Letter: Racial harassment: intolerance and the limits of the criminal law

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The Independent Online
Sir: The report in today's Independent (' 'One in ten' non-white families suffer racial harassment', 11 March) of racial abuse in London comes as no surprise.

My family and I moved to this country one and a half years ago from Hamburg, Germany. To some of the people around us, particularly the children, we are 'fucking Kraut bastards' and it serves us right that 'we were bombed in the war'. The parents generally content themselves with the raised right arm of the Hitler salute, and when we voice our objections we are told that if we don't like it, we should 'bugger off back to where we came from'. The tyres of our car have been let down on a number of occasions and every now and then things are thrown at our windows.

The irony of the situation is that after 21 years of living abroad, we did go back to where my wife and I came from, Britain. The house in which I was born was indeed bombed: two weeks after my birth and by the Germans. And as someone who lost a large part of his family in various concentration camps, my sympathies with Hitler and the Nazis are very limited.

Our only crime is to speak German to the many visitors who come to see us. We have long ceased speaking it to each other in public for obvious reasons. Needless to say, in spite of what the media and many people in this country apparently believe Germany to be, we were never treated in such a fashion over there. On the contrary, being foreign and British were, if anything, an advantage. Perhaps the British could take a leaf out of the Germans' book, and learn what tolerance towards strangers really means.

Yours faithfully,

TOM BECK

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

11 March

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