Thursday, 11 December 2014

Germans don't remember the Christmas truce in World War I

I suppose the fact stated in the headline is not that surprising: Britain's relationship with World War I seems to be much more intense than that of any other participant (and the reverse is true of World War II).

I take the headline from this piece from Sebastian Borger of Berliner Zeitung on the BBC website. It also includes one of the more surprising sentences I have read recently: "Whatever else their experience of living in Britain, most Germans here share one thing: an astonishment at the extent to which military traditions have survived in modern British society - and, at least to my mind, go more or less unchallenged." (I should say that he goes on to add that that is not necessarily a criticism.)

How strange the idea that military traditions should or might be "challenged" sounds to British ears. I suppose one can just about imagine a Frenchman noting that monarchical traditions are "unchallenged" in the UK, but somehow Borger's sentence seems even stranger than this, particularly as it comes from a German: at some level (a level at which WWI is held particularly dear), we rather have the idea that Germany has a great military tradition in which it might rightly take pride. What a shame, we might think, if their recent-ish history has led the Germans to throw out the baby of military pride with the bathwater of Nazism. But I suppose it is another example of the flippant (perhaps callously flippant, to some of our neighbours) attitude we take to WWII to think in these terms. Let us add it to the list of things we do not understand about Germans.

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