• 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
Criminals blow Berlin Sparkasse wide open
Photo: DPA

Criminals blow Berlin Sparkasse wide open

Unknown criminals used explosives to rob a Berliner Sparkasse bank branch in the Berlin district of Mariendorf early on Sunday morning. READ  

French retread path to Berlin finance ministry
French Economy and Finance Ministers Emmanuel Macron (l) and Michel Sapin. Photo: DPA

French retread path to Berlin finance ministry

French and German ministers are due to meet on Monday to discuss ways of boosting growth in Europe's two biggest economies, as Paris called on Berlin to step up investment. READ  

Lufthansa pilots to strike for 35 hours
Grounded. Photo: DPA

Lufthansa pilots to strike for 35 hours

Pilots' union Cockpit has called a new 35-hour walkout at Lufthansa starting Monday while rail service returned to normal following a weekend-long train strike. READ  

German dies after trying to take ravine photos
Photo: File photo/Shutterstock

German dies after trying to take ravine photos

A German student has died after falling into a steep ravine at a waterfall on a popular Malaysian resort island, police said on Sunday. READ  

Academic makes Twitter splash saying 'Nein'
File photo. DPA

Academic makes Twitter splash saying 'Nein'

Former Ivy League professor of German Eric Jarosinski has become a Twitter phenomenon developing a huge social media following thanks in no small part to saying no in German. READ  

Klopp slams Dortmund as slump continues
Jurgen Klopp looks downcast as Borussia Dortmund suffer another defeat. Photo: DPA

Klopp slams Dortmund as slump continues

Jurgen Klopp slammed his Borussia Dortmund side after Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Cologne made it five Bundesliga games without a win ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash at Galatasaray. READ  

Michael Müller will be Berlin's next mayor
Michael Müller. Photo: DPA

Michael Müller will be Berlin's next mayor

Berlin’s development senator, who led the controversial project to develop Tempelhof Airport, will be the capital’s next mayor. Michael Müller won almost 60 percent of the vote among members of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Saturday. READ  

Train Strike
Rail strike cripples Germany's train lines
Passengers wait for buses outside Erfurt station on Saturday morning. Photo: DPA

Rail strike cripples Germany's train lines

Rail travellers on Saturday faced huge delays and disruptions on one of autumn's busiest travel weekends as the train drivers' union began a 50-hour strike. READ  

Freed hostages back at German embassy
Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen are welcomed by German Embassy officials upon their arrival at Villamor Airbase in Pasay city, south of Manila, the Philippines. Photo: DPA

Freed hostages back at German embassy

Two Germans kidnapped by Islamic militants in the Philippines are safely back at their Manila embassy, officials said on Saturday after a harrowing six-month ordeal in which they endured threats of beheading and seemingly routine cruelty. READ  

ID cards to be seized to stop jihadist travel
A huge German ID card specimen is exhibited at the booth of the German Federal Printing in 2011. Photo: DPA

ID cards to be seized to stop jihadist travel

Germany on Friday announced new measures to prevent its citizens from travelling to join the jihadist cause in Iraq and Syria, including confiscating their identity papers. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Travel
This is the man who has stopped Germany's trains
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
Expats: Should I stay or should I go?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: World's biggest erotic fair opens in Berlin
Photo: Screenshot
National
German jihadist threatens 'filthy' Merkel
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Time to loosen the purse strings?
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
Which expat foods do you miss the most?
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
How to get hired at a Berlin startup
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Ebola 'prankster' shuts down Berlin bar
Photo: DPA
Features
215 countries, 26 years and one engine
Photo: DPA
Society
Leipzig 25 years ago: 'We were scared of being shot'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
What do other countries warn about Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The ten richest people in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
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

3,422
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd