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Germany

Chilean president apologizes for Nazi-linked guest-book gaffe

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has apologized after writing a phrase associated with Nazism in the guest book of German President Christian Wulff. Pinera said he was unaware of the link to the Third Reich.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera

Pinera was visiting Germany as part of a tour of Europe

The president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, apologized on Monday for writing a message linked to Nazism in the guest book of German President Christian Wulff.

Pinera said he had been unaware of the significance that the phrase " Deutschland ueber alles" ("Germany over all") now has within Germany.

"I was not at all aware that this phrase was associated with the dark past of the country, and therefore I am sorry," Pinera said from Santiago after returning from a tour of Europe.

Pinera wrote the phrase in the presidential guest book on Saturday, while visiting Wulff's office towards the end of his trip abroad.

The Chilean miner rescue effort

The Chilean leader became better known during the country's rescue of miners trapped underground

The words come from the "Deutschlandlied," which has long been used as Germany's national anthem. However, the lyrics from the first verse, in which " Deutschland ueber alles" is sung, became associated with the Nazi era and were removed after the Second World War.

Learned phrase as a boy

The Chilean leader said he learned the phrase as a boy at a German school, of which Chile has many, in the 1950s and 1960s. He said that he had thought it was associated with the unification of Germany under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the 19th century.

Pinera said the note he wrote was intended as a message of thanks to Germany for help and support offered during the devastating Chilean earthquake in February as well during the rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground earlier this month.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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