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Germans in Britain


In 1930 there were about 20,000 people from Germany living in Britain. This number increased after Adolf Hitler gained power in 1933. It is estimated that around 60,000 German refugees entered Britain in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War. These were mainly Jews and left-wing opponents of Hitler who had escaped from Nazi Germany.

In September 1939, the police arrested a large number of Germans living in Britain. The government feared that these people might be Nazi spies pretending to be refugees. They were interned and held in various camps all over Britain. Like other refugees they were eventually appeared before tribunals which classified them into three different groups. 'A' class aliens were interned, whereas 'B' class aliens were allowed to leave the camps but had certain restrictions placed upon their movements. The vast majority of refugees were identified as 'C' class aliens and were allowed to go free.

On 12th May, 1940, John Anderson, who was in charge of national security, ordered the arrests of over 2,000 male aliens living in coastal areas. A few days later all 'B' class aliens were rounded up and placed into internment camps. Winston Churchill defended this policy by claiming that it was necessary to "collar the lot".

The Daily Mail, a newspaper that had supported Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, now led a campaign to have all aliens in Britain interned. Some employers began to sack all foreigners. There were even cases of people losing their jobs because they had foreign ancestors. As one critic of this policy pointed out, this was an argument for removing the British royal family as their ancestors had originally come from Germany. (George V changed the name of the royal family from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor as a result of anti-German feeling during the First World War).

Government bodies also became involved in carrying out acts of discrimination against foreigners. Some local authorities turned aliens out of council houses. The Home Guard rejected applications from men with alien parentage or origin. In one case, an English soldier who had won the Victoria Cross during the First World War, was turned down when he tried to join the Home Guard because of his "alien parentage".

The three largest internment camps were at Wharf Mills (Bury), Huyton (Liverpool) and on the Isle of Man. Others were sent to the prisons at Brixton and Holloway and to a camps at Kempton Park Racecourse. At Brixton several Jewish refugees were beaten up by interned members of the British Union of Fascists.

The conditions in these internment camps were often appalling. In some camps refugees and foreign aliens were housed in tents without mattresses. Men and women were sent to different camps and so husband and wives were separated. Internees were refused to right to read newspapers, listen to the radio or to receive letters. They were therefore unable to discover what had happened to family members. Several refugees who had fled to England to avoid persecution in Nazi Germany committed suicide in these camps.

A couple of members of the House of Commons complained about the treatment of refugees in these camps. Peter Cazalet, who had carried out research into this topic, ended his speech with the words: "Frankly, I shall not feel happy, either as an Englishman or as a supporter of this Government, until this bespattered page of our history has been cleaned up and rewritten."

H. G. Wells joined the campaign and accused the Home Office of being run by Nazi sympathisers. He pointed out that a large number of those interned had a long record of being involved in the struggle against fascism in Germany and Italy.

A decision was taken at the War Cabinet to export these internees to Canada and Australia. A total of 7,500 men were selected to be moved. The Duchess of York was the first to sail, with 2,500 internees to Canada; twice her normal capacity for passengers. On 2nd July, 1940, he second of these ships, the Arandora Star, carrying 1,571 German and Italian internees to Canada, was torpedoed and sunk off the west coast of Ireland, with the loss of 682 lives.

The government was unrepentant. At the inquiry that followed, a government spokesman, the Duke of Devonshire, justified the decision to deport the refugees to the Dominions with the words: "It seemed desirable both to husband our resources and get rid of useless mouths and so forth." Critics pointed out that one solution to this problem was to put the refugees to work.


Germans in 19th-Century Britain

Panikos Panayi looks at the influence and settlement of German immigration into Victoria's island.

Up until the nineteenth century, the movement of Germans to Britain had taken place on a small scale and this had been the case ever since the period after the invasion of Angles and Saxons from the fifth century. During the Middle Ages, for example, merchants of the Hanseatic League settled in various east coast ports and centred in London. Although Elizabeth I expelled them for economic reasons in the late sixteenth century, by the beginning of her successor James I's reign, the German community in London numbered as many as 4,000, consisting of both religious refugees and economic immigrants.

Further immigration took place during the eighteenth century, but only during the nineteenth century did the German population of Britain rise to significant numbers. The first year giving exact figures is 1861, when the census first took account of the country of origin of the population. The figure for that year totalled 28,644 and had almost doubled to 53,324 by 1911, excluding Germans who had become naturalised British citizens and children of immigrants.

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Impact of the First World War on German communities in Britain

Nothing could have prepared the Germans for the level of hostility that they would face in Britain during the First World War. A combination of government measures and public opinion destroyed the communities that had emerged by 1914.

Immediately after the outbreak of War, the Aliens Restriction Act meant that Germans could not move more than five miles and had to register with the police. The Act also eliminated all German newspapers and clubs. A series of measures also closed down all of the German-owned businesses in Britain and confiscated property and assets without compensation for the owners. Most dramatically, the government introduced a policy of wholesale internment of males of military age (17&ndash55) which meant the destruction of the German family in Britain.

Camps emerged throughout the country with the largest, Knockaloe, situated on the Isle of Man and holding over 23,000 men at its peak. The government deported German women, children and the elderly throughout the War and also sent away males upon release from internment, meaning just 22,254 Germans remained in Britain by 1919. Such actions received wholesale support from public opinion. Newspapers became littered with stories about German spies and constantly demanded an intensification of internment. By 1918 ideas circulated about a German &lsquohidden hand&rsquo that controlled Britain and prevented military victory. Individuals with any connections with Germany faced vilification. The Royal Family, of German origin, did not remain immune and changed its name from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor in 1917.

Anti-German strikes also took place to eliminate German workers. Anti-German organisations came into existence, most notably the British Empire Union which called for the &lsquoExtirpation &ndash Root and Branch and Seed &ndash of German Control and Influence from the British Empire&rsquo.


Ancient England-Germany history will count for little

June 27 (Reuters) - While all the reminders of past encounters, penalty shoot-outs and ɼurses' ahead of England's last-16 meeting with Germany resonate with many, for those who will play at Wembley on Tuesday it is ancient - and largely irrelevant -- history.

England have lost to Germany in their last three knockout meetings at major tournaments, in 1990, 1996 and 2010, with the first two coming after penalty shoot-outs in the semi-finals being particularly painful.

Gareth Southgate, the England manager, famously missed the crucial spot kick in the Euro 96 loss but 12 members of his squad were not even born at that time and the oldest member of his squad, Kyle Walker, was only six.

"I don’t really think about the past, whatever has happened has happened - the only thing we can do is be in the present," said England winger Raheem Sterling, who has scored both of his team's goals in the tournament so far.

"I don’t really get caught up in the rivalry at all," he added.

"At the end of the day we’re going to play football and the objective is to win and for me it’s to score and enjoy it".

Full-back Kieran Trippier was a little cheekier in his positive take on a question about the history of the fixture.

"As you look back down the years on games against Germany, the one that stands out to me was when we won 5-1 in Germany itself," he said.

That game, a World Cup qualifier in 2001, with Michael Owen scoring a hat-trick in Munich, proved to be a false dawn and there is a fear among some England followers that the excitement around Southgate's crop of talented young players may end in similar disappointment.

Certainly, England have yet to sparkle in this tournament. 1-0 wins over Croatia and the Czech Republic and a draw with Scotland were enough to secure progress but hardly set the pulses racing.

For all the hype around this last-16 encounter, this has not looked like a vintage German team either. They were unimpressive in their opening loss to France and were six minutes from defeat against Hungary and an exit from the tournament in their final group game.

In between though was one of the best displays anyone has produced in Euro 2020 -- a 4-2 thrashing of defending champions Portugal, a performance that Southgate and his staff will be studying closely.

The England manager has yet to settle on a starting line-up and faces some key decisions about his creative players with Jack Grealish pushing for a start, Phil Foden hoping for a recall and Mason Mount possibly in contention when he comes out of isolation after coming into contact with Scottish player Billy Gilmour who tested positive for COVID-19.

Germany coach Joachim Loew, who stands down after this tournament, had looked to rejuvenate his squad after their disappointment in the World Cup in 2018 but there is still an experienced core to his team.

The midfield pairing of Ilkay Gundogan, who won the Premier League with Manchester City and Real Madrid's Toni Kroos will look to dictate the rhythm and tempo with Bayern Munich's Thomas Mueller operating in front of them.

England have never won a knockout match at the Euros in 90 minutes -- four of their games have gone to penalties, with England progressing only once, against Spain at Wembley at Euro 96.


When the Germans Became the Enemy of the Brits

“That’s a big dick you got there mate,” said one Kiwi (New Zealander) admiring an Englishman’s boat. Size mattered back in 1905.

The Germans loved the Brits. They admired them and secretly wanted to be like them. Except the Kaiser wasn’t happy. He had a major inferiority complex when it came to the British. He wanted a share of his place in the sun much as the British had. He wanted colonies too.

He wanted to slap some sunscreen on his tush and bask in the African summer shooting lions and wildebeests. The Kaiser was all about more, more and more. Like some petulant toddler making a grab for the next sugary hit.

The Kaiser couldn’t have been more English. His mother was Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He had a rightful claim to the throne. Granny Victoria would even die in his arms. But Kaiser Wilhelm II never believed he was a true Englishman despite his honorary post in the Royal Navy. He believed the aristocracy was snubbing him and that they looked down on him because he was German.

This inferiority drove the Kaiser.

While the Germans were busy making alliances with Austria, Hungary, and Italy, the French were doing likewise. The French empire had suffered a collapse in the wake of German superiority. The Germans had invaded France in 1870 and within weeks were shelling the baguettes out of Paris.

Emperor Napoleon III got captured and the French would be forced to ask very nicely if they could have their country back. The Treaty of Frankfurt was signed on 10 May 1871. It gave Germany billions of francs in war indemnity as well as most of Alsace and parts of Lorraine.

A bedraggled France looked for extra muscle, you know, just in case they needed back-up. Who better than the Russians? They offered a hand to the British but, you know, the Brits didn’t really like the French.

The British politely turned down all alliances while scoffing scones at tea parties. Summer was in and there was cricket to be played. The Brits instead decided to sign two agreements, not alliances, and called them ‘understandings,

They weren’t official brothers-in-arms but if those nasty foreigners came again, then the Brits will have strong words while pointing to their non-alliance-agreement. The Germans did come again…and again just to piss the French off (in Morocco, the British retaliated).

Back at Kaiser Central, Wilhelm's dream of coercing the Brits into a ‘non-alliance-partial-agreement-but-definitely-a-clear-understanding’, had collapsed. A German army joined with a British navy would have been unstoppable. “Scheiße!” cursed the Kaiser, “I vill build a navy for ze German people!” And off he toddled to go build a boat or two.

The Brits now felt threatened. How dare anybody challenge the British navy in a pissing contest. They ruled the world by sea and had the mightiest navy on the planet. In 1905 the Brits launched the first Dreadnought battleship the HMS Dreadnought.

The Dreadnought was the embodiment of doom. A great hulk of a ship that had big guns. Huge, gleaming, monstrous guns. Guns so big and armor-plating so impenetrable that you couldn’t help but wonder what they were compensating for. And it was fast. In those days, you either were fast and light or powerful and slow. The Dreadnought was both fast and powerful.

The Brits asked the Kaiser why he needed a navy. “The impudent swine,” replied the Kaiser at Kaiser HQ, deep in the Kaiser Forest, next to Kaiser Doghnuttery. “Vee have coastlines to defend too. Look at our colonies you swine!”

The British decided one Dreadnought wasn’t enough. They needed more. They also needed justification for building four dreadnoughts. “It’s the Germans you see,” the British government told the public, “they’re preparing to invade our land by the sea!” Nothing creates more funding or widespread panic than the threat of an unseen advancing army. “Don’t stop at four,” replied the public, “…we want eight!”

Eight Dreadnoughts later and deep in debt, the British were ready for the non-threatening-but-soon-to-invade Kaiser army. By 1914 the Germans had been well established as the Enemy within the British public’s mind.

Kaiser Wilhelm had had enough too.

Pretty soon everybody was taking out their frustrations in Belgium as the First World War kicked off.


Prisoners of war in Britain during WW2: where were they held?

It’s not much to look at: a cluster of 34 tin-roofed one-storey huts, hunkered down on the agricultural flatlands of Ryedale, halfway between York and the coast. The flags surmounting a redbrick tower in the middle of the complex snap in the wind beneath a blustery blue sky.

Eden Camp is an award-winning museum of the Second World War – ‘the people’s war’, as the museum calls it. There are exhibits here covering everything from Bomber Command and the U-boat menace to George Formby and ‘Dig For Victory’. Vintage military hardware and signposts in army stencil crowd the footpaths. But the camp is more than just a museum: as an original, surviving prisoner of war camp it’s a piece of history in its own right.

PoWs first arrived at Eden Camp in 1942. They were Italians, captured in action their first task was to finish the construction of their new home. When they had finished, the camp would have looked much as it does now (minus the gift shop and adventure playground).

“Eden was one of 487 PoW camps hastily thrown up across Britain to house more than 400,000 incoming prisoners during the Second World War,” says Bob Moore, professor of 20th-century European history at the University of Sheffield. “At first, these were almost all Italians, seized in northeast Africa as the allies gained ground in Egypt, Eritrea, Abyssinia and Italian Somaliland. Initially, the vast majority of captured Germans were shipped out directly to Canada many Italians, too, were dispatched to Britain’s former dominions, to India or South Africa. But those who were taken to Eden and the other British camps weren’t here to see out the rest of the war behind barbed wire they were here to work.”

The war had created a crippling labour shortage on the home front. Britain’s farms were crying out for more manpower, and the strong young men of the Italian army more than fitted the bill. The PoW camps, initially designed as internment pens, quickly evolved into central hubs from which prisoners could be dispersed across the countryside to wherever they were needed.

Romance and teacakes

“Camps had to be sited away from military bases and the coast,” explains Moore. “East Anglia, for instance, was initially considered an unsuitable location, despite its high demand for agricultural labour, because it had too many air bases and too clear a view of the North Sea. The first camps were concentrated in inland north England, the West Midlands and Wales.”

Surprisingly, though, prisoners’ rural neighbours didn’t always respond to them as ‘the enemy’. “The stereotype of the Italian soldier was one that came straight from Churchill,” says Moore. “Unlike the Germans, who were viewed as inherently militaristic, Italian soldiers were believed to bear the British little ill-will there was in fact some sympathy for the way in which the country had fallen under the yoke of Mussolini and his Fascists. What’s more, they were, from a 1940s provincial standpoint, hugely exotic. Instinctive aversion – there was a war on, after all – was leavened by curiosity and even compassion.”

Some Britons even tried to actively help PoWs. Mabel Blagborough of Oldham earned the nickname ‘angel of Glen Mill’ for a campaign of support that included throwing cigarettes and teacakes over the camp’s barbed wire fence.

But while the view from the home front was mostly accommodating, the presence of Italian PoWs in England prompted a less than tolerant response on the front line. Photographs of Italians at work in the fields alongside British land girls triggered outrage among many serving British soldiers, who were aghast to see their sisters, wives and sweethearts working cheek-by-jowl with the enemy.

Romantic liaisons between PoWs and British women did happen. Some of these had happy endings: a number of former PoWs returned to Britain after the war to renew romances and even propose marriage. Others had more unexpected outcomes. Moore recalls one woman who, after her mother’s death, examined her own birth certificate and found to her surprise that her father had been an Italian PoW.

Nazi daffodils

Hut 10 houses Eden Camp’s impressive collections of PoW memorabilia, including a map of Britain littered with black dots, each marking a PoW camp. Moore points out a few locations of note: Grizedale Hall in Cumbria, which from 1939 housed senior German PoWs and was dubbed the ‘U-boat Hotel’ because of its large proportion of submarine officers Lamb Holm on Orkney, where prisoners working on the sea defences constructed the wonderfully ornate Italian Chapel, which stands there to this day and the aforementioned Glen Mill in Oldham, where an SS private was shot dead by a guard in February 1945.

As the war progressed and the threat of invasion receded, the number of German prisoners on British soil was allowed to increase, including at Eden Camp, which housed Germans from 1944–49. D-Day and its aftermath saw the numbers skyrocket: by March 1945, 70,000 German PoWs were at work in Britain in September 1946, with the dust finally settling on the conflict, the figure peaked at 402,200.

“The numbers, when considered as a whole, are mind-boggling,” says Moore. “A world war is in many ways a mass migration. PoWs – whether shipped out via the Cape to the Canadian prairie, or bundled back to Britain in returning D-Day troopships – were a considerable component in the Second World War global transit networks of men, materiel and resources.”

Eden Camp originally comprised 45 huts, 18 of which served as housing (64 men per building), with the remaining huts serving as workshops, kitchens, mess and recreation halls, and even a hospital. Conditions, although basic, were generally acceptable.

“Both sides of the war knew that breaches of the Geneva Convention might be met with retaliation, so prisoners were treated pretty fairly,” says Moore. “For Germany, the question was more acute in respect of its increasingly brutal war with the Soviet Union: Germany’s war of annihilation on the eastern front led to the deaths of 2 million Soviet PoWs in 1941–42, which would have made the Germans aware of what could happen if the tide of war turned.”

In Britain, although prisoners were put to work, they weren’t especially overworked. Six days a week, working nine to five, was usual, in line with a normal working week for a British labourer.

Hut 10 showcases an array of handicrafts and memorabilia whittled, sculpted, painted and polished by inmates in their free time. Other diversions included lectures, theatre and sport – Bert Trautmann, a paratrooper, found his way from internment at Camp 50 near Wigan to footballing glory with Manchester City.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. British authorities deemed it important to ‘re-educate’ – that is, de-Nazify – German captives, prior to their repatriation.

“At one level, this involved the deployment of intelligence officers to weed out the most fervent or influential Nazis,” says Moore. “At another, it saw an increase in the fraternisation permitted between PoWs and local people – a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign designed to build bridges between Britain and the new Germany that was to take shape in the postwar years.”

Not all German PoWs were ready to give up their extremist political beliefs, though. A woman whose family had taken in a German prisoner to work in the gardens of their home on the south coast told her local newspaper that he seemed a very nice young man – at least until the spring after his relocation, when the daffodils sprouted and the flowers were seen to spell out the words ‘HEIL HITLER’.

“In fact,” says Moore, “the authorities identified a clear generational divide among the Germans: the older PoWs, who could remember a Germany before Nazism, tended to be more amenable to re-education. But those who had never known anything other than Adolf Hitler’s Reich and the non-stop indoctrination of Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machine were often beyond reach.”

From camp to chicken shed

Today the bustling canteen does a roaring trade in burgers and cappuccinos, a far cry from the rations doled out to PoWs. A typical prisoner would have made do with bread, margarine and tea for breakfast, pork and potatoes for dinner, and a supper of milk, soup and bread. Over a cup of tea Moore tells me how modern historians treat the history of our PoW camps. It seems that it’s sometimes overlooked in popular narratives of the war.

“Social historians don’t like it because it’s about people in uniforms,” he comments, “and military historians don’t like it because it’s about losers. Another problem is that few camps remain intact in any form. Most passed back into private ownership after the war, and either reverted to whatever they’d been before or were put to new commercial uses (as chicken sheds, in one instance).”

Eden Camp did time as an agricultural holiday camp, and was earmarked as the site of a potato-crisp factory, before the owner was persuaded to turn it into a museum. Today the mossed brick and corrugated iron huts of Eden Camp tell a story of their own – and it’s one we aren’t told often enough.

Bob Moore is professor of 20th-century European history at the University of Sheffield. Words: Richard Smyth.


World War Two – German Prisoners of War in Britain

In 1939 there were just two Prisoner of warcamps in Britain. By the end of the war there were more than 600.

Each camp was given a number and was either a disused building – factory, college, hotel etc, or was a specially constructed building known as a Nissen hut. A typical Nissen hut made of corrugated iron is pictured below.


Although there were German prisoners of war in Britain from 1939, Britain was reluctant to accept large numbers of German prisoners of war until there was no longer a threat of a German invasion of Britain. Prior to the successful allied defeat of Germany in Africa in 1943, the majority of German prisoners of war were sent to camps in Canada and the US.

However, after the allied invasion of Western Europe, known as D-Day, 6th June 1944, captured German soldiers were transported to Britain. Those who were Luftwaffe pilots or who were suspected of having knowledge of German military plans, were taken for interrogation before being sent to a camp. Strong Nazi supporters and members of the SS were sent to remote camps such as in the Scottish Highlands.

The terms of the Geneva Convention stipulated that prisoners of war should not be forced to work while in captivity. However, given the choice, many German prisoners of war chose to work rather than sit around the camp doing nothing. Those that chose to worked on farms – harvesting, digging ditches or repairing fences, in the construction industry – rebuilding homes damaged by bombing, or clearing bomb damage.

There were also activities within the camp such as lectures, concerts and English lessons, football and other sports. The range of alternative activities such as these varied from camp to camp.

German prisoners of war were allocated the same food ration as British servicemen and given access to medical care. However, although they were relatively well looked after many German prisoners of war suffered mentally. They had no information about their families, the state of their country or when they would be released.

At the end of the war. prisoners were subjected to a re-education programme designed to equip them for life in the new Germany. Prisoners were also assessed with regard to continuing loyalty to Nazi ideals. Those that showed continuing loyalty remained in captivity. The first German prisoners of war returned to their homes in 1946, the last in 1949.


Germans know that toppling a few statues isn't enough to confront the past

B efore the second world war, remembering history served only to glorify nations, to stir up revanchism or to sanctify heroes. Then Germany invented Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the attempt to deal with its Nazi shame by collectively confronting the unspeakable crimes of the Third Reich rather than evading them. This process, which started at the end of the 60s after two decades of collective amnesia, allowed something positive to grow from a negative legacy: Germany’s rehabilitation and reconstruction into one of the strongest democracies in the world.

Germany’s culture of remembrance could inspire countries such as Britain which have trouble understanding that in order to transform the weight of the past into wealth, it must confront history’s shadows – not ignore them.

I grew up in France, where I was born to a French mother and a German father. Twenty years ago, I moved to Berlin. On a daily basis, I see how this task, known as “coming to terms with the past”, has shaped modern Germany and German society. It guides its actions and behaviours in every sphere, from politics to the media, civil society, education, the judiciary, the police, trade unions, the economic and the intellectual worlds. Respect, dialogue, separation of powers, discernment and nuance are the guiding concepts. A solid social contract between citizens and public authorities has as a result been established, based on transparency and shared democratic responsibility.

For the past to help us make our present better, it is not enough to name a few culprits from history and to tear down their statues. Certainly, anger is understandable when authorities allow figures such as King Leopold II of Belgium, or the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, to go on being honoured in public places without any contextualisation. But iconoclasm often only serves an illusion of justice. Soon after comes the forgetting. The missed opportunity to use our past to know ourselves better is all that remains.

“Our history tells us what man is capable of,” the German president Richard von Weizsäcker said in a historic speech to the Bundestag in 1985.

The men honoured in statues were able to do what they did because entire societies in Europe, in the Americas, as well as in the Arab world and the Ottoman empire, thought like them. They may not have had actual blood on their hands, but many people benefitted directly or indirectly from the cruel and savage domination of man over man that slavery and colonialism entailed. The complicity of this mass of people with a criminal system seems much more central a question to me than the guilt of an individual slave trader or a sadistic colonist.

And such societal responsibility seems less relevant in the obscurantist era of Christopher Columbus, when most non-white human beings were considered soulless, than in more modern times. How, in the 19th and 20th centuries, could countries such as the US, Britain and France, which boasted of how they championed democracy and freedom, unscrupulously oppress and exploit people under the pretext of “enlightening” them?

The oppression continued long after the second world war, after they had proclaimed their moral superiority over fascism. To what extent has this double standard damaged the model of parliamentary democracy worldwide? Millions of American and European citizens took part in this unbearable hypocrisy, this immorality.

This reflection is central, because it sends each one of us back to our present-day responsibilities. It helps us become aware of our own contradictions and of the consequences of our behaviour. One doesn’t have to serve an unfair system directly to be complicit with it. Following the crowd through indifference, opportunism or conformism is also form of complicity.

In Germany, those who follow the crowd are called Mitläufer. My German grandfather was, like the majority of Germans under the Third Reich, a Mitläufer. In 1938, he took advantage of antisemitic Nazi policies to buy a business from a Jewish family for a low price. After the war, the only survivor of this family, the rest of whom perished in Auschwitz, demanded reparations, but my grandfather refused to acknowledge his responsibility. After the defeat of Nazism, most Germans lacked the hindsight to realise that though the impact of each Mitläufer was tiny on an individual level, their small everyday acts of cowardice, opportunism and turning a blind eye created the conditions necessary for the functioning of a criminal system.

It took the courage of my father’s generation to pull the German population out of amnesia and make the Mitläufer central to this task of coming to terms with the past. This helped to sharpen younger citizens’ awareness of their fallibility, their malleability and to arm them against demagogues and manipulators of hatred and lies. As a result they were able to transform collective guilt into democratic responsibility. But even Germany is not immune. In 2017 an extreme right party, AfD, entered the German parliament for the first time since the end of the war. The mobilisation of media, politics, justice and civil society to combat this threat to democracy proved to be effective: the party’s support has plummeted in the polls to 8%. Nevertheless, learning from the past is a process that needs to be continually nourished and rethought, just like democracy.


Find out more

Twentieth Century Defences in Britain: An Introductory Guide by I Brown et al (Council for British Archaeology, 1995)

The Defenders: A History of the British Volunteers by G Cousins (Muller, 1968)

Invasion: From the Armada to Hitler, 1588-1945 by F McLynn (Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1987)

The Air War, 1939-1945 by RJ Overy (Europa Publications, 1980)

Channel Defences by A Saunders (Batsford/English Heritage, 1997)

Resisting the Nazi Invader by A Ward (Constable, 1997)

Pillboxes: A Study of UK Defences, 1940 by H Wills (Leo Cooper, with Secker and Warburg, 1985)


New generation of England players ready to ‘write own history’ vs Germany

ominic Calvert-Lewin says the current England squad are looking forward to writing their own history against Germany in the last-16 of Euro 2020, but they are not underestimating Joachim Low’s side.

England have painful memories of facing Germany at major tournaments, with their manager Gareth Southgate suffering penalty heartache against them at Euro ‘96.

The Three Lions were also knocked out by Germany at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after losing 4-1 at the last-16 stage.

Many of the current squad, however, were not even born when England lost to Germany at Euro ‘96 - and Calvert-Lewin believes they are not burdened by past failures.

The Everton striker insists the squad are instead determined to create their own history by beating Germany next week when the two sides meet at Wembley.

“I suppose so, that’s more in my memory that one,” said Calvert-Lewin, when asked about England’s defeat to Germany at the 2010 World Cup.

“But for me, I guess it is kind of not as personal as someone of your age.

“For me, I am just looking forward to the test and looking forward to writing our own history.”

Germany’s form coming into the tournament has been mixed, while they also struggled during the group stages.

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Low’s side managed to qualify for the knockout stages after snatching a late draw against Hungary and England go into Tuesday’s game as favourites.

Calvert-Lewin, however, is adamant there is no complacency among the squad and they will not underestimate Germany.

“I think we as a group are definitely not underestimating the challenge that we’ve got and the quality that they have,” he added.

“It is like any game we have gone into prior to this tournament and, coming into it, we do are due diligence and work on how we can counteract they way that they play.”

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