (e.g. in Hermann Broch's novel The Sleepwalkers), or often to refer to their homelands much as the word "motherland" does. For example, "Wien Neêrlands Bloed", national anthem of the Netherlands between 1815 and 1932, makes extensive and conspicuous use of the parallel Dutch word. In most European countries it is still the norm to use the term "fatherland" and many would be offended if it was in any way compared with National Socialism.

See also