Monday, May 16, 2005

Don't Mention The War...

DER SPIEGEL's correspondent in Britain has been asked "for a strongly worded polemic about the British obsession with Germany and the war". He delivered a fine piece (tough maybe wording strongly was too much at the expense of making distinctions), here is one quote:

Every German schoolchild knows the tales of German atrocities. But in England, Prince Harry parties with a swastika arm band. Eighty per cent of youngsters don't know what Auschwitz was about, but each one will be familiar enough with heroic films about the "Battle of Britain" to believe they had personally kicked the Hun up the backside.

Where does this giddy pride come from - and the lack of sensitivity toward the victims?

The Russians in the meantime consider us friends, even though they lost 25 million people in the fight against the Nazi horde. They respect us as a hard-working, peace-loving people who have emerged renewed from the devastation.

The British, who only survived thanks to the Russians and Americans, behave as if they had conquered Hitler's hordes single-handedly. And they continue to see us as Nazis, as if they had to refight the battles every evening. They are positively enchanted by this Nazi dimension.

(A less frequent but not milder version of this syndrome exists in the USA too; witness US pro-Democrat, pro-capitalist economist and blogger Brad DeLong's recent mad diatribe against Nobel laureate, onetime standard bearer of the post-war West German anti-fascist and rememberance movement, German novelist G√ľnter Grass: after Grass's attack on capitalism in a piece translated and reprinted by the NYT, DeLong manages to accuse him of being a "crypto-Nazi scum"...)

The author also refers to the silly discussion going on in Britain about the film Downfall, something I covered before.

And then he connects the recent rehabilitation of imperialism (Gordon Brown: "the days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over") to the present war that shouldn't be mentioned:

I believe the official British triumphalism has to do with the Iraq war. If you continuously inflate your self importance with memories of grandeur in the Second World War, if you endlessly replay your "finest hour", you will have a distorted view of the moral problems of today.

A Britain which assumes itself too much in possession of all virtue has dangerously self-aggrandising features. Through deception and manoeuvrings you can find yourself going into a war that breaks international law and costs thousands of innocent civilian lives - simply because of an uncritical faith in an historic mission. For Tony Blair, it seems to me, "Rule Britannia" applies to the moral sphere as well.


At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey. I'm British and I believe there is definetly some truth in what is being said.

However, Prince Harry is an idiot and not all British youngsters walk around with a swastika on an armband. Id say that most youngsters do know about Auschwitz and the holocaust. The British definetly see strength as superiority, and when the germans did come close to defeating britain, we were proud.

We don't believe we beat germany single-handedly, we all know we couldnt have won without the support of our allies, we might have made a stalemate over the english channel, but we did not have the strength to win the war alone, and I'd admit that. The British also see the good side of germany. Whilst we are aware of Germanys past, we also compliment the germans by saying they are very effiencient and generally nice people. The germans i talk to all seem nice.

Iraq is a problem though. Although the cause for war was just, the mistakes came later and Tony Blair could have done better.

I dont think we stereotype the germans in the way you said we did though.


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