Tag Archives: germany

Ten German Bombers

It’s funny to see stories like this in the Observer today, claiming that England football fans are realising that the Germans are similar to them… There will be no fan segregation at the England v Germany game in South Africa today and the fans are enjoying the warm up together.

Why is it we are surprised that there are shared cultural references between England and Germany? The Saxons settled in England long before the Nazi party of the 20th century came to prominence. And this is possibly the main issue. Nazi Germany is one of the most commonly taught historic eras in English schools. It’s about war. It’s got some villains. The teachers have a lot of materials to draw on. But it also means that children get turfed out of school with an impression of Germany still shaped by their history classes.

So the jokes about German bombers continue – until some of the fans actually meet Germans and realise that their own English culture,religion, moral values, and love of beer is Anglo-Saxon.

The Germany world cup four years ago gave a reason for a lot of English people to visit Germany – a lot of people who might think nothing of visiting Spain, but would never have considered Germany as a nice enough place to visit. And I’m sure there were a lot of surprised people who enjoyed the hospitality of the locals.

I don’t know how the German tourist office can improve their image – I have seen ads featuring Michael Ballack – but I think if they really want to change this lingering nod to history by the English then they need to lobby for a change to the GCSE curriculum.
Deutscher Bundestag - German Parliament

Berlin Wall 20 years on

When I was a teenager in the 1980s there was a general feeling that we might one day have to prepare for a nuclear war. It sounds foolish now. At that time, our political concerns and fears were still linked to states, not amorphous terrorist groups. In western Europe, we were constantly concerned about the relationship with the Soviet bloc across the iron curtain.

Playground conversation would be about Reagan, Thatcher, and what will happen if and when a war does occur. That wasn’t because I was some kind of childhood political junkie, it was just the attitude of that era. The news talked about it. The media in general talked about it. Dramatists talked about it. Musicians talked about it. And us, the kids kicking a ball around in the playground, were talking about it.

Then exactly 20 years ago today – when I was a young student of computer science and sitting in college cutting my teeth on assembly code – the East Germans came crashing through the Berlin Wall.

Granting freedom of movement to East Germans started a process that has yet to finish. We found peace and improved political relationships quite early on, and one look at modern Berlin would lead you to ask if there ever was a division. But, the old Eastern part of Germany is still affected by the years of division. Industry there is less productive, career opportunities aren’t as bright. Even two decades down the line, there has not been a complete assimilation.

Europe has developed immensely since that time, to the point where most of the continent shares a currency and grants freedom of movement to all citizens. Now our union contains 27 nation states, many of whom were Soviet-bloc states just a couple of decades ago.

The destruction of the wall liberated so many people to live their lives in a spirit of greater freedom. Not just the Germans, but all those to the East of the wall who found the government dictating so many aspects of their life. It was an amazing single event that captured the imagination of people all over the world, especially those who have to rail against dictatorial regimes when all they want to do is get on with their life.

Berlin wall

I’m in Berlin now. It’s just to get away and take a look around the city for the weekend. Though I’ve visited Germany a few times in the past, I’ve never been to Berlin. So here I am… I’ll blog more if anything interesting happens over the next few days!