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Euro 2008 TV chiefs apologise over Nazi lyrics

TV chiefs have apologised after broadcasting the Nazi lyrics to the German national anthem during a Euro 2008 match.

Stunned viewers were asked to sing along to the war-time 'Deutschland über alles' song which has been banned for 63 years.

The German national Anthem 'Das Lied der Deutschen' was written by poet Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841 to the music of Jospeh Hayden's composition for Emperor Francis II.

The song expressed the desire for a democratic state and national unity at a time when Germany was divided into hundreds of principalities.

The song was selected as the national anthem in 1922. After the Nazis came to power, the parts of the song with nationalist desires were used as propaganda. After the war, the first two stanzas were dropped and the country used only the third stanza, which focuses on the desire for a democratic and free Germany.

Bosses at Swiss station SF2 blame the outrage on researchers who copied the lyrics of the first stanza from the internet before Germany's match with Austria.

"It is beyond belief that anyone could fail to know that this would be massively offensive to everyone who heard it," said one fan.

"The last time that version was broadcast there were Panzer tanks in the streets and swastikas flying from public buildings," they added.

Not only were the lyrics broadcast on live TV but they were beamed to scores of giant telly screens in fanzones around the country.

"People couldn't believe their ears. The only people who sing this version are the neo-Nazis. It's completely illegal and very shameful for German people," said a German fan.

Thousands of viewers are understood to have called in protesting about the Nazi lyrics. And angry fans in the fanzones booed and threw beer and food at the giant screens.

"They were very angry. Feelings run high at big matches and it doesn't take much to push fans over the top," said one observer.

The lyrics - which start 'Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt" ("Germany, Germany, above everything else in this world") - were banned at the end of World War II.

Only the third verse is now sung to avoid promoting Nazi ideals under Germany's anti-fascist laws.

Telly executive Gion Linder, whose department provided the lyrics, said: "This was a profound mistake and we know there is no excuse. But we deeply apologise for it. I hope such a mistake never happens again."

But station bosses have refused to sack or identify the researchers responsible.

Instead they will be sent for special lessons in the holocaust and German history.

"That is a very good idea," said Mr Linder.

Switzerland has been criticised by historians for its attitude to Nazis.

Although the country was technically neutral in World War II many Nazi party leaders stashed their stolen loot in Swiss banks and fled there after the collapse of the Third Reich.

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