Whatever you do, don't mention the war. Oops!

Prince Harry joins a long list of miscreants responsible for anti-Germanic gaffes and other xenophobic clichés
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The Independent Online



"The Germans", the sixth episode of the hit television series Fawlty Towers spawned a slow-drip of bad taste imitations- though it is considered a classic of British comedy.

The Monty Python veteran John Cleese played the inept and irritable Basil Fawlty dealing with German guests at his Torquay Hotel ("Oh, German! I thought there was something wrong with you") and telling staff: "Don't mention the war."

Fawlty proceeded to mention the war at every opportunity, mistakenly ordering "a prawn Goebbels, a Hermann Goering and four Colditz salads" and goose-stepping around the dining room. When the Germans ask him to stop he reminds them they started it. "We did not start it," they protest, prompting the reply: "Yes you did, you invaded Poland!"

Cleese was recruited last year by Germany to dispel "outdated" stereotypes and foster understanding of their nation. "The whole purpose of writing that episode was to make fun of English Basil Fawltys who are buried in the past," Cleese said. "I worked in Germany last year and found the people wonderful."


As editor of the Daily Mirror, he had to apologise in 1996 when, during the European Football Championships, his paper greeted the England versus Germany semi-final with the headline, "Achtung! Surrender! For You Fritz, ze Euro 96 Championship is over". An article headed "Mirror Declares Football War on Germany" was a take-off of Neville Chamberlain's announcement of war in 1939: "Last night the Daily Mirror's ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their team from Wembley, a state of soccer war would exist between us. I have to tell you that no such undertaking has been received."

Morgan was criticised for promoting jingoism - there was violence after the game, including a riot in Trafalgar Square. Morgan apologised.

England lost the match on penalties.


The goalkeeper was charged with misconduct by the Football Association after giving a Nazi salute to Tottenham fans while playing for Aston Villa at White Hart Lane in October 1996.

Bosnich had been jeered throughout the match by Spurs fans - many of them Jewish - who remembered how their striker Jürgen Klinsmann was carried off unconscious after a challenge by the keeper two seasons before.

He pleaded ignorance. "It was not until the end of the game that I was made aware of the fact that there is a strong Jewish contingent at Spurs," he said. The gesture nearly triggered a riot but the FA fined him just £1,000.


The Italian Prime Minister, newly president of the European Council, provoked uproar in the European Parliament in July 2003 by likening a German MEP to a Nazi concentration camp commandant.

Berlusconi responded to the German socialist Martin Schulz's reference to his use of an immunity law to sidestep bribery claims with: "Mr Schulz, I know there is a producer in Italy who is making a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I will suggest you for the roleof commandant. You'd be perfect." His comments drew diplomatic protests from Berlin and criticism even from his own deputy prime minister. He refused to apologise.


The newspaper proprietor overstepped the markwith his goose-stepping antics in April 2004. Desmond, who dropped out of the bidding for the Telegraph Group when the asking price rose, let his bile run while meeting with Telegraph executives about their jointly-owned print works. He greeted them with "guten morgen" and "sehr gut" in a bad German accent, and went on to ask them if they were looking forward to being "run by Nazis" (Berlin-based publishing company Axel Springer were in the running to buy them out).

Challenged by Telegraph chief executive Jeremy Deedes, he replied: "They're all fucking Nazis," and shouted: "Don't you tell me to sit down, you miserable piece of shit."

Desmond called the Telegraph contingent "crooks, cheats, liars" and disgraced chairman Lord Black a "fat crook". He then goose-stepped around holding his finger under his nose in imitation of a Hitler moustache.


The captain of Rome's Lazio football club reopened Italy's political wounds last week after making a fascist salute during the derby against Roma. The striker, 35, who scored the first goal in a 3-1 win, gave the gesture - known since Benito Mussolini's dictatorship as a "Roman salute" - after the match.

Encouraging fascism is a crime in Italy and the national football federation has opened an inquiry - despite Di Canio's protestations that it was "only to celebrate."

Lazio fans are renowned for neo-Fascism, while Di Canio wears a tattoo of Mussolini on his arm and has described him as "a very principled, ethical individual".