• Germany edition
 
'No one moaned about the Germans better'

'No one moaned about the Germans better'

Published: 09 Apr 2013 13:03 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 Apr 2013 13:03 GMT+02:00

Margaret Thatcher would have made an ideal Berlin expat. No one was better at moaning about the Germans. If she'd lived in the city's überhip Neukölln neightbourhood in 2013, it would only have been a matter of time before she had her own English language stand-up show. The preface of this great book on Anglo-German relations, contains all kinds of top nuggets about Maggie's Germanophobia: "If Boris Becker wins again this year, Margaret will be hell in cabinet the next day," one minister is supposed to have said in 1990 as the ginger German went for his fourth Wimbledon crown.

Then there's the lovely anecdote about when Helmut "I-fear-her-like-the-devil-fears-holy-water" Kohl fed Thatcher his favourite German dish: Saumagen. At the end of an awkward meal in which the gigantic chancellor attempted to impress the PM by swallowing a pig's stomach, she whispered to an aide, "That man is so German."

But enough about Thatcher's positive side. What irritated me about yesterday's Thatcher "tributes" is all the talk about how "great" she was. "I didn't like her or agree with her policies," people said, but she "achieved" so much, and had a "vision" that she had the "courage" to realize.

You keep hearing this mendacious bollocks from normal, slightly left-wing people, the kind of people who are otherwise so healthily cynical about other, less entertaining politicians. But being mad, stubborn and zealous is not the same as being great. She was just a political leader, and like all the other boring grey-suited political leaders we have now and that we love to make fun of and then get to dismiss, she was an amoral opportunist who was forced into making ugly compromises.

So she opposed the brutal dictatorships in Eastern Europe even as she supported the brutal dictatorships in South America, and now Poles love her and Chileans hate her. But morally she's no better or worse than what Angela Merkel or David Cameron or François Hollande are doing now – selling weapons to Saudi Arabia even as they condemn Iran and Burma. It's just what you do when you're in charge. Similarly her economic policies, the so-called "Thatcherism" that apparently changed everything, was, as Germaine Greer pointed out in this article for The Guardian, "a thing of strings and patches" that was "put together, as her public persona was, in response to a series of pressures originating in circumstances beyond government control." Moreover, "She never defined an overall strategy, developed no theory of the state, had scant regard for democracy, and no scruples whatsoever. Thatcher's Thatcherism was whatever worked."

As for her troubled relationship with Germany, British and French diplomatic documents released in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (and to say sorry for opposing reunification), showed that her policy towards Europe was shot through with the exact World War II paranoia of the nuttiest UK Independence Party voter. She was basically convinced that a unified Germany would conquer all.

Those documents showed just how strong WWII consciousness was in those crazy days at the end of the 1980s, when Britain, France, and the US routinely still referred to themselves as "the Allies". In January 1990 Thatcher's Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd was moved to give her this blunt advice: "If the people of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic decide freely and democratically in favour of unity, there is no way of stopping that, short of military action."

Elsewhere, Thatcher was quoted by the French ambassador in London describing Kohl as being "capable of anything. He has become a different man. He does not know who he is anymore. He sees himself as the master and is starting to act like it." So much for "helping to end the Cold War," as Angela Merkel and Guido Westerwelle gushed yesterday – she basically thought what most tyro expat comedians think about Germans: they're all Nazis.

This commentary originally appeared on Exberliner's website here. For more of Konrad Werner's columns click here.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local List
Eight expat groups to save you in Germany
Photo: Jan Perlich/Munich RFC

Eight expat groups to save you in Germany

Think you're the only English speaker in your town or region? Think again! The Local List this week runs through eight of the best expat groups and clubs in Germany. READ  

Victims of GDR regime get benefit boost
Former GDR political prisoners Hartmut (l) and Gerda Stachowitz in a East Berlin prison which has stood empty for 20 years. Photo: DPA

Victims of GDR regime get benefit boost

Benefit payments to former political prisoners of ex-communist East Germany (GDR) will be raised to send an "important message" 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the government said on Wednesday. READ  

Cabinet agrees cap on city rent rises
Apartments in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

Cabinet agrees cap on city rent rises

Germany's cabinet agreed on Wednesday to cap ballooning property rents in high-demand urban neighbourhoods in a law set to come into force early next year. READ  

Berlin flights disrupted by WWII bomb find
Passengers are delayed at Tegel Airport. Photo: DPA

Berlin flights disrupted by WWII bomb find

UPDATE: The discovery of a US World War II bomb disrupted flights at Berlin’s Tegel Airport on Wednesday afternoon, with no flights taking off or landing for 30 minutes. The bomb has now been defused but later flights are still delayed. READ  

Refugee abuse guards 'nicknamed the SS'
A photo allegedly showing guards abusing one refugee. Photo: DPA/Police

Refugee abuse guards 'nicknamed the SS'

A group of guards who allegedly abused refugees in an asylum centre in western Germany were nicknamed “the SS” after Hitler's stormtroopers, according to one of their colleagues. Photos of guards abusing refugees have sparked a backlash in Germany against security firms. READ  

Nestle wins the food prize no one wants
First prize went to Nestle for its sugary baby food. Photo: Foodwatch

Nestle wins the food prize no one wants

A food watchdog presented Nestle with a prize to avoid on Wednesday for the cheekiest false advertising of the year. The runner-up was a chicken soup with no chicken in a vote of almost 160,000 Germans. READ  

Merkel's VIP jet set to fly soldiers home
One of the two A340 planes which are reserved for the Chancellor and government leaders. Photo: DPA

Merkel's VIP jet set to fly soldiers home

One of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s VIP jets is set to be used to ferry soldiers home who are stuck in Afghanistan, due to ongoing problems with the German military’s transport planes. READ  

German firms top EU lobbying list
Siemens was the highest ranked German company when it came to spending on EU lobbying, according to the register. Photo: DPA

German firms top EU lobbying list

Germany companies are among the biggest spenders when it comes to EU lobbying to influence decision makers in Brussels. There are more German lobbying organizations registered than from any other country in Europe but Belgium. READ  

City starts beer for alcoholics project
Photo: DPA

City starts beer for alcoholics project

A city in western Germany will start a controversial project on Wednesday to employ alcohol and drug addicts to clean the streets in return for beer, tobacco, food and small amounts of cash. READ  

Fault forces Germany to cut Eurofighters
A German Eurofighter. Photo: DPA

Fault forces Germany to cut Eurofighters

A manufacturing fault has been discovered in the troubled Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes, Germany's defence ministry said on Tuesday, announcing it was suspending deliveries of the sophisticated jets. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Munich
Bavarian independence becomes a reality... (online)
Photo: DPA/Police
National
'Criminals are at work in refugee homes'
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Immigrants have created how many German jobs?
Photo: DPA
National
Revealed: Germany's military feet of clay
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Marks and Spencer: Win €300 toward your new autumn wardrobe
Photo: Shutterstock
Society
Quiz: How good is your German?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Thousands take to Berlin's streets for marathon
Photo: DPA
Society
'Incest should be legal,' says ethics board
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten noises that sound very different in German
Photo: DPA
Society
QUIZ: Can you pass the German citizenship test?
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,169
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd