– A Collection of Tales about Germans and interactions with Germans, their habits and their way to live.
Over the centuries, many have been wondering about the Germans, among them literary people who put their amazement to paper and produced some extraordinary stuff. Common to most of these different tales is an attempt to capture the “mentality of Germans”, the glue that binds Germans together and makes them seemingly unique people or different from other people.
We left Germany some years ago. A number of reasons that we will discuss elsewhere in this blog caused us to do so. Here, we will start a collection of “Experiences of Germany” as they were written down by a number of authors. We would like to invite you to join us and provide your bit of literature, in which some author wrestled with the experiences he or she made while being amongst the Germans or while contemplating the Germans.
Our collection starts with:
Jerome K. Jerome and his famous account of the Germans in “Three Men on the Bummel“, written in 1900. Since 1900 some things Jerome studied while cycling Germany changed. The main change for the following passage will be to swap “policeman” for “government” or better still “the state” supposed by many Germans to be the reincarnation of the “good”.
So let’s start on page 197:
- “In Germany, you take no responsibility upon yourself whatsoever. Everything is done for you, and done well. You are not supposed to look after yourself; your are not blamed for being incapable of looking after yourself; it is the duty of the German policeman to look after you. That you maybe a helpless idiot does not excuse him should anything happen to you. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing you are in his charge, and he takes care of you – good care of you; there is no denying this. …
- ‘You get yourself born’, says the German Government to the German citizen, ‘we do the rest….’.
- I do not know if it be so, but from what I have observed of the German character I should not be surprised to hear when a man in Germany is condemned to death he is given a piece of rope, and told to go and hang himself. It would save the State much trouble and expense, and I can see that German criminal taking that piece of rope home with him, reading up carefully the police instructions, and proceeding to carry them out in his own back kitchen.
- The Germans are a good people. On the whole, the best people perhaps in the world; an amiable, unselfish, kindly people. I am positive that the vast majority of them go to heaven. Indeed, comparing them with the other Christian nations of the earth, one is forced to the conclusion that heaven will be chiefly of German manufacture, But I cannot understand how they get there. That the soul of any single individual German has sufficient initiative to fly up by itself and knock at St. Peter’s door, I cannot believe. My own opinion is that they are taken there in small companies, and passed in under the charge of a dead policeman. …
- The curious thing is that the same man, who as an individual is helpless as a child, becomes, the moment he puts on the uniform, an intelligent being, capable of responsibility and initiative. The German can rule others, and be ruled by others, but he cannot rule himself. …
- The worst that can be said against them is that they have their failings. They themselves do not know this; they consider themselves perfect, which is foolish of them. They even go so far as to think themselves superior to the Anglo-Saxon: this is incomprehensible. One feels they must be pretending.”
Like Jerome K. Jerome, the German economist Oswald Metzger paints a bleak picture of German society, arguing that it is the overall claim of being provided for by one’s state that drives German citizens rather than their will to care for themselves and be their own men. Germans sacrifice freedom for state provision. Liberal values are replaced by socialist schemes.