My New Favourite Person, Matthias Matussek, a journalist for Der Spiegel magazine, wrote recently in the Guardian’s Germany special:
It was after repeated futile complaints about the primitive image of Germany cultivated by the English (as Nazis and frozen-faced engineers), that a plan was hatched by a group of German politicians and diplomats, among them my brother, Thomas, who was, until March, German envoy to Britain. What if they flew in a few English history teachers and wined and dined them like little potentates at the government’s expense? If, after their stay, the teachers knew more about Heine’s poems, Claudia Schiffer’s golden tresses, Beethoven’s symphonies, Humboldt’s adventures, Willy Brandt’s biography and, ja, if we must, notorious “pop idol” judge Dieter Bohlen (Germany’s answer to Simon Cowell) – the good news would gradually filter down to the pupils.
Nearly two dozen teachers were invited to Berlin, Dresden and Bonn. They resided in five-star hotels, attended the opera, sauntered around the Reichstag, and – as emissaries of not just England but Britain – exchanged platitudes with representatives of the German nation. This red-carpet treatment cost German taxpayers some €52,000 (£35,000).
And what did the rotters do? They spurned all the attention as though it were some kind of indecent proposition. “It wasn’t a great experience,” a paper quoted one teacher, Peter Liddell, as saying. At the opera, the woman next to him nodded off, he reported. They went along for the ride. But that wouldn’t change the curriculum, which – after all – calls for Hitler, Hitler and more Hitler. A colleague summed it up for the record: “Nazis are sexy. Evil is fascinating.”
There are three simple lessons here. One: the British have zero interest in the new Germany. Two: the British have zero interest in the old Germany. Three: the British are interested only in Nazi Germany.
And that, I would say, is not a German problem, but a British one.
Gut gesagt! I’d imagine that in the Rwanda-Somalia-Cultural Revolution style chaos of the British Secondary School Classroom, amidst the shouting and the stabbing and the smoke, the teacher is comforted by the fact that there is always a magic word which will make the students shut up, sit down and pay attention. That word is ‘Hitler’.
If you denken daran it, many of our most common popular cultural references are about the war and not liking Germans – Fawlty Towers, Alo Alo, that episode of Monty Python and so weiter. Which is why the Guardian chose to illustate the Speziell about the New Germany with pictures from Fawlty Towers, Alo Alo. etc. There was a very interesting snippet about how Lederhosen are only ever worn in Munich for Speziell(e?) Occasions – which apparently have nothing whatsoever to do with Kristelnacht (which is not German for Christmas, as I once thought). The front page had a lovely picture of a couple wearing – Lederhosen.
The best thing about the article is that he makes absolutely no apology for being German, but tells us what he, after a couple of years living here, actually thinks of the place:
Nothing can reinflate the downtrodden British spirit more swiftly than the implication that it is an empire. That Germany is now faring badly affords momentary relief. As does the fact that Britain is doing so splendidly – if you ignore filthy, life-threatening hospitals, derailed trains, teenage alcoholism, impoverished senior citizens and absurd per-capita debt, of course. So splendidly, in fact, that it has adopted the same smug self-righteousness we saw in the Germany of the 1950s, the era of the economic miracle.
With their daily diet of car and homebuyer shows on the telly and Better Cooking, Better Living, Better Shopping programmes, the British, after long years of frugality, are now imitating the inane German Mercedes drivers and hungover boozers of caricaturist infamy from the reconstruction years.
Ah, das schmeckt sehr gut. Und now … unsere Weltmeisterschaft!