The rediscovery of democratic traditions of folk song in Germany after the Second World War was not just the counter-reaction of singers and academics to the misuse of German folk song by the Nazis. Such a shift to a more ‘progressive’ interpretation and promotion of folk tradition at that time was not distinct to Germany and had already taken place in other parts of the Western world. After firstly examining the relationship between folk song and national ideologies in the nineteenth century, this article will focus on the democratic ideological basis on which the 1848 revolutionary song tradition was reconstructed after the Third Reich. It will look at how the New Social Movements of West Germany and the folk scene of the GDR functioned in providing channels of transmission for this, and how in this process a collective cultural memory was created whereby lost songs – such as those of the 1848 Revolution – could be awakened from extinction. These processes will be illustrated by textual and musical adaptations of key 1848 songs such as ‘Badisches Wiegenlied’ (Baden Lullaby), ‘Das Blutgericht’ (The Blood Court) and ‘Trotz alledem’ (For all that) within the context of the West German folk movement and its counterpart in the GDR.