Hitler is Long Gone, But Hate for Germans Is Still Strong – Why Europe Still Holds Animosity Towards Germany

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Who’s the most hated nation in Europe? You might be forgiven for assuming it was the French, with a large number of jokes and put downs being aimed at the French and almost every country in the continent having some kind of historical axe to grind with the land of the frogs. If you were to make that guess though you would in fact be wrong, and it’s almost certainly safe to say that for most of Europe it’s the Germans that are the least popular. So let’s have a look at what makes Germans the unfortunate recipients of this rather dubious title…

Don’t Mention The War…

Of course one of the most obvious reasons for animosity towards the Germans is World War 2… and if you’re looking for another reason then there’s always World War 1. Unfortunately history deemed that Germans would be the cause of both these world wars and a lot of people still hold the nation responsible as a result.

Now it might seem ridiculous that people would still hold Germans accountable for something that happened so long ago. Indeed most Germans are embarrassed about the war and harbour no ill feelings anymore. In many ways of course too Germans were actually the biggest victims of the wars – not only was Germany subjected to a lot of bombing, but the Nazis made life very difficult for the residents there at the time and most Germans were very scared. There were people who stood up to the Nazis in Germany just as there were in France, and in fact Hitler himself wasn’t even German (he was Austrian for those that don’t know). Add to this the fact that the Jews who suffered so badly during the war were often German and you realise that it’s not accurate to say that Germans were responsible. Nazis were responsible, and almost all of those Nazis are long dead. And if you do take the view that a nation should be held responsible for its history? Well then none of us are really innocent – every country at some point in its history is responsible for atrocities.

So why do Europeans often still hold Germany accountable? Well one of the reasons is the simple fact that there are still WW2 veterans living among us which means that for some at least it’s not so easy to just forget. And during World War 1 and 2 there was a lot of propaganda against Germans which will have had a lasting effect on the national psyche. Of course that propaganda was necessary to spur those countries on during the war, but since then the lasting effects are of course less desirable.

The Problem With Modern Germans…

So is all of Europe’s aggression toward Germans based on an inability to forgive and forget? Unfortunately not – and there are still a couple of ways that Germans manage to upset their neighbors. One of the most oft-quoted of these is the way that Germans reportedly behave on holiday which doesn’t sit well with a lot of other European tourists.

Among the gripes Europeans have with holidaying Germans is their infamous tendency to ‘steal’ sunbeds and the accusation is that Germans – more so than any other nation – will wake up early in the morning to put their towels on sun beds so that no one else can use them.

And this same attitude also translates to the way Germans feel about queuing. While the Brits pride themselves on being ‘good at queuing’, the Germans don’t generally view queues in the same way and will take every opportunity to push in and get to the front. Of course the English and many other Europeans find this behavior rude, but in fact it’s not a matter of rudeness – just of different approaches. In Germany there is a first-come-first-serve attitude but this works fine because everyone abides by it – those willing to wake up early/fight their way to the front get served first, and those who are content to relax go later. This only then becomes a problem in the rest of Europe because the Germans are operating under different rules to the other traveler meaning that they end up pushing in front of people who have been queuing diligently because that’s what they were brought up to do.

Finally many people feel a rivalry with the Germans because they can be quite competitive. Germany is financially one of the most well off countries in Europe currently which of course courses resentment and is never a good way to win popularity contests. Furthermore, Germany is also more than adept in a number of sports from motorsports to football (soccer) which results in a lot of clashes.

Racism is Racism      

Ultimately though what this Germaphobia amounts to though is racism. While many Europeans will excuse their behavior by referencing World Wars or holiday habits, it’s ultimately a form of prejudice no different to any other form of racism. Just like any nation, Germans are highly varied and it’s impossible to judge them all on a few examples. Not every German tourist will steel the sun bed, and even if they do it’s only because they haven’t been brought up in the same way. Try chatting to some and you’ll find they can be funny, charming and generous. And yes the same goes for the French…