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Anti-German sentiment

Anti-German sentiment (or Germanophobia) is defined as a fear or hatred of Germany, its people, and the German language.

19th century

Russia

In the 1860s Russia experienced an outbreak of Germanophobia, mainly restricted to a small group of writers in St. Petersburg who had united around a right wing newspaper. It began in 1864 with the publication of an article by a writer using the pseudonym "Shedoferotti" who proposed that Poland be given autonomy and that the privileges of the German barons in the Baltic republics and Finland be preserved. Mikhail Katkov published a harsh criticism of the article in the Moscow News which in turn caused a flood of angry articles in which Russian writers expressed their irritation with Europeans, some of which featured direct attacks on Germans.

The following year, 1865, the 100th anniversary of the death of Mikhail Lomonosov was marked throughout the Russian empire. Articles were published which mentioned the difficulties Lomonosov had encountered from the foreign members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, most of which had been of German descent. The authors then criticized contemporary German scholars for their neglect of the Russian language and for printing articles in foreign languages while receiving funds from the Russian people. It was further suggested by some writers that Russian citizens of German origin who did not speak Russian and follow the Orthodox faith should be considered foreigners. It was also proposed that people of German descent be forbidden from holding diplomatic posts as they might not have "solidarity with respect to Russia".

Despite the press campaign against Germans, Germanophobic feelings did not develop in Russia to any widespread extent, and died out, due to the Imperial family's German roots and the presence of many German names in the Russian political elite.

United Kingdom

Although negative comments about Germany had begun to appear in Britain in the 1860s, following the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 criticisms were expressed in the press and in the birth of the invasion novel, many of which focused on the idea that Britain might be Germany's next victim.

In the 1890s there was widespread hostility towards foreigners in Britain, mainly directed against eastern European Jews but also including Germans. Joseph Bannister believed that German residents in Britain were mostly "gambling-house keepers, hotel-porters, barbers, 'bullies', runaway conscripts, bath-attendants, street musicians, criminals, bakers, socialists, cheap clerks, etc". Interviewees for the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration believed that Germans were involved in prostitution and burglary. Many people viewed Germans working in Britain as threatening the livelihood of Britons by being willing to work for longer hours.

Anti-German hostility deepened in 1896 after Kaiser Wilhelm II congratulated President Kruger of the Transvaal on resisting British aggression. Attacks on Germans in London were reported in the German press at the time but do not appear to have actually occurred. However, in 1900 during the Second Boer War, a German barber in Tottenham was accused of pro-Boer sympathies and attacked, and in 1901 there were attacks on Germans travelling by train in east London.

Early 20th century

Following the signing of the Entente Cordiale in 1904 between Britain and France, attitudes towards Germany and German residents in Britain became very negative. A fear of German militarism replaced a previous admiration for German culture and literature. At the same time, journalists produced a stream of articles on the threat posed by Germany.

In 1894 Alfred Harmsworth had commissioned author William Le Queux to write the serial novel The Great War in England in 1897, which featured Germany, France and Russia combining forces to crush Britain. Twelve years later Harmsworth asked him to repeat this, promising the full support of his formidable advertising capabilities. The result was the bestselling The Invasion of 1910 which originally appeared in serial form in the Daily Mail in 1906 and has been referred to by historians as inducing an atmosphere of paranoia, mass hysteria and Germanophobia that would climax in the Naval Scare of 1908-09.

At the same time conspiracy theories were concocted which combined Germanophobia with anti-semitism, concerning the supposed foreign control of Britain, some of which blamed Britain's entry in to the Boer War on international financiers "chiefly German in origin and Jewish in race". Most of these ideas about German-Jewish conspiracies originated from right-wing figures such as Arnold White, Hilaire Belloc, and Leo Maxse, the latter using his publication the National Review to spread them.

World War I

In 1914 when the German army invaded neutral Belgium and northern France many thousands of innocent Belgian and French civilians were accused of being francs-tireurs and executed. These acts, which were reported with many grotesque exaggerations, were used to encourage anti-German feelings and the Allied Powers produced propaganda which depicted Germans as Huns capable of infinite cruelty and violence. The influential Bryce Report, which was released in May 1915, was an official account of German atrocities perpetrated in the early months of the War which was widely promoted in the US by the British War Propaganda Bureau; the Report was later attacked for using hearsay evidence and depositions given without oaths.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, anti-German feeling led to infrequent rioting, assaults on suspected Germans and the looting of stores owned by people with German-sounding names, occasionally even taking on an anti-Semitic tone.

Increasing anti-German hysteria even threw suspicion upon the British monarchy and King George V was persuaded to change his German name of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor and relinquish all German titles and styles on behalf of his relatives who were British subjects.

In the UK, the German Shepherd breed of dog was renamed to the euphemistic "Alsatian"; the English Kennel Club only re-authorised the use of 'German Shepherd' as an official name in 1977.

In Canada, the Ontario city of Berlin changed its name to Kitchener, after Lord Kitchener, famously pictured on the famous "Lord Kitchener Wants You" recruiting poster.

Attitudes to Germany were not entirely negative among British troops fighting on the Western Front; the British writer and author Nicholas Shakespeare quotes this statement from a letter written by his grandfather during the First World War:

The soldier praised the Germans for their discipline and bravery:

Australia

In Australia, an official proclamation of August 10, 1914 required all German citizens to register their domiciles at the nearest police station and to notify authorities of any change of address. Under the later Aliens Restriction Order of May 27, 1915, enemy aliens who had not been interned had to report to the police once a week and could only change address with official permission. An amendment to the Restriction Order in July 1915 prohibited enemy aliens and naturalized subjects from changing their name or the name of any business they ran. Under the War Precautions Act of 1914 (which survived World War I), publication of German language material was prohibited and schools attached to Lutheran churches were forced to abandon German as the language of teaching or were closed by the authorities. German clubs and associations were also closed.

The original German names of settlements and streets were officially changed. In South Australia, Grunthal became Verdun and Krichauff became Beatty. In New South Wales Germantown became Holbrook after the submarine commander Norman Douglas Holbrook.

Most of the anti-German feeling was created by the press who tried to create the idea that all those of German birth or descent supported Germany uncritically. A booklet circulated widely in 1915 claimed that "there were over 3,000 German spies scattered throughout the states". Anti-German propaganda was also inspired by local and British companies who were keen to take the opportunity to eliminate Germany as a competitor in the Australian market. Germans in Australia were increasingly portrayed as evil by the very nature of their origins.

United States

When the United States entered the war in 1917, some German immigrants, and sometimes even non-German immigrants who were perceived as German (Dutch, Scandinavian, Swiss), were looked upon with suspicion and attacked regarding their loyalty. Some German immigrants in America were even tried, convicted and imprisoned, on charges of sedition, merely for refusing to swear allegiance to the American war effort.

In New Orleans, Berlin St. was renamed for General Pershing (head of the American Expeditionary Force), sauerkraut came to be called (by some) "Liberty Cabbage", German measles became "liberty measles", hamburger became "liberty steak" and Dachshunds became "liberty pups".

In the United States between 1917-18, German-American schools and newspapers by the thousands were forced to permanently close. In cities and towns across the nation, libraries burned their German-language books in public burnings. The officials of German-named towns that had been founded by German-Americans were intimidated by county, state, and federal government officials into anglicizing their names, and into destroying all traces of their German heritage. In cities across America, German-sounding street names were banned. Many families with a German-sounding last name changed their surname. The vast majority of German-Americans, however, were loyal to their adopted country and thousands of them served in the United States military.

As the public atmosphere became increasingly hysterical, vigilantes burned "pro-German" books, spied on neighbours, and attacked and murdered immigrants and radicals. Anti-German tension culminated on April 4, 1918, in the brutal lynching of German immigrant Robert Prager, a coal miner living in Collinsville, Illinois, who was accused of making "disloyal remarks".

Anti-German sentiment may have been stoked by the 1916 bombing of Black Tom island prior to the US's entry into the war, which had been directed and financed by German intelligence officers under diplomatic cover.

World War II

During World War II anti-German sentiments were very high among European countries that directly suffered German attacks and bombings and/or occupation.

Anti-German sentiment was very high among the Red Army, to such an extent that German soldiers had a higher chance of being killed on sight during and after surrender.

Dehumanization of German soldiers was very prelevant during World War II among Allies so that the common view was they ought to be fought against without mercy.

United Kingdom

In 1940 the Ministry of Information launched an "Anger Campaign" to instil "personal anger... against the German people and Germany", because the British were "harbouring little sense of real personal animus against the average German". Sir Robert Vansittart, the Foreign Office's chief diplomatic advisor until 1941, gave a series of radio broadcasts in which he said that Germany was a nation raised on "envy, self-pity and cruelty" whose historical development had "prepared the ground for Nazism" and that it was Nazism that had "finally given expression to the blackness of the German soul".

The British Institute of Public Opinion (BIPO) tracked the evolution of anti-German/anti-Nazi feeling in Britain, asking the public, via a series of opinion polls conducted from 1939 to 1943, whether "the chief enemy of Britain was the German people or the Nazi government". In 1939 only 6% of respondents held the German people responsible; however, following the Blitz and the "Anger Campaign" in 1940, this increased to 50%. This subsequently declined to 41% by 1943. It also was reported by Home Intelligence in 1942 that there was some criticism of the official attitude of hatred towards Germany on the grounds that "England ought to be a civilising influence" and that such hatred might hinder the possibility of a reasonable settlement following the war.

In the same year Mass-Observation asked its observers to analyse British private opinion of the German people and found that 54% of opinion was "pro-German", in that it expressed sympathy and "not their fault". This tolerance of the German people as opposed to the Nazi regime increased as the war progressed. Mass-Observation established in 1943 that up to 60% of people maintained a distinction between Germans and Nazis, with only 20% or so expressing any "hatred, vindictiveness, or need for retribution". British film propaganda of the period similarly maintained the division between Nazi supporters and German people.

United States

The seizure of the US freighter SS City of Flint in October 1939 by the German pocket battleship Deutschland provoked much anti-German sentiment in the US. Following its entry into World War II, the US Government interned at least 11,000 American citizens of German ancestry. The last to be released, a German-American, remained imprisoned until 1948 at Ellis Island, three and a half years after cessation of hostilities against Germany.

In 1944, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., United States Secretary of the Treasury, put forward the strongest proposal for punishing Germany to the Second Quebec Conference. It became known as the Morgenthau Plan, and was to reduce Germany to an agricultural nation by destroying its heavy industry.

Brazil

After the declaration of war in 1942, anti-German riots broke out in nearly every city in Brazil in which Germans were not the majority population. German factories, including the Suerdick cigar factory in Bahia, shops, and hotels were destroyed by mobs. The largest demonstrations took place in Porto Alegre and Rio Grande do Sul. Brazilian police persecuted and interned "subjects of the Axis powers" in internment camps similar to those used by the US to intern Japanese-Americans. Several Germans and German-Brazilians were also killed. Following the war, German schools were not reopened, the German-language press disappeared completely, and use of the German language became restricted to the home and the older generation of immigrants.

Post World War II

Following World War II anti-Germanism became intellectually respectable, being sanctioned by such historians as Sir Lewis Namier and A.J.P. Taylor. Even the speed of West German recovery following the war was seen as ominous by some who suspected the Germans of planning for World War III.

American General George S. Patton complained that the U.S. policy of denazification following Germany's surrender harmed American interests and was motivated simply by hatred of the defeated German people. It has also been alleged, by Canadian novelist James Bacque, that US General Dwight Eisenhower oversaw the death by starvation or exposure of one million German prisoners of war held in Western internment camps after World War II (see: Eisenhower and German POWs).

Much present day anti-German sentiment has been particularly strong in East European countries occupied by Germany during the war, and those which were at war with Germany and its allies.

Although views fluctuate somewhat in response to geopolitical issues (such as the invasion of Iraq), Americans regard modern Germany as an ally and few hold anti-German sentiments. Occasionally, German people are stereotyped as Nazis (goose-stepping, shouting "Sieg Heil!", and sporting a "Hitler moustache") in some parts of American media, as well as in the UK and other countries. Richard Wagner's music was not performed in Israel until 1995 (radio) and 2001 (concert) and was for many years unpopular in Poland.

In Israel

Up to the rise of Hitler in 1933, many European Jews tended to be pro-German. German Jews were deeply integrated in the country's culture, and many of them fought with distinction in the ranks of the World War I German Army. Jews in Czech lands tended to adopt the German language and culture in preference to Slavic languages (Kafka being a conspicuous example), and a similar phenomenon was evident in other parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Throughout Eastern Europe, Jews spoke Yiddish, a language closely related to German, and Jewish intellectuals often took up German as "The Language of Culture". Theodore Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, himself spoke and wrote German and in his utopian book Altneuland actually depicted the future Jewish state as German-speaking.

Such attitudes suffered an extremely painful rupture and complete reversal with the Nazi persecutions and atrocities, culminating with the systematic genocide of the Holocaust. In the first decades of Israel's existence, anti-German feelings were strong and dominant in Israeli society. There was a widespread cultural and commercial boycott of all things German (and often, Austrian as well) and a determination "never to set foot on German soil." German Jews in Israel, themselves refugees from the Nazi persecutions, came under strong social pressure to cease using German, their mother tongue.

At the time, the words "German" and "Nazi" were used interchangeably. (Until the late 1990s the sign language of Israeli deaf communities used the Swastika as the sign for "German".) There was a widespread scepticism about the possibility of "another Germany" ever emerging, and specifically a suspicion of Konrad Adenauer's claim to be involved in the creation of a new, democratic Germany. Many Israelis took up the Soviet claims, made in the early years of the Cold War, that West Germany was "a fascist state" in which ex-Nazis held key positions; however, Israelis also tended to regard Communist East Germany as being just as bad.

The Reparations Agreement with Germany, signed by the Ben Gurion government in 1952, was the focus of intense political controversy, and the protest demonstrations led by then opposition leader Menachem Begin turned into pitched battles with the police. In the early 1960s, the Eichmann Trial brought the horrors and traumas of the Holocaust to the center of public consciousness. The establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and West Germany in 1966 entailed a new wave of protests and demonstrations, though less violent than those of 1952.

However, since the late 1960s, there has been a clear, though gradual, process of rapprochement between Israelis and Germans in all spheres: diplomatic, commercial and cultural. Most Israelis have come to accept that Germany had indeed broken with its Nazi past and that democracy has become rooted in German society, though many of them expressed a preference for dealing with younger Germans who were born or grew up after 1945 and a repugnance for meeting those who were adults during World War II (except if they had a proven anti-Nazi record).

The 1967 Six Day War realigned Israeli politics, with the issue of occupied territories henceforth defining what is "right wing" and "left wing," with, among other things, the result that militant Israeli nationalism tended to be anti-Arab rather than anti-German. When Begin became Israel's Prime Minister in 1977, he had little option but to take up the maintenance of already very extensive ties with Germany, to whose creation he had been fiercely opposed as an opposition leader.

A momentary flare-up of anti-German feeling occurred during the 1991 Gulf War, when Israel was the subject of missile attack by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Some Israeli columnists and politicians combined the revelations of German corporations helping the Iraqi arms industry and the strong anti-war movement in Germany and tied both with the German Nazi past.

The German government of the time managed, however, to assuage Israeli feelings by providing the Israeli Navy with several advanced submarines, which, according to repeated reports in the international press, were used to mount nuclear missiles and provide Israel with a second strike capacity.

At present, anti-German feelings in Israel are at low ebb. The ongoing debate about whether the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra should play the works of Richard Wagner is mostly considered as a remnant of the past. In 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first foreign head of government invited to deliver a speech in the Israeli parliament, which she gave in the German language. Several Israeli members of parliament left in protest during the speech, claiming the need to create a collective memory that "will create a kind of electric wave when Jews will hear the sounds of the German language, they'll remember the Holocaust.".

Contemporary Europe

After the separation into two countries following World War II, West Germany generally had good relationships with its western neighboring states, as did East Germany with its eastern neighbors. Many of these relationships continued after the end of the Cold War with the unified Germany. West Germany was a co-founder of the European Union and the reunified Germany continues as a leading member. During the process of European unification, Germany and France forged a strong relationship, ending the long-standing French-German enmity which had peaked during and after the First World War.

Germans sometimes complain of stereotypical associations of them with acts and a regime of more than sixty years ago, such as the use of anti-German sentiment in headlines by parts of the British press, recent examples arising when German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

Poland

Anti-Germanism is heavily rooted in Polish popularized perceptions of its western neighbors, dating back to the Teutonic Order. Tensions had only increased with the rise of nationalism and events such as the three partitions of Poland, germanization in the 19th and 20th centuries, and unfortunate pre-World War II situations. Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939, controversies such as Bloody Sunday and the Polish experience until 1945 have only contributed to sentiments, as has bitterness over finalized borders. Germano-Polish relations have also been damaged more recently: the Poles are suspicious of the campaign by Germans expelled by Poland following the Second World War to seek reparation for their lost property and to create the Centre Against Expulsions; in addition, the proposed Russo-German pipeline through the Baltic Sea, which would undermine Poland's ability to negotiate with Russia over energy supplies, was described as a new Molotov-Ribbentrop pact by members of the Polish government. Against this, German analysts have accused the Kaczynski twins of stoking up popular anti-German sentiment in order to secure the survival of their government.

Netherlands

For centuries, and most recently since World War II, a feeling of animosity exists towards Germans among the Dutch.

Germans are generally aware of this atmosphere and attitude towards them and often tread carefully when in the Netherlands.

The Dutch aversion towards the Germans is usually most internationally visible during the events surrounding the European and World Cup. Well-known separate incidents between the Dutch and German team include:

Dutch authorities are cognizant of such anti-German sentiment and have been trying to moderate such feelings over the past few years, and according to recent studies the attitude towards German people has become less antagonistic.

See also

List of terms used for Germans

Notes

External links

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