In Britain, distrust of Europe goes hand-in-hand with distrust of Germany. Relations between the two countries have cooled following the furore caused by the latest EU summit, and British euroskeptics are once again resorting to old stereotypes.
'Welcome to the Fourth Reich'
Distrust of the European Union goes hand-in-hand with distrust of Germany, especially among "euroskeptics," the current euphemism for the many haters of the EU in Britain. The headline "Welcome to the Fourth Reich" in the high-circulation Daily Mail summarized the German-French plans to rescue the monetary union. In another story, the paper wrote: "What we are witnessing is the economic colonisation of Europe by stealth by the Germans."
Of course, many Britons -- and even some Englishmen, among whom the resentment is the most widespread -- know that such talk is nonsense. But surprisingly many do not. Whenever someone on in Britain utters the word "Germany," it doesn't take long, a matter of milliseconds, in fact -- even in many well-informed circles in politics, journalism or the world of comedy -- before someone says: "Hitler."
It's been this way for decades. Nazis are practically an obsession in Britain, and associating Germans with them is such a strong reflex that it stifles almost all interest in the real Germany of today. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, a British education authority, found that the teaching of history suffers from excessive "Hitlerization." For British schoolchildren, Germany came into the world as a freak in 1933 and, thanks to then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, died a well-deserved death in 1945.
The anti-German rhetoric was particularly strong after German reunification, which then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, nicknamed "the Iron Lady," sought to prevent. Even the levelheaded Economist warned against what it believed to be the threat of a German nuclear bomb. In 1990, Thatcher invited leading British historians to a conference at Chequers to analyze the dangerous German national character. According to the minutes of the meeting, some of the supposed German character traits discussed there included "aggressiveness, egotism, an inferiority complex and sentimentality."