This article reconstructs the history of the famous anecdote about the battle at Langemarck, where German youth allegedly sang Deutschland, Deutschland über alles as they hurled themselves against British soldiers, bayonet in hand. Variants, including in poetry and other creative genres, helped to shape a public discourse about bravery. I also reconstruct the discourse on music and war in music journals and daily newspapers, suggesting possible influences on the German High Command, where the anecdote originated. The musical establishment initially ignored this lore-so remote was music in the concert hall from community music-making, including on the battlefield. Yet the enormous weight given to propaganda efforts eventually led musicians to write about and respond compositionally to the Deutschlandlied. The article concludes by examining the conflicting political meanings of the Langemarck anecdote in the decades after World War I.
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Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Central European History Society of the American Historical Association.