My silly story about English Germanophobia hides a grimmer truth. During the Second World War, the British slaughtered German civilians in a way that boggles the mind. A new book asks whether the Allied bombing campaign in the War was a war crime. For the British child who hunts imaginary Jerries with plastic guns the narrative is simple: evil Nazis started the war; evil Nazis invaded other countries; evil Nazis murdered millions; evil Nazis lost to the Good Guys; we were the Good Guys; the ends justified the means.
But what happens when the Good Guys themselves turn to evil, to “terror”? Grayling’s book details the deliberate targeting of German civilians by Allied (particularly British) bombers. 600,000 dead. For sure, the Germans dropped their fair share of bombs on England (my mum has vague memories of the bomb shelter at the bottom of her road in Worcester), but here’s where it all gets so terrible: discussions like these tend to bring out the calculator — German civilian deaths vs. English civilian deaths vs. the Holocaust vs. potential deaths vs. the specter of a Nazi Europe vs. this vs. that. At what point are 600,000 dead a price worth paying?
War sucketh with much suckitude.
Anyway, this reminds me of an article about English vs. German humour. Apparently, this was meant as a joke:
On my first night in Hannover I had gone out drinking with some young German actors. “You will notice there are no old buildings in Hannover,” one of them said. “That is because you bombed them all.” At the time I found this shocking and embarrassing. Now it seems like the funniest thing you could possibly say to a nervous English visitor.