Britons ignorant about Germany and still see us as Nazis, says ambassador

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The Independent Online

Sixty years after the end of the Second World War in Europe, British people are still obsessed with Nazism, and ignorant about Germany, said the German ambassador to London, Thomas Matussek.

Sixty years after the end of the Second World War in Europe, British people are still obsessed with Nazism, and ignorant about Germany, said the German ambassador to London, Thomas Matussek.

"The British behave as if they had conquered Hitler's hordes single-handedly. And they continue to see us as Nazis, as if they have to refight the battles every evening. They are enchanted by this Nazi dimension," he said yesterday. "It's not anti-German sentiment precisely, but it's because we know too little about each other. Ignorance can breed xenophobia, which can breed hatred. That's what we've learnt in Germany."

Mr Matussek said that the two countries were "drifting apart" because British children were growing up with "dangerous misunderstandings" about Germany. "We have to make a distinction between clichèd stereotypes that are outright funny - like in Dad's Army or Fawlty Towers - and something that goes a little deeper. The humour stops when I hear that German children are regularly beaten up and abused by British youngsters who don't know what Germany's about."

A recent survey showed that when British 10- to 16-year olds were asked what they associated Germany with, 78 per cent said the Second World War, and 50 per cent mentioned Hitler. Youthful British ignorance of Germany and its past was demonstrated by the photographs published earlier this year, showing Prince Harry at a fancy dress party in Nazi uniform.

"Like the conquering of the West is part of the American myth, so it is the same with the British and the defeat of Nazism," Mr Matussek told The Observer.

"We Germans confront the guilt and shame of our past daily, and more thoroughly and obsessively than probably any other nation on earth."

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