Anti-German sentiment

Anti-German sentiment (also known as Germanophobia or Teutophobia) is defined as an opposition to or fear of Germany, its inhabitants, its culture and the German language.[2] Its opposite is Germanophilia. The sentiment largely began with the mid-19th century unification of Germany, which made the new nation a rival to the Great Powers of Europe on economic, cultural, geopolitical and military grounds.

In the 20th century, the role of Germans as the primary perpetrators of the Holocaust and Germany's role in starting two world wars also fed anti-German sentiment amongst Germany's enemy countries and the citizens of those countries.

19th century


In the 1860s Russia experienced an outbreak of Germanophobia, mainly restricted to a small group of writers in St. Petersburg who had united around a right-wing newspaper. It began in 1864 with the publication of an article by a writer (using the pseudonym "Shedoferotti") who proposed that Poland be given autonomy and that the privileges of the German barons in the Baltic governorates and Finland be preserved. Mikhail Katkov published a harsh criticism of the article in the Moscow News, which in turn caused a flood of angry articles in which Russian writers expressed their irritation with Europeans, some of which featured direct attacks on Germans.[3]

The following year, 1865, the 100th anniversary of the death of Mikhail Lomonosov was marked throughout the Russian empire. Articles were published mentioning the difficulties Lomonosov had encountered from the foreign members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, most of whom had been of German descent. The authors then criticized contemporary German scholars for their neglect of the Russian language and for printing articles in foreign languages while receiving funds from the Russian people. It was further suggested by some writers that Russian citizens of German origin who did not speak Russian and follow the Orthodox faith should be considered foreigners. It was also proposed that people of German descent be forbidden from holding diplomatic posts as they might not have "solidarity with respect to Russia".

Despite the press campaign against Germans, Germanophobic feelings did not develop in Russia to any widespread extent, and died out, due to the Imperial family's German roots and the presence of many German names in the Russian political elite.[4]

Great Britain

Negative comments about Germany had begun to appear in Britain in the 1870s, following the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870–71.[5] Criticisms were expressed in the press and in the birth of the invasion novel (e.g. The Battle of Dorking), many of which focused on the idea that Britain might be Germany's next victim.[6] These fears were also fueled by the new mass press, which had a huge impact on public opinion. Lord Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliff, who used his Newspapers like "Daily Mail" or "The Times" to rush against Germany, was particularly prominent in this role and influenced the classes and the masses like no one else against Germany.

In 1887, the label Made in Germany was introduced, to get British buyers to adhere to the concept of "buying British". After suffering slight losses, German manufacturers soon found the label to be of good use. But it shows another reason for British sentiments against Germany. The British Empire was one of the leading economic powers in the world and didn‘t want to lose its place to Germany. With increasing economic power of the German Empire the Germans were perceived as competitors more and more.

In the 1890s there was widespread hostility towards foreigners in Britain, mainly directed against eastern European Jews but also including Germans. Joseph Bannister believed that German residents in Britain were mostly "gambling-house keepers, hotel-porters, barbers, 'bullies', runaway conscripts, bath-attendants, street musicians, criminals, bakers, socialists, cheap clerks, etc". Interviewees for the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration believed that Germans were involved in prostitution and burglary, and many people also viewed Germans working in Britain as threatening the livelihood of Britons by being willing to work for longer hours.[7]

Anti-German hostility deepened since early 1896 after the Kruger telegram of Kaiser Wilhelm II, in which he congratulated President Kruger of the Transvaal on resisting the British Jameson Raid. Attacks on Germans in London were reported in the German press at the time but do not appear to have actually occurred. The Saturday Review (London) suggested "be ready to fight Germany, as Germania delenda est" ("Germany is to be destroyed", a reference to the coda against the Carthaginians adopted by Cato the Elder's speeches in the second Roman Republic). The Kaiser's reputation was further degraded by his angry tirade and the Daily Telegraph Affair.[8]

United States

In the 19th century the mass influx of German immigrants which made them the largest group of Americans by ancestry today, resulted in nativist reactionary movements not unlike those of the contemporary Western world.[9] These would eventually culminate in 1844 with the establishment of the American Party, which had an openly xenophobic stance. One of many incidents described in a 19th century account included the blocking of a funeral procession in New York by a group who proceeded to hurl insults at the pallbearers. Incidents such as these led to more meetings of Germans who would eventually establish fraternal groups such as the Sons of Hermann in 1840, having been founded as a means to "improve and foster German customs and the spread of benevolence among Germans in the United States".[10]

Early 20th century

Following the signing of the Entente Cordiale in 1904 between Britain and France, official relationships cooled as did popular attitudes towards Germany and German residents in Britain. A fear of German militarism replaced a previous admiration for German culture and literature. At the same time, journalists produced a stream of articles on the threat posed by Germany.[11] In the Daily Telegraph Affair of 1908–1909, the Kaiser humiliated himself and further soured relations by his intemperate attacks on Britain.[12]

In 1894 Alfred Harmsworth commissioned author William Le Queux to write the serial novel The Great War in England in 1897, which featured France and Russia combining forces to crush Britain, who was, with German intervention, able to rally a force to turn the tide. Twelve years later Harmsworth asked him to change sentiment, promising the full support of his formidable advertising capabilities. The result was the bestselling The Invasion of 1910, which originally appeared in serial form in the Daily Mail in 1906 and has been referred to by historians as inducing an atmosphere of paranoia, mass hysteria and Germanophobia that would climax in the Naval Scare of 1908–09.[13] Articles in the Daily Mail regularly advocated anti-German sentiments throughout the 20th century, telling British readers to refuse service at restaurants by Austrian or German waiters on the claim that they were spies and told them that if a German-sounding waiter claimed to be Swiss that they should demand to see the waiter's passport.[14] In 1903 Erskine Childers published The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service a novel in which two Englishmen uncover a plot by Germany to Invade England; it was later made into a 1979 film The Riddle of the Sands.

At the same time, conspiracy theories were concocted combining Germanophobia with antisemitism, concerning the supposed foreign control of Britain, some of which blamed Britain's entry into the Boer War on international financiers "chiefly German in origin and Jewish in race".[15] Most of these ideas about German-Jewish conspiracies originated from right-wing figures such as Arnold White, Hilaire Belloc, and Leo Maxse, the latter using his publication the National Review to spread them.

First World War

In 1914 when the German army invaded neutral Belgium and northern France many thousands of Belgian and French civilians were accused of being francs-tireurs and executed.[16] These acts were used to encourage anti-German sentiments and the Allied Powers produced propaganda depicting Germans as Huns capable of infinite cruelty and violence.

Great Britain

In Great Britain, anti-German feeling led to infrequent rioting, assaults on suspected Germans and the looting of stores owned by people with German-sounding names, occasionally even taking on an antisemitic tone.[17] Increasing anti-German hysteria even threw suspicion upon the British royal family. King George V was persuaded to change his German name of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor and relinquish all German titles and styles on behalf of his relatives who were British subjects.[18] Prince Louis of Battenberg was not only forced to change his name to Mountbatten, he was forced to resign as First Sea Lord, the most senior position in the Royal Navy.[19]

The German Shepherd breed of dog was renamed to the euphemistic "Alsatian"; the English Kennel Club only re-authorised the use of 'German Shepherd' as an official name in 1977.

Attitudes to Germany were not entirely negative among British troops fighting on the Western Front; the British writer Nicholas Shakespeare quotes this statement from a letter written by his grandfather during the First World War in which he says he would rather fight the French and describes German bravery:

Personally, my opinion is that our fellows get on much best [sic] with the Germans, and would very much rather be fighting the French! ... It was a fine sight to see the Germans coming on in solid formation, in front of our machine guns ... they were generally led by one officer in front who came along to certain death as cool as a cucumber, with his sword held straight up in front of him at the salute.

Nicholas Shakespeare, The first casualty of war.[20]

Robert Graves who, like the King, also had German relatives, wrote shortly after the war during his time at Oxford University as an undergraduate that:

The eighteenth century owed its unpopularity largely to its Frenchness. Anti-French feeling among most ex-soldiers amounted almost to an obsession. Edmund, shaking with nerves, used to say at this time: "No more wars for me at any price! Except against the French. If ever there is a war against them, I'll go like a shot." Pro-German feeling had been increasing. With the war over and the German armies beaten, we could give the German soldier credit for being the most efficient fighting man in Europe ... Some undergraduates even insisted that we had been fighting on the wrong side: our natural enemies were the French.

Robert Graves Goodbye to All That.[21]


In Canada, there was some anti-German sentiment in Germanic communities, including Berlin, Ontario (Kitchener, Ontario) in Waterloo County, Ontario, before and the First World War and some cultural sanctions.[22] There were anti-German riots in Victoria, British Columbia and Calgary, Alberta in the first years of the war.

It was this anti-German sentiment that precipitated the Berlin to Kitchener name change in 1916. The city was named after Lord Kitchener, famously pictured on the "Lord Kitchener Wants You" recruiting posters. Several streets in Toronto that had previously been named for Liszt, Humboldt, Schiller, Bismarck, etc., were changed to names with strong British associations, such as Balmoral.

The Governor General of Canada, the Duke of Connaught, while visiting Berlin, Ontario, in May 1914, had discussed the importance of Canadians of German ethnicity (regardless of their origin) in a speech: "It is of great interest to me that many of the citizens of Berlin are of German descent. I well know the admirable qualities – the thoroughness, the tenacity, and the loyalty of the great Teutonic Race, to which I am so closely related. I am sure that these inherited qualities will go far in the making of good Canadians and loyal citizens of the British Empire".[23]

Some immigrants from Germany who considered themselves Canadians but were not yet citizens, were detained in internment camps during the War.[24] In fact, by 1919 most of the population of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Elmira in Waterloo County, Ontario, were Canadian.[25]

The German-speaking Mennonites were pacifist so they could not enlist and the few who had immigrated from Germany (not born in Canada) could not morally fight against a country that was a significant part of their heritage.[26] [27]

News reports during the war years indicate that "A Lutheran minister was pulled out of his house ... he was dragged through the streets. German clubs were ransacked through the course of the war. It was just a really nasty time period.".[28] Someone stole the bust of Kaiser Wilhelm from Victoria Park; soldiers vandalized German stores. History professor Mark Humphries summarized the situation:

Before the war, most people in Ontario probably didn't give the German community a second thought. But it's important to remember that Canada was a society in transition – the country had absorbed massive numbers of immigrants between 1896 and the First World War, proportionately more than at any other time in our history. So there were these latent fears about foreigners ... It becomes very easy to stoke these racist, nativist fires and convince people there really is a threat. War propaganda is top-down driven, but it's effective because it re-enforces tendencies that already exist.[29]

A document in the Archives of Canada makes the following comment: "Although ludicrous to modern eyes, the whole issue of a name for Berlin highlights the effects that fear, hatred and nationalism can have upon a society in the face of war."[30]

Internment camps across Canada opened in 1915 and 8,579 "enemy aliens" were held there until the end of the war; many were German speaking immigrants from Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Ukraine. Only 3,138 were classed as prisoners of war; the rest were civilians.[31][32]

Built in 1926, the Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower in rural Kitchener, Ontario, commemorates the settlement by the Pennsylvania Dutch (actually Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch or German)[33] of the Grand River area in the 1800s in what later became Waterloo County, Ontario.[22]


In Australia, an official proclamation of 10 August 1914 required all German citizens to register their domiciles at the nearest police station and to notify authorities of any change of address. Under the later Aliens Restriction Order of 27 May 1915, enemy aliens who had not been interned had to report to the police once a week and could only change address with official permission. An amendment to the Restriction Order in July 1915 prohibited enemy aliens and naturalized subjects from changing their name or the name of any business they ran. Under the War Precautions Act of 1914 (which survived the First World War), publication of German language material was prohibited and schools attached to Lutheran churches were forced to abandon German as the language of teaching or were closed by the authorities. German clubs and associations were also closed.[34]

The original German names of settlements and streets were officially changed. In South Australia, Grunthal became Verdun and Krichauff became Beatty. In New South Wales Germantown became Holbrook after the submarine commander Norman Douglas Holbrook.[34] This pressure was strongest in South Australia where 69 towns changed their names, including Petersburg, South Australia, which became Peterborough (see Australian place names changed from German names).

Most of the anti-German feeling was created by the press that tried to create the idea that all those of German birth or descent supported Germany uncritically. A booklet circulated widely in 1915 claimed that "there were over 3,000 German spies scattered throughout the states". Anti-German propaganda was also inspired by local and British companies who were keen to take the opportunity to eliminate Germany as a competitor in the Australian market. Germans in Australia were increasingly portrayed as evil by the very nature of their origins.[34]

United States

After the revelation of the Zimmermann Telegram partly sparked the American declaration of war against Imperial Germany in April 1917, German Americans were sometimes accused of being too sympathetic to Germany. Former president Theodore Roosevelt denounced "hyphenated Americanism", insisting that dual loyalties were impossible in wartime. A small minority came out for Germany, or ridiculed the British (as did H. L. Mencken). Similarly, Harvard psychology professor Hugo Münsterberg dropped his efforts to mediate between America and Germany, and threw his efforts behind the German cause.[35]

The Justice Department attempted to prepare a list of all German aliens, counting approximately 480,000 of them, more than 4,000 of whom were imprisoned in 1917–18. The allegations included spying for Germany, or endorsing the German war effort.[36] Thousands were forced to buy war bonds to show their loyalty.[37] The Red Cross barred individuals with German last names from joining in fear of sabotage. One person was killed by a mob; in Collinsville, Illinois, German-born Robert Prager was dragged from jail as a suspected spy and lynched.[38]

When the United States entered the war in 1917, some German Americans were looked upon with suspicion and attacked regarding their loyalty. Some aliens were convicted and imprisoned on charges of sedition, for refusing to swear allegiance to the United States war effort.[39]

In Chicago, Frederick Stock was forced to step down as conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until he finalized his naturalization papers. Orchestras replaced music by German composer Wagner with French composer Berlioz.

In Nashville, Tennessee, Luke Lea, the publisher of The Tennessean, together with "political associates", "conspired unsuccessfully to have the German-born Major Stahlman declared an "alien enemy" after World War I began."[40] Stahlman was the publisher of a competing newspaper, the Nashville Banner.[40]

The town, Berlin, Michigan, was renamed Marne, Michigan (in honor of those who fought in the Battle of the Marne). The town of Berlin, Shelby County Ohio changed its name to its original name of Fort Loramie, Ohio. The city of Germantown in Shelby County Tennessee temporarily changed its name to Neshoba during the war.

German street names in many cities were changed. German and Berlin streets in Cincinnati became English and Woodward.[41] In Chicago Lubeck, Frankfort, and Hamburg Streets were renamed Dickens, Charleston, and Shakespeare Streets.[42][43] In New Orleans, Berlin Street was renamed in honor of General Pershing, head of the American Expeditionary Force.[44] In Indianapolis, Bismarck Avenue and Germania Street were renamed Pershing Avenue and Belleview Street, respectively in 1917,[45] Brooklyn’s Hamburg Avenue was renamed Wilson Avenue.[46]

Many businesses changed their names. In Chicago, German Hospital became Grant Hospital; likewise the German Dispensary and the German Hospital in New York City were renamed Lenox Hill Hospital and Wyckoff Heights Hospital respectively.[42] In New York, the giant Germania Life Insurance Company became Guardian.[47] At the US Customs House in Lower Manhattan, the word "Germany" which was on a shield that one of the building’s many figures was holding was chiseled over.

Many schools stopped teaching German-language classes.[41] The City College of New York continued to teach German courses, but reduced the number of credits that students could receive for them.[48] Books published in German were removed from libraries or even burned.[41][49] In Cincinnati, the public library was asked to withdraw all German books from its shelves.[50] In Iowa, in the 1918 Babel Proclamation, the governor prohibited all foreign languages in schools and public places. Nebraska banned instruction in any language except English, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the ban was illegal in 1923 (Meyer v. Nebraska).[51]

Some words of German origin were changed, at least temporarily. Sauerkraut came to be called "liberty cabbage",[44] German measles became "liberty measles", hamburgers became "liberty sandwiches"[44] and dachshunds became "liberty pups".[52]

In parallel with these changes, many German Americans elected to Americanize their names (e.g. Schmidt to Smith, Müller to Miller) and limit the use of the German language in public places, especially in churches.[53]

Ethnic German Medal of Honor winners were American USAAS ace pilots Edward Rickenbacker and Frank Luke; German-ethnicity DSC winners who also served with the USAAS in Europe included Joseph Frank Wehner and Karl John Schoen.

Second World War

United Kingdom

In 1940 the Ministry of Information launched an "Anger Campaign" to instill "personal anger ... against the German people and Germany", because the British were "harbouring little sense of real personal animus against the average German". This was done to strengthen British resolve against the Germans. Sir Robert Vansittart, the Foreign Office's chief diplomatic advisor until 1941, gave a series of radio broadcasts in which he said that Germany was a nation raised on "envy, self-pity and cruelty" whose historical development had "prepared the ground for Nazism" and that it was Nazism that had "finally given expression to the blackness of the German soul".[54]

The British Institute of Public Opinion (BIPO) tracked the evolution of anti-German/anti-Nazi feeling in Britain, asking the public, via a series of opinion polls conducted from 1939 to 1943, whether "the chief enemy of Britain was the German people or the Nazi government". In 1939 only 6% of respondents held the German people responsible; however, following the Blitz and the "Anger Campaign" in 1940, this increased to 50%. This subsequently declined to 41% by 1943. It also was reported by Home Intelligence in 1942 that there was some criticism of the official attitude of hatred towards Germany on the grounds that "England ought to be a civilising influence" and that such hatred might hinder the possibility of a reasonable settlement following the war.[55]

This attitude was expanded upon by J.R.R. Tolkien. In 1944, he wrote in a letter to his son Christopher:

[I]t is distressing to see the press grovelling in the gutter as low as Goebbels in his prime, shrieking that any German commander who holds out in a desperate situation (when, too, the military needs of his side clearly benefit) is a drunkard, and a besotted fanatic. ... There was a solemn article in the local paper seriously advocating systematic exterminating of the entire German nation as the only proper course after military victory: because, if you please, they are rattlesnakes, and don't know the difference between good and evil! (What of the writer?) The Germans have just as much right to declare the Poles and Jews exterminable vermin, subhuman, as we have to select the Germans: in other words, no right, whatever they have done.[56]

In the same year Mass Observation asked its observers to analyse the British people's private opinions of the German people and it found that 54% of the British population was "pro-German", in that it expressed sympathy for the German people and stated that the war was "not their fault". This tolerance of the German people as opposed to the Nazi regime increased as the war progressed. In 1943 Mass Observation established the fact that up to 60% of the British people maintained a distinction between Germans and Nazis, with only 20% or so expressing any "hatred, vindictiveness, or need for retribution". The British film propaganda of the period similarly maintained the division between Nazi supporters and the German people.[55]

United States

Between 1931 and 1940, 114,000 Germans and thousands of Austrians moved to the United States, many of whom — including, e.g., Nobel prize winner Albert Einstein, Lion Feuchtwanger, Bertold Brecht, Henry Kissinger, Arnold Schönberg, Hanns Eisler and Thomas Mann — were either Jewish Germans or anti-Nazis fleeing Nazi oppression.[57] About 25,000 people became paying members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund during the years before the war.[58] The Alien Registration Act of 1940 required 300,000 German-born resident aliens who had German citizenship to register with the Federal government and restricted their travel and property ownership rights.[59][60] Under the still active Alien Enemy Act of 1798, the United States government interned nearly 11,000 German citizens between 1940 and 1948. An unknown number of "voluntary internees" joined their spouses and parents in the camps and were not permitted to leave.[61][62][63] With the war ongoing in Europe but the U.S. neutral, a massive defense buildup took place, requiring many new hires. Private companies sometimes refused to hire any non-citizen, or American citizens of German or Italian ancestry. This threatened the morale of loyal Americans. President Franklin Roosevelt considered this "stupid" and "unjust". In June 1941 he issued Executive Order 8802 and set up the Fair Employment Practice Committee, which also protected blacks.[64]

President Roosevelt sought out Americans of German ancestry for top war jobs, including General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and General Carl Andrew Spaatz. He appointed Republican Wendell Willkie as a personal representative. German Americans who had fluent German language skills were an important asset to wartime intelligence, and they served as translators and as spies for the United States.[65] The war evoked strong pro-American patriotic sentiments among German Americans, few of whom by then had contacts with distant relatives in the old country.[66][67][68]

The October 1939 seizure by the German pocket battleship Deutschland of the US freighter SS City of Flint, as it had 4000 tons of oil for Britain on board, provoked much anti-German sentiment in the US.[69]

Following its entry into the War against Nazi Germany on 11 December 1941, the US Government interned a number of German and Italian citizens as enemy aliens. The exact number of German and Italian internees is a subject of debate.[70] In some cases their American-born family members volunteered to accompany them to internment camps in order to keep the family unit together. The last to be released remained in custody until 1948.[71]

In 1944, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. put forward the strongest proposal for punishing Germany to the Second Quebec Conference. It became known as the Morgenthau Plan, and was intended to prevent Germany from having the industrial base to start another world war. However this plan was shelved quickly, the Western Allies did not seek reparations for war damage, and the United States implemented the Marshall Plan that was intended to and did help West Germany's post war recovery to its former position as a pre-eminent industrial nation.


After Brazil's entry into the war on the Allied side in 1942, anti-German riots broke out in nearly every city in Brazil in which Germans were not the majority population. German factories, including the Suerdick cigar factory in Bahia, shops, and hotels were destroyed by mobs. The largest demonstrations took place in Porto Alegre in Rio Grande do Sul. Brazilian police persecuted and interned "subjects of the Axis powers" in internment camps similar to those used by the US to intern Japanese-Americans. Following the war, German schools were not reopened, the German-language press disappeared completely, and use of the German language became restricted to the home and the older generation of immigrants.[72]


There was also anti-German sentiment in Canada during World War II. Under the War Measures Act, some 26 POW camps opened and were filled with those who had been born in Germany, Italy, and particularly in Japan, if they were deemed to be "enemy aliens". For Germans, this applied especially to single males who had some association with the Nazi Party of Canada. No compensation was paid to them after the war.[73] In Ontario, the largest internment centre for German Canadians was at Camp Petawawa, housing 750 who had been born in Germany and Austria.[74] Although some residents of internment camps were Germans who had already immigrated to Canada, the majority of Germans in such camps were from Europe; most were prisoners of war.[75]

Soviet Union

On 25 July 1937 NKVD Order No. 00439 led to the arrest of 55,005 German citizens and former citizens in the Soviet Union, of whom 41,898 were sentenced to death.[76][77][78]

Later during the war Germans were suggested to be used for forced labour. The Soviet Union began deporting ethnic Germans in their territories and using them for forced labour. By 1950 most deportees had returned home.[79]

Post-Second World War

Flight and expulsion of Germans during
and after World War II
(demographic estimates)
Wartime flight and evacuation
Post-war flight and expulsion
Later emigration
Other themes

In state-sponsored genocides by the German Reich, millions of people were murdered by Germans during WWII.[80] It made families and friends of the victims anti-German. American General George S. Patton complained that the U.S. policy of denazification following Germany's surrender harmed American interests and was motivated simply by hatred of the defeated German people. Reprisal action soon took place in Europe. Even the speed of West German recovery following the war was seen as ominous by some who suspected the Germans of planning for World War III.[81] In reality many Nazi criminals were unpunished, eg. Heinz Reinefarth, Wola massacre author. Many Nazis worked for the USA as scientists (Wernher von Braun) or intelligence officers (Reinhard Gehlen).


Nakam was a group of about fifty Holocaust survivors who, in 1945, sought to kill Germans and Nazis in revenge for the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.

Flight and expulsion of Germans

After WWII ended, about 11 million to 12 million[82][83][84] Germans fled or were expelled from Germany's former eastern provinces or migrated from other countries to what remained of Germany, the largest transfer of a single European population in modern history.[82][83] Estimates of the total number of dead range from 500,000 to 2,000,000, where the higher figures include "unsolved cases" of persons reported missing and presumed dead. Many German civilians were sent to internment and labor camps, where they died. Salomon Morel and Czesław Gęborski were the commanders of several camps for Germans, Poles and Ukrainians. Rudolph Rummel estimated that 1,585,000 Germans were killed in Poland and another 197,000 Germans were killed in Czechoslovakia.[85] The German-Czech Historians Commission, on the other hand, established a death toll for Czechoslovakia of 15,000–30,000.[86] The events are usually classified as population transfer,[87][88] or ethnic cleansing.[89][90][91][92][93][94]

Felix Ermacora, among a minority of legal scholars, equated ethnic cleansing with genocide,[95][96] and stated that the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans therefore constituted genocide.[97]

Norway persecuted children of German soldiers and their mothers.[98]

Forced labor of Germans

In many Allied countries, Germans were used as forced laborers after 1945. Some of these laborers, depending on the country, were either prisoners of war or ethnic German civilians.[99]

In Israel

Before the rise of Hitler and the NSDAP (1920s to 1933), many but not all Central and Eastern European Jews tended to be pro-German. German Jews were deeply integrated into the country's culture, and many of them had fought with distinction in the First World War German Army. Jews in the Czech lands tended to adopt the German language and culture in place of Slavic languages (Kafka was a conspicuous example), and a similar phenomenon was evident in other parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire but not all. Theodore Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, spoke and wrote German and in his utopian book Altneuland he depicted the future Jewish state as German-speaking. However, throughout Eastern Europe, Jews spoke Yiddish, and wrote it in Hebrew script, thus keeping some distance from German culture.

Pro-German attitudes suffered an extremely painful rupture and a complete reversal due to the persecutions and atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, culminating in the systematic genocide of the Holocaust. In the first decades of Israel's existence, anti-German feelings were strong and dominant in Israeli society. There was a widespread cultural and commercial boycott of all things German (and often, Austrian as well) and a determination "never to set foot on German soil". German Jews in Israel, themselves refugees from the Nazi persecutions, came under strong social pressure to cease using German, their mother language.

During the 1940s, the words "German" and "Nazi" were used interchangeably. (Until the late 1990s, the sign language of Israeli deaf communities used the Swastika as the sign for "German".) There was a widespread scepticism about the possibility of "another Germany" ever emerging; specifically, there was suspicion about Konrad Adenauer's claim to be involved in the creation of a new, democratic Germany. Many Israelis took up the Soviet claims made in the early years of the Cold War that West Germany was a "fascist state" in which ex-Nazis held key positions.

The Reparations Agreement with West Germany, signed by the David Ben-Gurion government in 1952, was the focus of intense political controversy, and the protest demonstrations led by then opposition leader Menachem Begin turned into pitched battles with the police. In the early 1960s, the Eichmann Trial brought the horrors and traumas of the Holocaust to the center of public consciousness. The establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and West Germany in 1966 entailed a new wave of protests and demonstrations, though less violent than those of 1952.

Since the late 1960s, there has been a clear, though gradual, process of rapprochement between Israelis and Germans in all spheres: diplomatic, commercial and cultural. The 1967 Six-Day War realigned Israeli politics, with the issue of occupied territories henceforth defining what is "right wing" and "left wing"; one result was that militant Israeli nationalism tended to be anti-Arab rather than anti-German. When Begin became Israel's Prime Minister in 1977, he had little option but to take up the maintenance of already very extensive ties with Germany, to whose creation he had been fiercely opposed as an opposition leader.

The German government of the time managed, however, to assuage Israeli feelings by providing the Israeli Navy with three advanced submarines, which, according to repeated reports in the international press, were used to mount nuclear missiles and provide Israel with a second strike capacity. These Dolphin class submarines replaced the obsolete 1970s Gal-class submarines, and are some of the most modern submarines in the world. Two submarines were given outright by Germany, and Israel paid for half of the third.

In the 21st century, the long debate about whether the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra should play the works of Richard Wagner is mostly considered as a remnant of the past. In March 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel became the first foreign head of government invited to deliver a speech in the Israeli parliament, which she gave in the German language. Several members of parliament did leave in protest during the speech, claiming the need to create a collective memory that "will create a kind of electric wave when Jews will hear the sounds of the German language, they'll remember the Holocaust".[100]

In an October 2008 interview, researcher Hanan Bar (חנן בר) summed up the ambiguous Israeli attitude to Germany: "If the average Israeli happens to see a football match between Germany and Holland [sic], he would automatically root for the Dutch. But the same person, when buying a washing machine, would prefer a German model, considering it to be the best".[101]

Contemporary Europe

After the separation into two countries following the Second World War, West Germany generally had good relationships with its western neighboring states; while East Germany to some degree had similar relationships with its eastern neighbors. Many of these relationships continued after the end of the Cold War with the unified Germany. West Germany was a co-founder of the European Union and the reunified Germany continues as a leading member. During the process of European unification, Germany and France forged a strong relationship, ending the long-standing French–German enmity, which had peaked during and after the First World War.

Much present-day anti-German sentiment has been particularly strong in East European countries occupied by Germany during the war, and those that were at war with Germany and its allies.[102][103]

Although views fluctuate somewhat in response to geopolitical issues (such as the invasion of Iraq), Americans regard modern Germany as an ally[104] and few hold anti-German sentiments. Occasionally, German people are stereotyped as Nazis (goose-stepping, shouting "Sieg Heil!", sporting a "Hitler moustache"), being "ruthlessly efficient" and having no sense of humour in some parts of American media, as well as in the UK and other countries. Richard Wagner's music was not performed in Israel until 1995 (radio) and 2001 (concert) and was for many years unpopular in Poland. This can be explained, at least partially, due to Richard Wagner's anti-semitism and the Nazi appropriation of Wagner's music based on Hitler's personal affection for his operas.

In a poll carried out in 2008 for the BBC World Service, in which people in 34 countries were asked about the positive and negative influence of 13 countries,[lower-alpha 1] Germany was the most popular, ahead of Japan, France and Britain; across all countries surveyed, only 18 percent across all countries surveyed thought Germany had a mainly negative influence.[105] Mainly negative views were most widespread in Turkey (47 percent) and Egypt (43 percent).[105]

Views of Germany's Influence, by country (2014)[106]
(sorted by net positive, Pos – Neg)
Country surveyedPos.Neg.NeutralPos – Neg
 United States
 United Kingdom
 South Korea

The BBC World Service "Country Rating Poll" for 2014 surveyed opinion in 24 participating countries concerning the influence of 16 countries[lower-alpha 1] and the European Union; 12 of the influential countries participated.[107] Results were released at the end of May. The table shows the "Views of Germany's Influence" overall (line 1) and by country. "Germany has kept its position of the most favourably viewed nation in 2014."[108] That is, Germany is the one whose influence is most commonly (60%) viewed positively; among the 17 Germany stands second to Canada as the ones least commonly (18%) viewed negatively.[109]

In the first ten polls, annual from 2005, Germany had been the country with world influence most commonly viewed positively at least in 2008[105] as well as 2013 and 2014.

United Kingdom

Germans sometimes complain of stereotypical associations of them with acts and a regime of more than seventy years ago, such as the use of anti-German sentiment in headlines by parts of the British press, which were sometimes used in the build-up to football matches between England and Germany.

According to a 2008 poll, the British people have a rather positive image of Germany, with 62 percent believing that Germany has a mainly positive influence in the world and only 20 percent believing that Germany's influence is mainly negative, slightly better than Germans' views of Britain (60 percent and 27 percent, respectively).[105]


Many Poles perceive Germans as their long-time oppressors, dating back to the times of Teutonic Order. This notion is based on a long history of conflict with ethnic Poles, first by the German-language and culture Prussians then by the united German state, starting with three partitions of Poland, germanization in the 19th and 20th centuries, and culminating in the Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939 and the genocide of six million Polish citizens, that ensued during the German occupation 1939–1945.

Several issues have also strained recent Polish-German relations, although Poland and post-reunification Germany overall have had mostly positive relations. The Poles are suspicious of the campaign led by Erika Steinbach, a daughter of a German non-commissioned officer in the German forces occupying Poland, made famous for her voting against Oder–Neisse line borders,[110] who seeks reparations for the property lost by Germans expelled by Poland following the Second World War and to create the Centre Against Expulsions. In addition, the proposed Russo-German pipeline through the Baltic Sea is seen by Poles as aimed at cutting off Poland's natural gas supplies from Russia without damaging supply to Germany, and was even compared to the ignominious Molotov-Ribbentrop pact by Radosław Sikorski, Polish foreign minister.[111]


Anti-German sentiment was already prevalent in the Netherlands centuries before the unification of Germany and establishment of the Second German Empire, completed 1871. The Dutch are thought to have developed a low opinion of Germans during the 17th century, also known in the Netherlands as the Gouden Eeuw (literally: "Golden Century"), when the Dutch Republic was one of the world's most advanced and powerful countries while modern Germany was still a patchwork of warring fiefs.[112]

In the first half of the 17th century, the Republic saw a major spike in German immigrants including common laborers, persecuted Lutherans and Jews, and all sorts of war refugees fleeing the violence of the Thirty Years' War. A culture clash soon followed, and German immigrants were often discriminated against by the native Dutch.[112] It was likely around this time that the earliest variations of the word mof were first used to refer to lower class German migrants. There are known joke books in which these Germans are featured prominently and stereotypically as dumb, arrogant and filthy.[113]

During WWI (in which the Netherlands was neutral), the so-called Wire of Death, a lethal 2000 volts electric fence built along the southern Dutch border by the Germans occupying Belgium caused a large number of fatalities among the Dutch people, renewing anti-German sentiment in the Netherlands.[114] This sentiment was reborn as hatred when, in 1940, Nazi Germany launched its invasion of the Netherlands despite earlier promises from Germany to respect Dutch neutrality.[115][116] More than 100,000 Dutch Jews were deported to their deaths during the subsequent Nazi occupation, and starvation afflicted much of the country during the "Hunger Winter" of 1944–45. Most elderly Dutch people remember these events including the Rotterdam Blitz bitterly, and some still refuse to set foot on German soil.[112]

A sociological study from 1998 showed that still two generations after it had ended, World War II remained influential, and "present-day parents and young people are negatively biased against Germany."[117] Aspeslagh and Dekker reported in 1998 that "more than half of the cohort born after 1950 answered 'sometimes' or 'often' when asked whether they harbored anti-German feelings".[118] Reviewing three large-scale academic studies from the 1990s, they concluded:

The emotional feelings regarding Germany and Germans revealed by these studies are defined by the Second World War. The annual commemorations of World War II, the way history lessons deal with Germany and the continual, casually negative remarks by adults reproduce the negative emotions about Germany and Germans, particularly among the young.[119]

Newer studies also consistently show that Dutch anti-German sentiment has been falling steadily for years,[120] and that most Dutch people today show a positive view towards both Germany and the German people.[121][122]


Rapid increase of German immigration to Switzerland during the 2000s (decade) has given rise to "Germanophobia" in German-speaking Switzerland.[123]

European debt crisis, Greece and Italy

During the European debt crisis, many countries embarked on, or were arguably pushed into, austerity programs. Germany was blamed for the resulting economical, social and political consequences.[124][125][126]

The ongoing Greek government-debt crisis and EU-driven austerity measures imposed on the country have revived anti-German sentiments.[127] The Greek media have been making comments critical of the German policy, often mentioning, and drawing parallels with the Axis occupation of Greece, with some commentators emphasizing a genetic heritage from "Goths" or "Huns".[128][129] A poll in 2012 by VPRC noted the existence of an anti-German sentiment in Greece, and that the majority of the respondents connected Germany with negative notions such as "Hitler", "Nazism" and "3rd Reich".[130] The Popular Fighters Group formed in response to the debt crisis is overtly anti-German and has targeted German organizations in Greece.

A main argument has been that, despite its rhetoric, Germany has made profits during the Greek debt crisis (due to falling borrowing rates – as Germany, along with other strong Western economies, was seen as a safe haven by investors during the crisis[131] – investment influx, and exports boost due to the Euro's depreciation, with estimates reaching 100bn Euros,[132][133][134][135][136][137][138][139] as well as other profits through loans[140][141]). Another key issue, has been the claim for still owed War reparations, with estimates reaching 279b Euros.

In August 2012, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti warned that escalating arguments over how to resolve the Euro debt crisis are turning countries against each other and threatening to rip Europe apart. Resentment in Italy is growing against Germany, the European Union and chancellor Merkel, he said, adding that "the pressures already bear the traits of a psychological break-up of Europe".[142]

A survey took place in the summer of 2017 among ten members of the EU. Most expressed scepticism about German influence on European matters; the Greeks (89%) express most of the skepticism followed by the Italians (69%) and the Spanish (68%). Greeks also come with the most negative opinion (84%) about Angela Merkel, and with the least positive opinion about the German people (24%), among the questioned ten states.[143]

See also


  1. For 2008, the fourth annual Country Ratings Poll surveyed opinion concerning the "influence" of the European Union and 13 countries: Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the U.S.
      For 2014, the tenth annual poll covered the influence of the E.U. and 16 countries, the same 13 plus Canada, South Africa, and South Korea. All of the influential countries except Iran, North Korea, and South Africa were among the 24 surveyed.


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Further reading

  • Dekker, Henk, and Lutsen B. Jansen. "Attitudes and stereotypes of young people in the Netherlands with respect to Germany." in The puzzle of Integration: European Yearbook on Youth Policy and Research 1 (1995): 49–61. excerpt
  • DeWitt, Petra. Degrees of Allegiance: Harassment and Loyalty in Missouri's German-American Community during World War I (Ohio University Press, 2012)., on USA
  • Ellis, M. and P. Panayi. "German Minorities in World War I: A Comparative Study of Britain and the USA", Ethnic and Racial Studies 17 (April 1994): 238–259.
  • Lipstadt, Deborah E. "America and the Memory of the Holocaust, 1950–1965." Modern Judaism (1996) 16#3 pp: 195–214.
  • Scully, Richard. British Images of Germany: Admiration, Antagonism & Ambivalence, 1860–1914 (2012)
  • Tischauser, Leslie V. The Burden of Ethnicity: The German Question in Chicago, 1914–1941. (1990).
  • Wingfield, Nancy M. "The Politics of Memory: Constructing National Identity in the Czech Lands, 1945 to 1948." East European Politics & Societies (2000) 14#2 pp: 246–267. Argues that anti-German attitudes were paramount
  • Yndigegn, Carsten. "Reviving Unfamiliarity—The Case of Public Resistance to the Establishment of the Danish–German Euroregion." European Planning Studies 21.1 (2013): 58–74. Abstract

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