- Contributed by
- Dave W
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 16 July 2005
Don’t Mention The War (BBC Radio 4, Saturday 16th July 2005, 10.30-11.00 hrs) was a brave and intelligent attempt to examine British prejudice against the Germans, including that found in the BBC’s own output.
I would like to add a historical note: the prejudice did not begin in the Second World War; the roots of it actually lie in the First World War. After the terrible slaughter of that war, the British public naturally started to ask why it had happened. If the authorities had admitted the simple truth, that a large part of the adult males of Britain had been killed for no good reason, there would have been massive social unrest.
So to preserve social order, the myth of the totally wicked German, a myth created in wartime to ‘build morale’, was continued after the war had ended. This led to Germany being forced to pay reparations to the Allies in the 1920 and 30s, which completely wrecked the German economy, and did a lot of damage to our own.
It was after the Germans were left jobless and starving, and democratic German politicians seemed to have no answer to the country’s problems, that the Germans turned to Hitler. As my mother, who lived through the Second World War, often told me:
“If only we’d been nicer to the Germans after the First World War, we wouldn’t have had to fight the second one!”
Obviously, you cannot cover everything in 30 minutes. But I do hope that the BBC will discuss the decision of Britain and her Allies to make Germany pay those reparations in a future programme. I think that the reparations are well known in Germany, but no-one seems to have told younger generations of Britons about this important fact.
Of course, the Germans are partly responsible for the Second World War and the Holocaust, but we are partly responsible too. And we should not be left with the impression that the Germans turned to Hitler simply because ‘Germans are like that’.
P.S. I would like to add more about my mother’s experience later on, if time permits. But at least I’ve passed on the most important message, as she would have liked me to do.
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