Stephen Sedley speculates on links between How Great Thou Art, the Horst Wessel Song and Wernher von Braun’s contribution to the US space programme

Tim Radford’s review of The Earth Gazers by Christopher Potter (Review, 7 October) notes that the American astronaut Stuart Roosa played the hymn How Great Thou Art as his craft, Apollo 14, approached the moon. The review goes on to discuss the contribution of the ex-SS officer (and, in the view of many, war criminal) Wernher von Braun to the US space programme.

The two things may not be unconnected. The Nazi anthem known as the Horst Wessel Song, still banned in postwar Germany, has a tune that, if not derived from How Great Thou Art, closely resembles it. One wonders whether the choice of this particular hymn to play to a listening world was a simple error of judgment or something rather more unwholesome.
Stephen Sedley
Oxford

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