BERLIN - The German government is becoming increasingly irritated and alarmed by what it now believes is an almost hysterical 'Kraut-bashing' campaign being conducted in Britain, writes Adrian Bridge.
Normally cautious and almost excessively anxious not to offend, government officials have watched in growing horror over the past few weeks as their country has been accused of maliciously plotting the downfall of the pound and of seeking to celebrate Nazi militarism by planning to hold a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the launch of the V2 rocket.
Patience finally snapped this weekend, however, after a British newspaper reported that Chancellor Helmut Kohl had delivered a stinging personal snub to John Major by reneging on a promise to attend the 50th anniversary commemoration of the battle of El Alamein on 25 October.
'The Chancellor never said that he would be going to the commemoration and to claim that he did is a straightforward lie,' a government source said. 'Quite apart from the appropriateness of his attending, the El Alamein ceremony coincides exactly with the opening of his Christian Democratic Party conference. His absence would be like John Major missing a key day in Brighton this week.'
Other sources in Bonn said that the constant sniping at Germany, particularly in the press, could eventually have a detrimental effect on Anglo-German relations. 'There is a limit to how many times we can turn the other cheek,' a source said.
Among recent criticisms that have particularly hurt have been articles in British tabloid newspapers alleging that the Bundesbank - perceived by many in Britain to have been the villain behind the collapse of sterling last month - is tainted by a Nazi past.
Another article, headlined 'Donner und Blitzen', over the subsequently cancelled official ceremony to mark the V2 anniversary, brought accusations that the British were exaggerating things out of all proportion in order to knock the Germans.
On the official level, Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, and Klaus Kinkel, his German counterpart, conceded after a meeting in Bonn last Wednesday that relations were going through a 'rough patch' but remained warm and friendly.
Continuing bickering with Britain and renewed attacks on foreigners living in Germany cast a shadow over the country's celebration of two years of unification on Saturday. In what many here attacked as a belated and, even now, half-hearted condemnation of Germany's right- wing extremists, Chancellor Kohl promised yesterday that the country would show 'no toleration