21 April, 2011

Don't Mention the War

One of the most well-known & well-loved British comedy sketches ever, but why? What is the British preoccupation with Germany & "the War" (two in fact).

I am by no means slighting the significance of both the First World War & the Second World War, I think in both instances they are an incredibly important part of British, European & world history but why are so many British people still hung up about the fact that Germany tried to invade?

As a student studying in Germany I've met a lot of German people, all of whom have been friendly & welcoming. If anything they have relished the fact that they are able to communicate with a British person. Never once has anyone ever mentioned "the War". In fact a German friend of mine was recently completely taken aback when we discussed the prejudice that English people still have towards Germans. During the World Cup last summer I watched the England v Germany game in a pub in the North East & discovered some England supporters there in full England replica kits but with a twist. One supporter had a stenciled picture of Hitler + F.T.G. (Fuck The Germans) on the back of his shirt. I felt genuinely shocked & appalled by what I saw & to be honest I felt ashamed to be associated with people with this kind of mindset. Despite the German national team playing much better than England, some supporters in the pub couldn't put the feat down to better sportsmanship, it was a rivalry spanning almost a hundred years.

The thing that I find most astonishing is that it seems to be a one-sided prejudice. When speaking to German people they seem to actually admire & enjoy British culture. Inasmuch as in Dresden, a city completely destroyed by British bombs during the Second World War, there is a teashop called England England which celebrates all things English. I've visited it & it truly is lovely; homemade cakes, books, dvds, proper English tea & proper English breakfasts. How is it that in a city so badly destroyed by British bombs, Dresden & the proprietors of England England are able to look past the awful history that our two countries share & celebrate all things English? Is the same thing imaginable in Coventry, somewhere celebrating all things German? A city equally destroyed during the Second World War, hence their twinning today.
I recently saw a programme presented by the comedian Al Murray on BBC4 called Al Murray's German Adventure, where he specifically tried to look past our prejudices & see Germany for the beautiful country that it is, & as far as was possible, not speak about "the War".

I just wish more people could do the same, perhaps they'd realise we have more in common with the Germans than they had previously thought?


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