- By Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet.
Talk about a diplomatic double fault. The U.S. Tennis Association had to apologize after playing a Nazi-era version of the German anthem.
The embarrassing gaffe occurred at the the opening of the Fed Cup in Hawaii, before a first-round match between America’s Alison Riske and Germany’s Andrea Petkovic. A local opera singer sang the German anthem using an outdated verse widely synonymous with the Nazi era: “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles, uber alles in der Welt.”
The verse, which translates to “Germany, Germany, above all, above all in the world,” was scrapped after World War II because of its affiliation with Adolf Hitler’s rule. Apparently no one warned the Fed Cup organizers.
You can watch the cringe-worthy moment here, with some stunned-looking German players and fans trying to recover for the remainder of the anthem:
The German team was furious. “I thought it was the epitome of ignorance, and I’ve never felt more disrespected in my whole life, let alone in Fed Cup,” Petkovic said. She said she even considered walking off the court before the match. A stunned German tennis coach Barbara Ritter called the error “an absolute scandal, a disrespectful incident, and inexcusable.”
The USTA issued a statement extending “its sincerest apologies” to the German team and fans. “In no way did we mean any disrespect. This mistake will not occur again,” the statement said.
It also tweeted an apology, reiterating it wouldn’t happen again. The German Tennis Federation’s reply hinted it may not be over the gaffe quite yet:
The German anthem now begins with the more palatable and way less historically-weighted “Unity and justice and freedom.”
After exchanging profuse apologies, the U.S. team beat Germany, and will now challenge the Czech Republic in the semifinals, with both a hard-won win and a hard-won diplomatic lesson under its belt.
Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images