There is a quite interesting study showing that when an argument breaks up between two people who don’t know each other (well), there is about 70% chance one party will bring up Hitler to justify the validity of their argument against the other. Something on the lines of “Hitler thought the same as you so that proves you are wrong”. Usually, it tends to close the argument. For all the wrong reasons, obviously.
Interesting but I went to check on that years ago. I wish I had kept all the links of my research but that was not something I was doing at the time, unlike today. So I went to check this research and it turned out, when the researchers tried to broaden their findings into population whose first language was not English, the percentage of probability that Hitler pops up decreased dramatically. There is something there.
Back in 2008, when living in Blackpool, I was browsing Youtube for a good rendition of “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” of the Queen of the Night and came accross the Tölzer Knachenbor. It’s a Bavarian choir of boys who sing famous opera pieces. This year, for instance, they performed for FC Bayern München at their Christmas dinner. One of their most famous boys is Robin Schlotz who was singing that Mozart aria. He was also singing Stimme des Waldvögels, a short aria in one of Wagner’s operas. I love that little interlude so I copied the lyrics and posted them on Facebook. Sigfried is mentioned in the lyrics so almost all my English friends told me I was “having a little Nazi nostalgia.”
I played dumb and I asked why they were saying such a thing. They replied that “it’s because Hitler was a friend of Wagner” – he wasn’t. Wagner’s operas are the essence of German romantism that came with the birth of Germany as a nation and the need they felt to find common roots after centuries of fratricidal wars and struggles. They, and Wagner too, went to find them in Germano-Scandivanian mythology along with Odin, Thor, the Valkyries and Sigfried as the half-god hero, a tracing paper-made Germanic Hercules.
The issue is that Hitler followed the same movement and the Nazism rely heavily on this symbolism of German romantism, therefore the mythology. The swatiska cross is the symbol of Thor, after all, whose nickname was Barbarossa (ginger beard), which was also the code name of the invasion of the USSR. So today, in England, any mention of these symbols or Wagner or any author, composer, writer, musician that inspired Hitler will make you more or less a Nazi. There is something there. Certainly no common sense.
Still looking for classical pieces on Youtube, I came across, in Mars this year, a rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria sang by Maria Callas. The comments were littered with accusations and insults directed towards her: she was a Nazi, a Nazi-sympathiser, she was glorifying the Nazism…The name attached to these comments were all English-based. Mostly English names the likes of Sean, Billy, Bob, Britany, John…Once again, the fact that she was singing in German meant that she “was a Nazi”, she “was advertising Nazism” by speaking the language regardless of the fact that it’s a religious, catholic hymn to the Holy Virgin. They could not see behind the German language and, for them, everyone living in Germany before 1945 is a Nazi. Schubert, Göthe, Schiller, Beethoven, all of them. There is something there.
Last August, I found a picture of the European monarchs together at Queen Victoria’s funerals and I posted the pictures on Tumblr. I really liked the picture, some of them, like the King of Belgium, were bloody handsome. Yum! And as a tag I made the mistake of saying what I thought: “Loving the boots!” For the rest of the week, it was a torrent of abuse from various anons accusing me of being a Nazi. For some, you see the bad English but mainly the endless diatribes accusing of wanting Jews to be killed were in very good English. Same kind of reaction from some friends when I asked them if one could find such horsemen boots nowadays and all, expect one, of my English friends told me: “Yes, in a Nazi shop.” There are boots worn by European kings of all nationalities at the beginning of the 20th century because they rode horses! What the fuck does it have to do with the Nazis? “They wore the same kind of boots”. Yeah, they also were all wearing military outfits, does that mean that all soldiers are Nazis?
And why is Word forcing me to put a bloody capital letter to that dreadful n-word?!
The only way I can explain this obsession with finding, seeing Nazis everywhere is, what I mentioned earlier, the fact that they still cannot get over their victory over them 69 years ago.
In the UK, and especially England, “the War” is mentioned constantly to such an extent that even the German ambassador got fed up with it. Only to be called a “sore loser” and a “kill-joy”. That’s English international diplomacy for you.
Every year, “the War” is the first thing the boys in the school I used to teach use to taunt the German students when we went to German and when they came to England. Boys who were as young 11, 12 years old were stopping what they were doing, purposely going to see German students in the playground to ask them “How does it feels to lose the War?”. In present tense. Not in the past. It’s still happening right now.
You have to go more than three generations in their family for anyone to have actually experienced WWII but still the kids in the playgrounds of England find nothing better to do that asking young Germans about their country’s defeat in 1945. The same kids who asked me what USSR was.
The second question is: How many people are Nazis in your family? (present tense again!)
The third: How many Jews did you kill?
And parents never understood why we never managed to convince German parents to do an exchange with our grammar school. The school had to satisfy with a visit. It’s a common problem with boys all over England.
In the media, if you mention Germany to say they are in some way “worst” than the UK, everything will be fine because in their minds, this is how it should be. The winner takes it all and the loser has to forever suffer. Where it cracks is that the reality is different and it annoys the English. When Germany reinvented itself, made amends, has been fighting its demons for 70 years which allowed the Germans to move on, to find the confidence to be strong again, to use their qualities for the good, the English have not. There are still stuck in 1946. Stuck in a world where they set the tone.
It looks impossible for them to move on because this victory is everything. It finally lead England, its lesser partners in the UK, its former colonies, its colonies and dominions to be the ones who were going to rule the world. Before London and Washington were just another player along with Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo but with France and the Netherlands humiliated and irrelevant, Germany and Japan in smoking ruins, and Canberra raising from the ashes of Indonesia, they took the reins on what would become the Western World. The world order we are living in today is the one of Yalta where “the winners of the war” decided on what would become of the future. And the winners were solely London, Washington and Moscow. With Moscow “defeated” in 1991, today’s crackling world is what English-speaking London and Washington created between 1945 and 1960 politically, economically, sociologically. Moving on from 1945 would mean moving on from this order, moving on from their dominance towards a fairer leadership.
In England, Churchill is still everywhere. Politicians of all beliefs are using and abusing his spirits. He doesn’t matter how much he drank, how many cigars he smoked, how horrendously sexist and cheap as a man he was, he’s the victor. He’s the man every mean should aspire to, every woman should want to serve and marry. When Scotland was about to vote on independence, one of Westminster’s main arguments was “We defeated the Germans together, we can’t let our little differences tear us apart”. The victory still serves as a gathering call for the English and the like-spoken world.
When it comes to the Germans, the English have this schizophrenic attitude towards them. They admire them, they envy them, their work ethic, the stability of their political system. They envy their comfort, their way of life, and German high-skilled manufactured products are a sign of wealth in a country that advertised de-industrialisation as a way forward. For the upper middle-class whose imperative is to show its status, buying a German car is the door to acceptance: they are expensive, they are stylish, they are luxury cars the poor cannot afford but they don’t have this old-fashioned, old farty geezer or cheap footballer feeling about them like Jaguar or Aston Martin. And they remain affordable for them, unlike Rolls Royce, which is owned by BMW anyway.
The English also try to relate to them by all means now that they are the powerful. Every week, you will hear that their monarchy is German because they are descending from the House of Hannover. They are as German as the Tudors were French but they share something. When it turned out Angela Merkel was nothing like the “silly minger” the English tabloids were depicting her as, the English jumped to remind the world that they too had a “strong woman Prime Minister who changed their country and the world for the better”. Oh dear…
Now, try talking about how well Germany is doing right now and you will see the discussion end quite quickly with an annoyed: “Yeah, we kicked their arse and we will do it again if we have to!” or “Hey, they lost and we won so…”
“Well, we got Hitler at the end.”
There we are…
The bottom line is that next year, it will be 70 years since WWII – or the War. People who can talk about the realities of “the War” will have to have been born in the early 1920’s so that about…no one. And still, mentioning German culture makes you a Nazi in the UK.
“Without freedom from the past, things can only get worse.”