World War hate propaganda

A German high speed train was towed through the English Channel tunnel for certification purposes - and certain people write about Huns in response. There was also some writing about Huns in the context of Merkel's recent speech about Turks in Germany.

This doesn't make sense? That's exactly my opinion.

"Hun" was a derogatory word for Germans introduced in the Great War (now known as First World War) in order to add irrational hatred against Germans to the British and later U.S. American population's motivation to keep up the effort for that completely idiotic war.

Meanwhile Germans used the harmless "Tommies" for British soldiers in both world wars as far as I know.

92 years after the end of World War One, 65 years after the end of World War Two, after 55 years of formal alliance between Germany and the United Kingdom and after 37 years of close cooperation in the European Community/European Union there are still some idiots around who use this old hate-mongering "Hun" for "Germans".

It was quite embarrassing to fall for such primitive propaganda a century ago,  what does it take to still cling to it!?

Just in case one of those who are still confused about "Huns" might see this:
(I have a higher opinion of almost all of my readers)

This is a Hun:



  1. more Hun Propaganda!

    Seriously, the level of discourse in parts of the UK press would embarass an ill-disciplined group of 5 year olds, it is beyond shameful how jingoistic and hatefilled it is. And more than perturbing how popular it appears to be.

  2. I was a bit confused as to the purpose of that post on trains.

  3. "And more than perturbing how popular it appears to be."

    Personally, I ascribe it to the British penchant for taking the mickey out of anything and everything, and not an indication of a hostile character.

  4. Jedibeeftrix, my personal opinion - shared by many people with whom I talked about this - is that the British and the Dutch are the two nationalities with the most World-War-related bad blood in regard to Germans.
    Only Israelis beat that, but that's not directly war-related.

    The Russians in comparison - their grandparent generation was more badly mauled by Germany than any other nation but China has ever been mauled in war - are usually not hostile at all.

    Something kept the bad blood alive in the UK and in the Netherlands. In the case of the UK (or rather England), the yellow press, derogatory stuff like "Huns" and a more-than-average-for-Europe level of nationalism seem to be life extenders for the bad blood.

    The "why" and "how" is not of interest. The result is damaging, stupid, disrespectful and of interest.

  5. You do remember the hun speech (Hunnenrede) of Wilhelm II, do you?
    And i dont find the term hun particularly offensive although i agree with you the Tommies seem to have a extraordinary strong habit of mentioning the war.

  6. Well, I don't remember it because it happened 86 (!!!) years ago!

    Think about how many speeches have been held in the meantime - wanna make a stupid nickname out of each of them?
    Wilhelm II's mention of the huns was marginal. Think of the treasure trove of Empire-related British speeches the Germans could use to construct some stupid nickname for the British!

    Or think of "bomb, bomb, Iran!" - would it be a good idea to call all Americans "bombers"?

  7. All of these nicknames are stupid, i just meant that hun is no better or worse than tommie, jerry, ruski, iwan, ami, kraut, kaaskop, etc.
    Its like taking offence about being called a viking as a swede. Its incorrect but hey its really not that offensive.

  8. In case of doubt, ask those on the receiving end.

    How many % of Germans would answer that they find it offensive being called "Huns" by the Brits, how many % Swedes would find if offensive being called "Vikings" by someone in polls?

    I bet "Huns" gets a significant and much higher percentage.

  9. I've worked for and with the Brits for a long time. I make it a habit of wearing a German national team T-shirt to work most times the day Germany plays in the European or World Cups (that is when the US isn't involved). There is a certain attitude among the Brits, especially the English, towards the Germans which I would describe as "tribal" and irrationally hostile. If you ask them why the hostility, usually they are embarrassed by it being pointed out and have no explanation. I think it actually because they are a lot alike . . .

    As to the Dutch, it is more historical imo. I remember all the horrible stories I was told about the terrible winter of 1944-45 when I visited the Netherlands for the first time in the early 1980s. Those stories are still being passed down . . .

    1. True. My father, he was from 1920, told me war stories and all about germans, he was forced labour over there. And for the area I live in he told me the story of the girl with red hair, who fought them and was cowardly executed days before the end of the war. I told my children, myself being from 1958. My son, who is from 1990, also is wary of germans as are my other children. We as a people feel strongly threatend, we feel Germany wants our country and they or anybody else for that matter, aren't gonna get it, ever. That's why we want out of this EU too, we loose our sovereignty, our flag, our monarchy, our king. You were in Holland, so maybe you know how the dutch feel about their monarchy.
      Hitler had special plans for Holland, it was to become part of Germany, it wasn't just occupied, it was to be annexed and to become an integral part of das deutsche reich. The dutch were a brüdervolk because of their german blood they were bloodbrothers and that scares the heck out of us, For us the winter of hunger, when tens of thousands of our countryfolk perished because they starved to death is a real national trauma, as is the 1953 flood when we lost almost 2000.
      So please, don't judge us to hard as unforgiving and spitefull. We are basically afraid that sooner or later they will be back, maybe many years from now, but we can not fully trust them, if the circumstances change who can fortell what will happen? History has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

    2. O, btw, the dutch call the germans "moffen".
      It means something like krauts", but it's not good at all, usually a precursor is added like "rot moffen", meaning something like "nasty krauts". Well, now you know.

  10. Well, at least in the late '80s, we Americans referred to Germans as either 'rads' (short for comrade, I suppose) and more rarely 'Herman'. I don't think either were inherently derogatory. I don't think I heard anyone refer to 'Huns'.

    So, on behalf of my fellow Americans, allow me a moment to gloat on our superior manners over those damn Lobsterbacks! Just kidding...

  11. Hello Sven Ortmann,

    having spent a long time in the United Kingdom,I can honestly say I have never encountered any hostility towards Germany at all.

    Though it is not uncommon to see things like this:


    And this:


    The British are far more hostile to members of their own country than they are to foreigners of any nation.

    It is quite common to hear derogatory comments about the English/Irish/Scots/Welsh/Northerners/Southerners/Scousers/Geordies/Cockneys/Brummies/immigrants/European Union/red heads and of course anyone who supports Manchester United.

    The country I most often hear negative comments about is the United States,unless the cricket or rugby is on in which case it will be Australia.

    Germany is rarely ever mentioned.

    Of course I still cannot forgive them for bombing the local chip shop.

    German propaganda was every bit as derogatory as that of the allies:,if not more so



  12. "I think it actually because they are a lot alike . . ."

    I think there is something too this, perhaps a visceral reaction to 'betrayal' by those we considered our natural allies (against france).

    "Something kept the bad blood alive in the UK and in the Netherlands."

    Well I won't disagree that there is certainly a Neanderthal element, all I argue is a the wider trend you note is genuinely benign, it's just part of the national humour to condescendingly take the mickey out of 'others'.

    If you take the root definition of nationalism, which you label the cause:

    "Nationalism involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation."

    Then by that I would label myself nationalist, but that does not mean I go out of my way to be rude to anyone, or hold anyone outside as inferior.

    All I'm saying as that I appreciate a Hun joke, or an Irish joke, or a joke about Brummies as much as the next Brit, and always will, but it won't be at the expense of someone else's public discomfort.

  13. Well, at least, take comfort in the overall very mild aspect of that "hun" thing... as opposed to the vivid ant-french feelings of the UK press, the always-ready to bubble-up-to-the-surface "french stereotypes" in the US popular mind (revived as a politically-motivated francophobia after 2003).

    Seriously, just take a swift comparison, and you'll see that the german people get off comparatively easy, as opposed to the "cheese eating..." anglo-saxon clichés.

    Browse through "cultural insiders" website like TV Tropes or the discussions pages over there at wikipedia, and you'll realize how pernicious and prevalent this is.
    And, this coming from a rather "pro-US" (put in it what you wish) french guy, who over the last few years, has gone from being "ashamed" by that deep, deep cultural trend, to being simply infuriated by it - its proponents, at least. Come on, clean up your OWN mess, before gloating like idiots. Oh, well.

    Ok, sorry for the hijacking, but, I just had to get it off my chest, given the opportunity.

    Kevin the hapless french guy

  14. The Hun/Tommy dichotomy is wrong. Just as German soldiers usually called the British 'Tommy', so the British soldiers called the Germans 'Fritz'.

    'Hun' was mostly used in the press or by civilians to demonise Germans- in exactly the same way as the German press and public demonised the British (i.e. 'The Vampire of Europe').

    The continued use of the word 'Hun' is complicated. In part it is because the World Wars are a national epic, partly because they was the last significant achievement of the old Britain and partly because the Second World War is one of the few areas of British history that it is still acceptable to be proud of.

    Another reason is the British fondness for national stereotypes, especially in comedy. However the British are just as happy to laugh at themselves. Comedies such as 'Dad's Army' or 'Allo Allo' always mock the British as much as anyone else. Tabloid use of 'Hun' fits this really: it's cheeky nationalism rather than a conviction that Merkel will suddenly grab a horse and try to burn Rome, or invade Belgium again.

    I don't think the term really is 'hate-mongering'. I certainly don't see (and can't imagine) mobs in the UK torching German shops or attacking Germans. Bar football nationalism the whole thing is a quite harmless hang-up.

    P.S. I'm fairly sure the poster with 'Hun' on it is actually American, not British.

  15. I know that the Canadians referred to the Germans as "Boxheads". I have heard rumours that the Germans called the Canadians something similar.

  16. You didn't need to refer to me as 'certain people' and you could have simply posted a comment on the piece that has obviously upset you.

    You say the use of the word Hun doesnt make sense. The point is, it doesn't have to because it was a joke, if I had referred to the Germans as boxheads, krauts, jerries, bosch or indeed the Hun in a serious post about geopolitical strategy then you might have a case but are you seriously suggesting that the post in which you refer to was anything other than a light hearted joke?

    If you cannot see the comedy in 'germans are coming' theme and subsequent reporting of escape tunnels on a day the SDSR was published then I can only suggest that you should have asked because the people who commented on the post, one of whom was one of those grudge bearing Dutch by the way, all saw it for what it was, a joke

    In fact they then went on to poke fun at British Rail and the French Railway Unions, clearly the joke was on us, not Germany.

    If you had actually put a comment on the post pointing out that you were upset then I would have changed it and said sorry because I am not interested in upsetting anyone, least of all you.

    Instead, you more or less call me an idiotic hate monger, shooting from the lip without stopping to think.

    As some of the commenters above point out, British humour is full of references to the war and wars going back many hundreds of years but that does not mean a lack of respect.

    The origin of the word Tommies is disputed but it is still used today in the armed forces, although usually shortened to Tom, economy in everything it would seem!


    I am not sure if you are trying to draw some moral equivalence between the German and British soldiers of the period because one group did and one group didn’t resort to name calling, so I will simply leave a question mark over that statement and put it down to a language difference.

    Perhaps the term Tommy Cooker was equally innocent, but somehow I doubt it.


    The UK has a strong streak of dark and often self deprecating humour, when John Cleese was goose stepping in the Fawlty Towers ‘The Germans’ episode he wasn’t mocking the Germans but the attitude of the British, the same with Allo Allo, Black Adder or The Pub Landlord. Some people get British humour, others don’t but one can’t deny the worldwide success, perhaps there is a lesson there.

    So if I am an idiotic hate monger then I must apologise but I also appreciate that we cannot simply brush the past under the carpet and conveniently forget it ever happened. Yes, things today are unrecognisable from the past, Germany and the UK are strong allies and equally strong trading partners but part of a nations identity is its history and if this means that occasionally we can have a laugh about something of our shared past then I am afraid that is something we are going to have to live with because it seems more preferable to reliving the ghastly reality.

    It has nothing to do with hate, it has nothing to do with racial stereotypes and it has absolutely nothing to do with nationalism despite what those haughty and high handed intellectuals who read the Guardian might think. After 55 years of a formal alliance between the two nations are we really afraid of making the odd joke at each other’s expense?

    US forces might call us Limey’s or the borrowers, we might still call Germans Boxheads, Krauts, Jerries, the Bosch or the Hun, the French, frogs and they might call us les ros beef but that does not mean for one nanosecond there is anything less than total professional respect and admiration.

    All I know is, Neanderthal or not, no harm was meant.

    So Sven, lighten up and if you want something to rage about, have a closer look at your photograph of Germans and socks with sandals!

    A crime against fashion I think we can all agree :)

  17. "Hun" was used to instil irrational hatred and every use of it lengthens the life of these remarks and thus enables them to lead to irrational aversion.

    Humour or not - that's not relevant. German Jew-related humour would be considered unacceptable as well. "Nigger" jokes provoke resolute reactions as well.

    Believing in doing just a harmless joke isn't the same as innocence.

    I could go on the street, ask people there what they think about British referring to Germans as "Huns" and the reaction would be unequivocal among the few who would believe it.

  18. Sorry Sven, you are conflating a number of issues.

    British humour is replete with such references to the Germans, its all about context and intent. I don't expect you to understand the intricacies of British popular culture or even the British sense of humour.

    I don't understand your references to the German soldiery referring to British soldiers as Tommies as some kind of morally superior positive trait, perhaps I need to understand the cultural context of that statement but I take it at face value you mean no harm. Perhaps I should go on the street and repeat your comments above, I wonder what the reaction would be

    As I said, the joke was on us, as is the vast majority of English/German war related humour. If you want to make it a different issue then fair enough.

    It was a joke, take it or leave it at that if you want.

    I am not going to comment further on this

  19. "All I know is, Neanderthal or not, no harm was meant."

    Since you used the phrase, i thought I should clarify that it was in no way directed at you, I hope that is clear.

    "Believing in doing just a harmless joke isn't the same as innocence."

    I am with TD here in continuing to support the idea of benign and irreverent humour.
    Is it condescending? yes.
    Is it harmful? no.
    Is there ill intention meant? no.
    Does it matter if its ill directed? yes.
    Outside of that, do i care? no.

    I say the above in the nicest possible way, it's how we roll. :)

  20. What TD doesn't seem to get is that obviously this humour makes Brits look bad - and well-deserved criticism ensues.

    Being respect-less and inconsiderate has consequences.

    The Brits are lucky that almost no-one in Germany takes notice.

  21. OK, I'm late to this, but I'd say a counterattack involving bad teeth might have been the way to go.

    Really, the Anglos are still confusing Netherlanders with Germans with all that "Dutch", for Deutsch. It can't be surprising that some might confuse Germans with Hungarians. It's the best they can do.

    About the socks in sandals...
    Clogs: yes, sandals: no.

  22. "OK, I'm late to this, but I'd say a counterattack involving bad teeth might have been the way to go."

    That is perefectly accecptable, and even by my own self-defined terms of British humour, would be perfectly acceptable even if I thought it wasn't.

    Fill your boots, as they say. :D

  23. How about if it was a train full of German dentists? That would be more like a rescue than an invasion.