Unsere Besten

Unsere Besten ("Our Best") was a television series shown in German public television (ZDF) in November 2003, similar to the BBC series 100 Greatest Britons[1] and that program's spin-offs.

In subsequent years, a dozen similar rankings were compiled, mostly titled the "favourite (topic) of the Germans", with topics including books, places, songs, actors, comedians, sports persons (extra list for football players), inventions, and TV broadcasts (extra list for Olympic games).

Greatest Germans

The intention initially was to find out "Who are the greatest Germans?" (Wer sind die größten Deutschen?), with more rankings to follow later. The German public was allowed to vote (via postcard, SMS or Internet) for the most important Germans—historical or contemporary—from a list of more than 300 people, plus additional suggestions.

This pre-determined list of candidates was created for two reasons:

  1. to exclude controversial figures from certain eras of German history, like Adolf Hitler and Erich Honecker;
  2. to decide beforehand who was to be considered as "German" in the first place, due to the complications of German history and its changing frontiers, which could have excluded such people as Mozart and Romy Schneider (Austria) or Albert Schweitzer (France).

However, the inclusion of Nikolaus Kopernikus,[2] who spoke and wrote German, in the list of scientists[3] caused controversy in Poland where he is revered as a national hero – the Polish Senate declared[4] him an "exceptional Pole" on 12 June 2003. Similarly the inclusion of Mozart and Freud was criticized in Austria.

For the final Top Ten, an additional round was held, in which each candidate was promoted by an "ambassador" (most of them journalists) that would explain the work and importance of his or her favourite.

There was controversy over the televoting because of the high call charges associated with the programme.[5]

The final list appeared as shown below (in descending order). Several rather unknown figures ranked relatively high, no doubt because of temporary popularity and organized votes from fan groups (#15), or in case of #125, just an entry by organized Internet forum members to honour one of their members.

Top 10

Rank Personality Notability Nomination defended by
1 Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F078072-0004, Konrad Adenauer Konrad Adenauer Chancellor, admired for making post-war Germany a democratic nation again and a political and economical power. Guido Knopp, journalist and author
2 Martin Luther, 1529 Martin Luther Priest, theologian and Protestant Reformer. Margot Käßmann, theologian
3 Karl Marx 001 Karl Marx Writer, economist and philosopher. Founder of scientific socialism. Gregor Gysi, politician
4 Sophie Scholl
Sophie Scholl and Hans Scholl Activists, members of the White Rose movement, an anti-Nazi resistance group during World War Two. Alice Schwarzer, journalist
5 Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F057884-0009, Willy Brandt Willy Brandt Chancellor, implemented the Ostpolitik and admired for his pacifist policies and official public apologies for Germany's war past. Received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971. Friedrich Nowottny, journalist
6 Johann Sebastian Bach Johann Sebastian Bach Composer. Creator of Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, Matthaus Passion, Johannes Passion and Brandenburg Concertos. His works are still performed and beloved all over the world. Götz Alsmann, TV presenter and singer
7 Goethe (Stieler 1828) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Poet, novelist and playwright, author of The Sorrows of Young Werther and Faust; widely admired as the most important and influential German-language author of all time. Peter Sodann, actor, director and politician
8 Gutenberg Johannes Gutenberg Printer. Inventor of movable type printing in Europe. Wolf von Lojewski, journalist
9 Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2005-0057, Otto von Bismarck Otto von Bismarck General and chancellor, admired for the unification of the German state. Helmut Markwort, journalist.
10 Albert Einstein (Nobel) Albert Einstein Theoretical physicist, discovered the general theory of relativity and the law of the photoelectric effect. Hailed for his pacifist stance. Received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Nina Ruge, journalist, TV presenter and novelist.


  1. ^ ""Best Germans: Adenauer Beats Marx and Luther", About.com, 28/11/03". Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  2. ^ Nikolaus Kopernikus, Unsere Besten, ZDF (in German)
  3. ^ "Wissenschaft", Usere Besten, ZDF (in German)
  4. ^ Druk nr 417 12 czerwca 2003 r. Archived 14 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine [1] Archived 14 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Neuer Ärger um TV-Show Unsere Besten – Telefon-Abzocke beim ZDF" by Marcus Stölb, Der Spiegel, 8 August 2003 (in German)]

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