Monday, 18 June 2012

Deutschland, Deutschland über alles

You'll be glad to hear that this isn't me taking the sports wear trend too literally.  I am, for lack of a better word, being patriotic.  

My family and I are 100% German and that hasn't always been easy for me to accept.  Not getting a very positive response at all to being German during my first years of secondary school was devastating to me.  I had wonderful friends in primary school and being a different nationality never mattered to anyone.  Then in secondary school I learnt that children could be cruel, especially children who themselves were unhappy and angry.  Picking on someone for being German was easy because of our genuinely shameful history.  1933 to 1945 is a devastating legacy.  I went to a British school so of course learning about the Second World War from an Allied point of view and being the only German in class was sometimes uncomfortable.  It has to be said though that for all the friends I've ever had, me being German didn't matter to them at all.  But when I was a teenager I wanted to please everybody and everybody's opinion mattered so much to me.  When I moved to England at 14 my accent-less English became more British and it was very easy to fit in.  I didn't really have many bad experiences with being German in the UK.  Only once when my taxi driver who was taking me to the airport was complaining and bitching about the Germans before I told him that I in fact was very much German.  He didn't say a single word for the rest of the trip.  But a lot of the time, especially in university when asked where I come from I'd say that I was from Leeds (my boarding school was near there).  It was partly to save having to explain my whole TCK background but also because I was frightened of the reaction I'd get if I said I was German.

I didn't realise how much being bullied for being German as a child had affected me until about a year ago.  As a German it is very difficult to be proud and patriotic.  The past is so very present in everything we do.  From a young age we are educated about the Third Reich, almost drilled in a sense so that we are both hyper aware and hyper sensitive about every thing from 1933-45.  In school my mother was shown the videos that the American troops took when they liberated the concentration camps.  We are constantly reminded of that dark time and rightly so because something like that is never allowed to happen again.  But when the past weighs so heavily all the time and means that the current generation, which literally had nothing to do with the Third Reich, suffers from being ashamed of being German constantly, that's not right either.  

Strangely enough the moment when everything changed was in 2006 when Germany hosted the 2006 FIFA World Cup.  It was as if someone had flicked a switch.  The German team reached the semi finals and it was described by the press as a 'Sommermärchen' (A summer fairytale).  People were waving flags, hanging them outside their houses and attaching them to their cars.  There were more football shirts around than ever before and nearly everything was in the  black, red and gold colour scheme (the German flag colours).  Flag waving and patriotism had always been associated with the Third Reich and the massive Nazi rallies up until then.  The fact that the world cup was hosted by Germany meant that people actually came to visit Germany, something they might not have ever thought about doing.  Germany had put it's best foot forward and proved people wrong about badly placed stereotypes and prejudices.  We were proud hosts.  In a small way watching the German national team play football became the stepping stone for Germans to say 'okay this is my country and I'm proud to be German'.  

As I write this the German football team haven't lost a game in the Euro 2012 championship and have made it to the quarter finals.  I'll put my hand on my heart and honestly say that I generally disliked football but if watching football is the small stepping stone that brings me closer to being a proud German then I'll take it any day.  It's a work in progress but I'm getting there. 



  1. what an amazingly written piece, so many people are so small-minded about these things! i went to rhineland recently with school and loved it, germany is a place i'd like to explore more! where does your family come from?


  2. Dankeschön für deine Kommentare :) Dann werde ich mir "The Other Boleyn Girl" vorerst mal nicht anschauen. Hast du die anderen Tudor Court-Bücher von Philippa Gregory gelesen? Ich überlege nämlich, ob ich mir noch eins zulegen soll, "The Boleyn Inheritance" zuerst. Aber mein Stapel ungelesener Bücher ist sowieso noch ziemlich groß :D
    Dein Post ist wirklich interessant zu lesen und toll geschrieben. Als Österreicher trägt man ja leider auch die Last der Geschichte, Patriotismus ist eher verschrien und man stellt sich nicht mit Fahnen zu Tausenden auf die Straße wie die Briten beim Thronjubiläum (okay, es sei denn, ein Fußballspiel steht an, aber das endet für uns bekanntermaßen ja nicht oft erfreulich). Aber nichtsdestotrotz werde ich zu Spanien und Italien halten, sollten sie bei der EM auf Deutschland treffen ;)

    Liebe Grüße
    Vicky | golden mirrors

  3. Beautiful piece. I'm glad that you are finding it easier to be proud to be German. And I am very jealous of your country getting to the quarter finals of Euro 2012... As someone who spent most her life in Ireland and considers herself at least half Irish (although born in England), I was very sad to see Ireland knocked out! I also understand in some way what you went through, as growing up in rural Ireland with a strong English accent lead to quite a bit of bullying too!

  4. great post - However I think everyone should make a distinction between German people and Nazi's. I am British and I do not feel guilt for the concentration camps that our army created in the Boer War, long before the Nazis. The Holocaust was a devastating thing, but the people of today are not the murderers. I think we should learn from the Holocaust and not forget what happened, but at the same time stop the rifts between the people of our nations and try and live peacefully. Earlier this year I took part in the Lessons from Auschwitz project run by the Holocaust Educational Trust ( <-- you might find it interesting :). Myself and my partner visited Auschwitz and learnt alot from the trip, we are now doing a project within our school about the lessons we can learn. We have made a blog to share our experiences ( Fab blog - keep it up! :D

  5. wow i love your jacket, always wanted to get one!

    im sorry about your past, things happen and no ones life is perfect. its great that you learned something! im proud of my culture, as everyone should be.

    hope to see you on my blog :)

    Figure Of Chic.

  6. Before I ran into your blog it never occured to me that Germans still have this kind of problems, because while being Russian I learned German since Grade 1, took part in Schuleraustausch, went to Germany a couple of times more, and never really made this connection between Germany today, and Germany then. Now since I stopped studying German I can't really write in it anymore, and I feel really sad about it and hope to continue studying it someday, because it was the first foreign language I learnt and I love it. I think that Germany is a great country, and I know many nice people there and I don't understand people who still associate it with that past. So, I feel really lucky that I had a chance to get to know Germany and to see how nice and beautiful it is without any prejudices. And I feel sorry for your bad experiences, and just wanted to tell you that I think many people see your country the way I do :)


All your comments are very much appreciated! If you have any questions either leave them with your comments or get in touch with me here: @the_littlenomad

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
| the little nomad |. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.