• 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Two die in Bremen plane crash
The fire caused by the crash. Photo: DPA

Two die in Bremen plane crash

UPDATE: Two men died on Friday afternoon when a plane crashed in Bremen, causing a fire and a series of explosions in a warehouse near the city's airport. READ  

Merkel's party mutinies over tax cuts
Merkel in Münster last year at a meeting of her party's workers' wing. Photo: DPA

Merkel's party mutinies over tax cuts

Chancellor Angela Merkel faced a rebellion from within her own party on Friday after an unlikely coalition formed in favour of tax cuts for workers on lower incomes. READ  

Expat Dispatches
'Look at those German shanty towns!'
Kleingärten in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

'Look at those German shanty towns!'

Visitors to Germany can sometimes be confused by the country's love of allotments in cities, known as a Kleingarten. Teacher and blogger Kathleen Ralf tells us what it's all about. READ  

Lightning rods further delay Berlin Airport
Closed until further notice: Berlin's troubled new airport. Photo: DPA

Lightning rods further delay Berlin Airport

Too few lightning rods and an undersized emergency generator have prevented part of Berlin's new airport from opening. Safety inspectors refused to sign off on the airport's north pier, thwarting progress on the massively delayed construction project. READ  

Two thirds of Berlin's tourist flats now illegal
Photo: DPA

Two thirds of Berlin's tourist flats now illegal

Two thirds of Berlin's 12,000 tourist apartments advertised on sites such as Airbnb were being run illegally from Friday following a law change, leaving hosts open to potential punishment. READ  

Lost goat halts Munich Airport trains
Fritzi underneath the train. Photo: Freiwillige Feuerwehr Unterschließheim/DPA

Lost goat halts Munich Airport trains

A lost pet goat called Fritzi halted trains to Munich Airport and had to be rescued from the tracks after suffering a concussion. READ  

Germany crowned U19 European Champions
Photo: EPA/Tibor Illyes HUNGARY OUT

Germany crowned U19 European Champions

Germany’s U19 football team added to a glorious summer of sport for the country by winning the European Championships in Budapest on Thursday night. READ  

World War I anniversary
100 years ago, Germans celebrated war's outbreak
August 1914. German soldiers march off to war in France. Photo: DPA

100 years ago, Germans celebrated war's outbreak

A hundred years ago on Friday Germany declared war on Russia and was preparing for an attack on France in the hope that Britain would stay neutral. Four years on, famine was ravaging the country and two million soldiers had been killed on the battlefield. READ  

Environment Agency urges fast fracking ban
Photo: DPA

Environment Agency urges fast fracking ban

Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA) is encouraging lawmakers to hurry up and ban fracking in all but name, saying the process is too dangerous to even consider allowing. READ  

German of the Week
'Now I can grow cannabis at home'
Günter Weiglein. Photo: DPA

'Now I can grow cannabis at home'

Günter Weiglein is one of three men in Germany who is allowed to grow his own cannabis thanks to a court ruling last week. But he tells The Local he’s not celebrating just yet. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Society
Your lottery numbers are 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13...
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Five reasons to visit Oktoberfest (and five not to)
Photo: DPA
Society
Huge Bavarian crop circle puzzles crowds
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Have Your Say: Should Germany legalize cannabis?
Photo: DPA
Education
Germany's students fail to graduate in time
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Hamburg harbour lit up in blue
Business & Money
JobTalk: 'Application process is failing'
Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825
Culture
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
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

3,290
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd