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The Horst Wessel Song

Horst Wessel was born September 9, 1907, in Bielefeld, Germany. Wessel dropped out of law school and defied his mother by joining the Nazis, becoming an SA storm trooper. He lived in a Berlin slum with a former prostitute. On February 23, 1930, someone (different accounts say it was a political enemy, the woman's former boyfriend, or perhaps her pimp) broke into Wessel's apartment and mortally wounded him.

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis' propaganda chief, claimed Wessel was murdered by a Communist, and made him a martyr in the party's struggle with their Communist opponents. Wessel was given an elaborate funeral, which was interrupted by stone-throwing Communists. The murder and reaction helped turn public opinion in favor of the Nazis and against the Communists.

A poem Wessel had written was put to music and became the marching song of the SA and later the official song of the Nazi Party and unofficial national anthem of Germany.

Hold high the banner! Close the hard ranks serried! [crowded]
SA marches on with sturdy stride.
Comrades, by Red Front and Reaction killed, are buried,
But march with us in image at our side.

Gangway! Gangway! Now for the Brown battalions!
For Storm Troopers clear road o'er land!
The Swastika gives hope to our entranced millions,
The day for freedom and for bread's at hand.

The trumpet blows its shrill and final blast!
Prepared for war and battle here we stand.
Soon Hitler's banners will wave unchecked at last,
The end of German slav'ry in our land.

Source: Louis Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich Marlowe & Co., 1997.