Forty years on and the Ger­mans were feel­ing ‘less guilty’ about the Nazis

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - JEN­NIFER LIP­MAN


THE HOLO­CAUST was “no longer painful to con­tem­plate” for the Ger­mans a mere four decades later, ob­served the Bri­tish am­bas­sador to Ger­many in a let­ter to the For­eign Of­fice in Oc­to­ber 1984.

A confidential note by Ju­lian Bullard to the then For­eign Sec­re­tary Ge­of­frey Howe de­tail­ing his im­pres­sions of West Ger­many noted “the de­tach­ment with which, it seems to me, Ger­mans nowa­days are pre­pared to dis­cuss as­pects of the Nazi pe­riod which for­merly they used to avoid”.

Mr Bullard sug­gested that for younger Ger­mans, “the pe­riod 1933 to 1945… has now re­ceded far enough in the past to ac­quire a sort of sepia tone”.

As a re­sult, he con­cluded, “guilt… is now re­duced in im­por­tance as a fac­tor on Ger­man for­eign pol­icy”.

The note was sent just months be­fore anAn­glo-Ger­man­sum­mit­be­tweenBri­tish Prime MIn­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher and West Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl, at which the is­sue of com­mem­o­rat­ing the fol­low­ing year’s 40th an­niver­sary of the end of the war was dis­cussed, along with en­large­ment of the Euro­pean Com­mu­nity and re­la­tions with the Soviet Union.

A confidential brief­ing from her for­eign pol­icy ad­viser Charles Pow­ell to Mrs Thatcher ad­vised that events mark­ing VE Day would “rank high on Kohl’s list of sub­jects” and sug­gested she would need to “soothe” the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor about the UK’s in­ten­tions.

At the meet­ing in Bonn, ac­cord­ing to a sum­mary by Mr Pow­ell, Mrs Thatcher ex­plained to Chan­cel­lor Kohl that “there was a nat­u­ral wish in Bri­tain to com­mem­o­rate the 40th an­niver­sary”.

But it should show the two coun­tries were now al­lies with the em­pha­sis on “the achieve­ments of re­con­struc­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and on look­ing to the fu­ture”.

Dur­ing her child­hood, Mrs Thatcher’s fam­ily briefly took in an Aus­trian Jewish refugee and, as MP for Finch­ley, she spoke reg­u­larly of her ad­mi­ra­tion for the Jewish com­mu­nity.

She told Chan­cel­lor Kohl that she saw VE Day, May 8 1945, as “the day on which we were all de­liv­ered from tyranny”.


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