I understand this proverb literally, but I want to know what is its usage or under which situation someone says this proverb in German? (Even though, if someone also could say its English equivalent I would be more grateful):

Wenn der Baum gefallen ist, so macht ein jeder Holz.

  • 4
    I seem to remember this to be a French proverb. "Quand l'arbre est tombé, tout le monde court aux branches." Never heard it in German, though.
    – tofro
    Jan 4, 2017 at 23:42
  • It is very likely that it may have originated in France and then got germanized over time. Both countries/ regions share a very close history after all. Following this thought, this proverb might be more prevalent in the west of Germany. (Which would explain why I never have heard it in the central and east regions.) Pure speculation though.
    – fer-rum
    Jan 5, 2017 at 10:29

2 Answers 2


The (nearly) literal translation would be

When the tree has fallen, everyone will chop the wood

(not word by word, but retains the meaning)

What it is supposed to say is that when something big collapses or comes to an end (e.g. a company, a kingdom, someone's career) people will come and take the remains apart, scavenge what is left, make profit on the disaster (e.g. retract their shares from the company, divide up the kingdom, apply for the other persons job).

However, I have never encountered this before, so I guess it is a more regional proverb. The source might be helpful here.

  • 4
    It is quite simple symbolism. German has quite a bunch of proverbs and most of them are far more convoluted and "mysterious".
    – fer-rum
    Jan 4, 2017 at 17:01
  • 1
    @CarstenS: Ich weiß wirklich nicht, was du von der Antwort noch verlangst, sie ist klar und eindeutig, dieser Satz ist genau so zu interpretieren. Gerne Quellen, aber wohl kaum in diesem Fall. JM2C
    – Thomas
    Jan 4, 2017 at 22:54
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    @CarstenS: Jedes Sprichwort hat sicher Deutungsspielräume, selbst wenn die AutorIn bekannt sein sollte, so wird sie selten eine Interpretation gegeben haben. "ein jeder" ist hier eher abfällig gemeint, der implizite Singular suggeriert hier Egoismus, sich eben nicht am Fällen beteiligt zu haben. Ein anderer Satz könnte so lauten: "Ist der Baum gefallen, machen alle Holz." Würde ich eher als positiv empfinden und u.U. darauf hinweisen, daß es notwendig war ihn oder etwas anderes zu fällen/beseitigen, wovon alle nur Vorteil haben. Aber wie schon gesagt, auch das ist sicher Ansichtssache.
    – Thomas
    Jan 4, 2017 at 23:22

This proverb is the translation of the greek proverb "δρυὸς πεσούσης πᾶς ἀνὴρ ξυλεύεται" by Menandros (Μένανδρος, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 123). The (almost) literal translation is: "When the oak falls, every man cuts/gathers wood." Source (as proposed by @marquinho): Liddell-Scott: https://lsj.gr/wiki/%ce%be%cf%85%ce%bb%ce%b5%cf%8d%cf%89


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