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The Making of Enemies - Deteriorating Relationships between Britain and Germany, 1933-1939

Peter Clements assesses why two nations which seemingly had so much in common at the beginning of the 1930s were at war with each other by the end of the decade.

The scurrilous new world-war lies conducted from London are once again engaged in the most monstrous moral abuse of Germany ... No-one on earth is less entitled to sit in judgement on others than England ... Hypocrisy, thy name is England.' These words appeared in the Westdeutscher Beobachter on 31 March 1939. They were part of an astonishing tirade in the German press against Britain that had gathered momentum since the Munich Conference of September 1938 and seemed geared to turning the German reading public into enemies of Britain. Articles focused on what were perceived as British double standards: while attacking German expansion in Europe, for example, the British were committing atrocities in Palestine. The alleged setting up of concentration camps for women and children during the Boer War was a favourite topic, as were tales of unemployment and poverty in the industrial areas while other regions of Britain enjoyed wealth and prosperity. The decadence of the nation was everywhere to be seen, from girls who were only interested in make-up and dancing to corruption among adoption societies: B. Z. am Mittag for example, alleged in December 1938 that £500 or £600 were common prices paid by those who wished to adopt children. This was in itself an investment, according to Der Angriff, because those adopting often taught their charges to become thieves.

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