1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Germans - What do you guys feel when watching WWII films?

Discussion in 'Serious' started by Pete J, 16 Jul 2020.

  1. stuartpb

    stuartpb Modder

    Joined:
    16 May 2008
    Posts:
    1,763
    Likes Received:
    129
    I lived in Germany for a total of eight years over two postings as a British Army brat (child of serving soldier). We left in 1983, at that time the memory of WW2 was still shared by many living Germans. Some of the older Germans were quite openly hostile towards the British, my mum remembers some occasions when she received verbal abuse from an old man, because she was British. The British Army wasn't exactly a great guest at times though, with young squaddies getting into fights etc. so I can understand some of the hostility towards the British. I did often wonder if it went further than that though. Considering most large German cities and towns were flattened by carpet bombing during the war, some animosity would be expected I think.

    As a kid, we had no real conception of the war, other than seeing what we saw in the pictures and on the TV or heard about from older relatives. So we thought of the Germans as the bad guys. When we played soldiers, we always had the goodies, the British and then the baddies, the Germans. I guess that affected how we thought of our hosts while we were guests in their country. We did live quite an insular life as army family though, we went to British Forces Schools, we had British Forces Broadcasting Services TV and radio, a NAAFI to shop in and the Church Army to buy our British comics and newspapers. The only time we really mixed with the Germans was when we went visiting places outside the camp. My dad spoke fluent German and had German friends, but my sister and I didn't have many German friends, we just didn't mix much with Germans.

    I think the Germans are still embarrassed or maybe even ashamed of the war, it's not something they like to talk about much either. To be fair I can't blame them either. We should learn from our pasts, but we can't be held accountable for something that happened so long ago.


    As someone who's been affected by armed forces service, I think 99.99% of serving and ex members of the armed forces, and their families just want their sacrifices and commitment to be recognised. They don't see themselves as heroes, nor do they want to be known as heroes. What they do want is the support from their government for the real issues that servicemen and women and also their families face. Service in the armed forces presents a wide range of issues and many service people and their families feel the government doesn't do enough to assist. Instead we see a whole raft of charities having to take the lead.

    I have personal experience of this. We lost my dad whilst he was in service as a British soldier. The Army chain of command deemed us bad for morale as a grieving family living in army quarters and being around the camp, so we were whipped off ASAP to start a new life back in civvy street. We were assigned a families officer, who looked after some of the practical issues we had. For anything else, emotional support etc. we were left hung out to dry.

    The British Armed Forces are volunteer services, when someone joins they commit to the life of a service person. They don't ask for much, don't get much but they should deserve our respect, much the same as we respect nurses, doctors, the police etc.

    One thing that does goad me is people shouting about supporting the armed forces but having next to no knowledge of the issues they face often with very little interest either. Some people jump on issues to make themselves feel better but do little else!
     
    Last edited: 1 Feb 2021
    boiled_elephant likes this.
  2. liratheal

    liratheal Sharing is Caring

    Joined:
    20 Nov 2005
    Posts:
    12,247
    Likes Received:
    1,528
    I've only ever known a handful of people serving in the army, so my opinion is of course affected by that. The handful I've known have been jackasses that I wanted nothing to do with. They were okay, like.. 60% of the time, but that other 40% was insufferable. Especially the ones that played airsoft. But that's another rant. It's also coloured by my view that the current crop of wars that the supposed 'good guys' are involved in are.. Well, not that good at best.

    What I mean by hero-worship is that there seems to be a much stronger reverence for military personnel in the "allied" side of WWII than the axis. IME the Germans see military service as a necessity, and no different to government employees. I've seen considerably less pro-military stuff (Be that apparel or social behaviour) around the place - I'd be tempted to go as far as to say I've seen none, but that'd be tempting fate - than I saw in the UK, or the US.

    To take a fairly easy example, the Americans.

    The 'Dependa', and their use of their spouse's military position to try and get better/different service from customer service places - And that in some instances it actually works.

    Couple that with how the allied powers gloss over their own atrocities like they didn't happen, the whole thing just stinks to me. Did the Germans of the 1930's and 40's do horrible, terrible, wrong? Of course they did. But so did we, the allies, the so called 'good guys'.

    I feel like the approach to military service today that I've encountered in Germany is much more palatable than either the UK or US.

    The extremely pro-military attitude of the general populace of war-winners is quite uncomfortable to me. Should service people be treated correctly by the government during and after their service, presuming some issues re-integrating into civilian life? Absolutely. It's criminal, IMO, that they aren't and that charities like Help for Heroes needs to exist at all. If you take all the other factors out of the equation is it honourable to want to risk your life for the safety of a country and its inhabitants? Yeah, of course it is. Am I going to treat military personnel any differently than anyone else? Nope. They're entitled to the same levels of respect and decent treatment that any other human is, in my opinion.
     
    boiled_elephant likes this.
  3. stuartpb

    stuartpb Modder

    Joined:
    16 May 2008
    Posts:
    1,763
    Likes Received:
    129
    The American attitudes to the military is something that seems to go through peaks and troughs. Look at the attitude towards Vietnam vets in the 60's & 70's and how they were shunned or even vilified. I'm sure we'll go through the current peak and find another trough. I think some of the "supporters" are so pro military because they don't really understand or care about the pressures and issues military personnel face. They have some glorified version of what they think it means to be military. If they really did understand, then maybe they'd be demanding the governments in question properly supported their armed forces personnel?

    Regards your experiences with service personnel, there are bellends in every walk of life. That includes the armed forces and its members. Most ex armed forces personnel I know are decent people with ambitions, attitudes and beliefs similar to or the same as our own. Most who I know are more switched on, more of a can do than might do/ can't do attitude and also less demanding and self serving. If the armed forces teaches anything then it definitely teaches some attitudes that more of us should aspire to.
     
    Last edited: 1 Feb 2021
    Sentinel-R1 likes this.
  4. liratheal

    liratheal Sharing is Caring

    Joined:
    20 Nov 2005
    Posts:
    12,247
    Likes Received:
    1,528
    It does have its ups and downs - But the 60's and 70's are now sixty to fifty years ago.

    In that time a rather perturbing amount of nationalistic BS has arisen across the globe, and that's all I've experienced - Being a late 80's baby - And it's all I see today, if anything it seems to be getting worse.

    I'd not meant to imply that all service personnel are jackasses, I'm quite sure there are plenty that aren't, I was just offering insight into what has most likely coloured my opinions.

    I do agree that non-service personnel should be putting pressure on their respective governments to properly provide for the people on the often literal front line - But given those same people are seldom found pushing for better working conditions and care for those who they do see regularly (Cough, UK, cough, NHS, cough. Cough. Everywhere, police, cough.. etc), it seems unlikely to happen. Instead there seems to be this.. Nationalistic jingoism that leads people down the garden path of glorifying something that, as I understand it, rarely has glory involved.
     
  5. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

    Joined:
    14 Jul 2004
    Posts:
    6,489
    Likes Received:
    766
    This is a really bloody interesting thread, thank you both for taking the time to write out such nuanced posts.

    For my part, I've known and spoken to a few forces and ex-forces people, young and old; they run the whole gamut from ordinary, conscientious blokes who left, disgruntled and jaded, after a few years to old retired decorated veterans with massive chips on their shoulders, big egos on the whole subject of their military past and an (in my opinion) unhealthy attitude to the nature of the job. And everything in between.

    liratheal, you're right about the nationalist pride in the UK, I'm not sure if it's rising or always been a thing but it is a massive thing, especially in what I'd be tempted to condescendingly refer to as the "underclass", i.e. tabloid readers. Loving the military is basically a family value for households in that demographic, for some reason. Given that they account for most of the front-line grunts that pad out the armed forces, I can't help wondering if that sentiment has been cynically cultivated in some way to guarantee a sufficient number of enlistings.

    I'm really uncomfortable with the 'heroes' designation, and some of my ex-forces friends are too. They're the first to identify that in the forces, most people are just ordinary folks doing a job, and a sizeable portion of them are douchebags doing a job badly and/or for the wrong reasons. Plenty of pen-pushers, middle management timewasters, jobsworths, responsibility-shirkers, liars, cheats and scoundrels - same as any line of work. And there is even a small stereotype-confirming minority of sociopathic edgelords who just want to kill people.

    One of my friends still in the forces is a generally nice guy if you don't mention the forces, but if you do, you get uncomfortably enthusiastic nerdy descriptions of all the cool ways the new technology he gets to be involved in deploying can efficiently murder a hundred enemies at the push of a button. He seems to consider it both necessary and wonderful. We agree that it's necessary but haven't the heart to tell him that we really don't consider it wonderful. I do not consider him a moral man, even though socially I get on with him well enough. Maybe he'll feel differently once he's actually had to fire such weapons in anger and be responsible for taking lives; if anything, I suspect that his superiors and trainers have failed to adequately prepare him for the psychological trauma of that reality.

    His spouse, in line with all military spouses, gets all kinds of accomodations, discounts and deals in private retail establishments, and that makes me feel icky. If you look at it rationally, it just isn't the case that all forces people are heroes. Some are, but most are just doing a job; most will never directly risk their lives. North Sea fishermen, rig workers, bicycle couriers, doormen, traffic wardens, factory workers and various other essential roles in our society are more dangerous than being, say, a radio operator, mechanic or chef in the armed forces. They're not considered heroes and their spouses don't get discounts.

    But if you question this sort of attitude among the hero-worship demographic, you're villified as some variety of own-nation-hating dissident.

    From what's been described above, the modern German attitude does sound much healthier, and more like what I'd like to see espoused here in the UK. The forces is a huge collection of different jobs, some more dangerous, some less so, all necessary. A few end up constituting heroic action; most don't.

    Regarding historical Germany, the key questions (which I'm unqualified to address) are: 1) what proportion of the German troops who fought in WWII were pre-existing military personnel from before Hitler took control; 2) what proportion signed up voluntarily during his leadership; and 3) what proportion were forcibly conscripted during his leadership.

    The likelihood of soldiers from those three categories actually having Nazi sentiments in their hearts, and therefore qualifying as 'bad guys', is gonna vary wildly from one category to the next. It would be heartless and prejudiced to assume category 1 soldiers are fascist automatons; naive to assume that category 2 soldiers were just 'normal people doing their jobs'; and category 3 I would simply class as more of Hitler's victims.
     
  6. liratheal

    liratheal Sharing is Caring

    Joined:
    20 Nov 2005
    Posts:
    12,247
    Likes Received:
    1,528
    I like to hope that there was a good chunk of soldiers in the Nazi regime that were simply doing their jobs, and didn't carry the same racial hatred that a lot of Nazi's did, and do.

    But without a time machine and interviewing every single one of 'em, I guess we'll never know.
     
  7. stuartpb

    stuartpb Modder

    Joined:
    16 May 2008
    Posts:
    1,763
    Likes Received:
    129
    There were plenty of German troops who didn't want to be there fighting for something they didn't believe in or support. They faced the stark choice of doing as they were ordered or being shot. Much the same our own troops faced in WWI.
     
  8. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

    Joined:
    14 Jul 2004
    Posts:
    6,489
    Likes Received:
    766
    That does align with the limited info I've gleaned from films and books.

    Meanwhile, though, there was the Dirlewanger brigade, who I still find hard to credit even though they're a matter of historical record.

    Trigger warning - I don't generally do or believe in trigger warnings, but some things are so ghastly you really do need one. Even though it's only orated historical facts, you do need a strong constitution for this one.



    I think it's a perspective reset on the Nazi party and its leaders that things like this could even happen. It is tempting to wax relativist about how everyone in history was pretty grim and every nation did 'the bad', but a lot is revealed in their attitude towards and tolerance of outright war crimes. And the Nazis were remarkably tolerant of war crimes even by the standards of the time.

    edit - oh, and apparently according to Wikipedia, their leader, Oskar Dirlewanger, actually inspired and became the namesake of a neo-nazi movement in the 21st century! Proof, if proof were needed, that both stupidity and evil spring eternal and there's always a new crop of edgy teens somewhere ready to adopt evil as a pastime.
     
    Last edited: 2 Feb 2021
  9. dan297

    dan297 Minimodder

    Joined:
    28 Jan 2021
    Posts:
    170
    Likes Received:
    194
    hmmm, not sure if there has bin a single answer from a German yet...
    Well, it is interesting to see how you guys think about this.
    The simple answer is...there is not THE German, who's opinion, thoughts and feelings are unilateraly valid for each and everyone of us.

    It varies between the generations, regions, education, etc.
    Here is my two cents...

    When I was born in 1968 my father won a case of beer from his slightly older mates (who all fought in WWII) because they did not want to believe that I was given a first name from the Old Testament - which they deemed as Jewish.
    Barely 25 years after. These guys in their mid fourties were ALL still hidden Nazis. At least they were not clearly distancing themselves. Never in their life they did, until they died.
    I remember their jokes when they were over to our place, playing cards.
    Not sure what horrors they have seen or not in the war. Old war stories were never been told, strangely enough.

    My dad was lucky that he was not being conscripted during the late war. Born in 1929, he was old enough.
    Still he saw some horrors. He was raised in a remote forestry, far away from any propaganda. People there gave a rats ass about Hitler and Nazism. They all suffererd from the war.

    Just a few weeks ago he told me a story, still with tears in his eyes.

    How two low flying Mosquitos dropped their boms on a nearby village, which was famous for its pottery "industry", setting the school and his grand dads house on fire.
    Most likely they did not want to land with their load so they just dropped it off on an innocent tiny village - unless of course Churchill wanted to deny the German troops their clay mugs...
    The sad part of the story, however, was that a rescuing firefighting party from the neigbor village was attacked by low flying Spits, killing all 5 of them.
    Then he told me that he and his best mate coming from school were being shot at once by Spits too, and that he had to see how his mate lost his life.
    It took him 52 years to tell me this...
    The region was well away from any front lines and war action.
    So, target shooting on civillians and childern on the boring way home - not really a heroic act to be depicted in a movie about the aces of WWII...

    War is horror, and like someone rightly said earlier, the only crime is loosing it.
    There is no glory. On neither side.

    My generation was tought over and over again, that this must never ever happen again - which is absolutly true.
    So no proudness to be German, no flags, and certainly no worship for the military. (ours became a laughing stick lately anyway)

    These days, however, this is not so important anymore. Still you don't see anyone bragging with a German flag (unless there is a football championship - although...if the team continues to play like they currently do, this phenomenon will disappear as well...)
    Generally the kids these days are more concerned about their latest iphone than about German pride.
    So our collective historical guilt as a society and people for what happened 80 years ago starts to disappear.
    And that is most alarming.

    In certain parts of the country it became fashionable again to blame others for ones own shortcomings.
    When we had to deal with 1 million+ refugees 6 years ago, the ugly German raised its head again.
    True, in the entire Eastern Europe it is absolutely the same. EU, give me the money, but leave me alone when it comes to solidarity.
    But our East is the same too. An openly rightwing party, who's leaders like to toy with neo-nazi ideas gets 25+% of the votes in some regions.
    These days refugees are basically non existing in the daily news anymore (and certainly pose no problem), but the extreme right parties are still there. This time denying that there is a Covid crisis, all instrumented by the Government to suppress the people.
    Taking advantage of the underlying discontent for their own purpose.
    Bulls..t like this is not only tolerated these days, people even fall for this.
    Same in the US where a moron who prays national pride gets 76 million votes - even after running the country for 4 years like a f..king circus clown.

    We need to become more careful for the lessons learnt in our past again. Will it happen? Most likely no.

    So, coming back to the original question: What do I feel when I see a WWII movie?
    It reminds me that my country brought a lot of terror to the world - in a magnitude that justifies that we are the only nation in the world who quarrel with its recent past, where others still glorify the long gone age of empires.
    And to be wary of Austrians :grin:
     
    Last edited: 10 Feb 2021
  10. mrlongbeard

    mrlongbeard Multimodder

    Joined:
    31 Jan 2010
    Posts:
    2,240
    Likes Received:
    480
    Where in Germany?
    I wasn't aware of spitfires flying missions over Germany due to their short range*, bomber command used yank fighter escorts on bombing runs into Germany.

    *excluding PRU spitfires, but they were unarmed flying petrol tanks with a camera.
     
  11. dan297

    dan297 Minimodder

    Joined:
    28 Jan 2021
    Posts:
    170
    Likes Received:
    194
    northwest
     

Share This Page