Germans wonder why everyone is so beastly: On the third anniversary of unification, the nation is beset by a widespread sense of being unloved, Steve Crawshaw writes from Bonn
Tuesday 05 October 1993
On the third anniversary of German unity, Die Woche published a selection of foreign views, summed up in the headline: 'Respect, yes; sympathy, hardly.'
Television news joined in with a report last week on foreign dislike of Germans.
Britons, when faced with the possibility that they are not universally loved, tend to ignore the foreigners' obvious bad taste, or else declare verbal war. In the words of the Sun: 'Hop off, you Frogs]', and 'Up yours, Delors]' In Germany, however, the views of the rest of the world are examined with obsessive concern.
The reason for the most recent stories was the Olympic no-vote on Berlin. But the worries, about what could be called the 'What They Might Think' factor, are constant. Books on Germany by foreigners, especially when critical, are devoured, and analysed line by line.
The most important foreign-policy dispute in Germany is over participation in United Nations military operations. Elsewhere, the arguments are over what is morally right or politically wise (or both). In Germany, however, both sides base their arguments on WTMT. The government says that Germany's allies will think less of Germany if it fails to shoulder its international responsibilities; the Social Democratic opposition, by contrast, worries that sending German troops abroad might ring alarm bells around the world.
Germany's identity problems are partly the result of its political coming of age. For 40 years, West Germany could enjoy its position as an affluent country which, because of its history, was not allowed (and did not need) a foreign policy. Now, that comfortable cop- out is no longer possible. But the what-they-might-think factor continues to play an important role.
Even the continuing tussles over Bonn and Berlin, the proposed new seat of government, is partly to do with WTMT. Some anti-Berliners argue that if the German government moves back to Hitler's capital, foreigners might be worried. Even the most radical critics within Germany do not equate Berlin with fascism; that would be too obviously absurd. But they suggest that some foreigners believe Berlin equals historical fascism - and that, in terms of German politics, can be just as important.
Meanwhile, many Germans are worried and dismayed that Britons, in particular, still see all Germans as potentially jackbooted. The 'Sieg heil]' and 'Raus] you Schweinhund]' comic-strip version of reality (comic strips that are still published in Britain today) is seen as a reflection of the way Britons see Germany as it moves into the 21st century. German diplomats recently surveyed the history shelves in London bookshops. Their unsurprising conclusion: for many British schoolchildren, German history stops in 1945. The Germany of recent decades - peaceful, prosperous, and democraEtic - is scarcely to be seen. The worries at home are mixed wiTHER write errorth defiance. Bild's round-up of German opinion included a not untypical sentiment: 'They curse us - but they don't mind taking our holiday money.' Equally, worries about foreign perceptions continue to be real. One man told Bild: 'The Germans are arrogant . . . We want to use our money to show our power.' A young woman said: 'We shouldn't be surprised at the hatred, when we think of Solingen and Molln (where Turks were burnt to death in their homes).'
A veteran actress concluded that it was easy for reality to be skewed: 'Unfortunately, I am not surprised that Germans are unpopular after all the attacks on asylum-seekers. But it is dramatic that a minority can give us such a bad reputation.'
- 1 Three of Pope Francis' relatives die in Argentina car crash, including two young great-nephews
- 2 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 3 Here’s the damning letter Robin Williams wrote to his Mrs Doubtfire co-star's principal after they expelled her
- 4 Ferguson protests: 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein ‘arrested’ by police during St Louis demonstrations
- 5 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
Syria conflict: President Assad finally turns on Isis as government steps up campaign against militant strongholds
Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
Ice Bucket Challenge: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Oprah – the most entertaining reactions so far
Iraq crisis: Islamic State's message to America - 'We will drown you all in blood'
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
World peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict
£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...
£30000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...
£40000 - £65000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Senior A...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...