Four Colditz Salads for the Hooligans

The New York Times is perhaps a good neutral forum for discussing England’s Nazi-fixation:

Getting the English to refrain from obnoxious references to World War II should be easy enough. The war ended more than 60 years ago. The Germans themselves seem to have moved on. Even Europe, with its history of chronic internecine conflict, has pulled itself together and found a common purpose, at least theoretically, in the European Union.

But for some perverse reason — intellectual laziness; the tendency of British schools to teach German history through the prism of the Nazi era; a yearning for a simpler time, when Britain had an empire and a clear set of enemies — many England fans seem stubbornly unable to let go of Germany’s past.


During Germany-England matches, for instance, the fans like to sing the theme from "The Dam Busters," a 1954 film about how English bombers destroyed German dams [probably with the famous bouncing bomb] during the war. Employing accompanying hand gestures, they perform a song called "Ten German Bombers," the upshot of which is that all the airmen are shot down.

The English are taking the problem seriously, warning English World Cup tourists:

"It’s not a joke," Charles Clarke, then the home secretary, warned at a pre-World Cup briefing earlier this spring. "It is not a comic thing to do. It is totally insulting and wrong."

That means, basically, no getting drunk and goose-stepping in a would-be humorous manner. No Nazi salutes. No shouting "Sieg Heil!" at the referees. No impromptu finger-under-the-nose Hitler mustaches.

"Doing mock Nazi salutes or fake impersonations of Hitler — that’s actually against the law in Germany," Andrin Cooper, a spokesman for the Football Association, which administers English soccer, said in an interview.

The article could not end, of course, without a reference to the Fawlty Towers sketch, which is as famous here as in Britain:

Britain’s awkwardness on the subject was lampooned most famously in a television episode of "Fawlty Towers," when Basil Fawlty, the hotelier played by John Cleese, tries to attend to a group of German guests after suffering a concussion.

"Don’t mention the war," he tells his staff, even as he descends into a xenophobic frenzy, repeating the Germans’ lunch order of a prawn cocktail, pickled herring and four cold meat salads as "a prawn Goebbels, a Hermann Göring and four Colditz salads," and then high-kicking his way around the dining room, à la Hitler.

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