SPIEGEL Interview with British Ambassador Peter Torry "Germans Shouldn't Be So Sensitive"

The British tabloids love depicting all Germans as Nazis -- and many Germans have had enough. But the British ambassador in Berlin, Peter Torry, has labelled the relationship between Germany and Great Britain as "better than ever" in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Peter Torry: "The British media are pretty irreverent."

Peter Torry: "The British media are pretty irreverent."


Mr. Ambassador, have you ever, as the English accuse the Germans of doing, tried to reserve a deck chair at the pool with just your hand towel?

Peter Torry: (Laughs) No. I was actually in Portugal until yesterday, and the pool there was so empty that you didn't need to reserve a spot. But that's one of those stereotypes that one doesn't have to take seriously.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Of course not. The question is, why do you think these stereotypes are so persistent?

Torry: They keep getting hauled back out by the press in both countries. The British media is fairly irreverent -- with everyone. Germany's not the only target. Our Royal family and the British government are also victims, as are the French and the Americans. One needs to differentiate between headlines, which can be made more inflammatory to sell newspapers, and the actual content.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Some of the British press make that distinction pretty difficult, the coverage of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's election as pope being one example.

Torry: Of course. The headlines read "Rottweiler Pope." But the content was actually much more positive about the fact that a German became pope. A positive article even appeared in the tabloid The Sun. One just has to have a bit more of a differentiated view of the press and of the content. Incidentally, one shouldn't forget that for years the British media has been depicting the current wife of Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles, as a rottweiler as well.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Yesterday, Moscow hosted a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. In the run up, there was a lot of talk about the German-Russian and German-French relationships, but not nearly as much was said about the relationship between Berlin and London.

Torry: That's because we don't need to constantly reassert that our relations are good. The relations between Germany and Great Britain have become a matter of course. They've never been better. We're friends, and we're partners. The German market is -- after the American market -- the most important one in the world for us. There are thousands of Germans who work in Great Britain. Moreover, British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave an interview to a large German newspaper in which he said that the relationship has never been better.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your German colleague in Great Britain, Ambassador Matussek, put it very differently over the weekend. In an interview with a newspaper he complained that 60 years after the war, many British were still obsessed with the Nazi period and are ignorant about German history after 1945.

Torry: But he also praised the German-British relations. If, and I stress if, there is a problem, it's that the youth have a very blurred image of Germany. They rarely come to Germany and they learn German at school less often than they used to. On the other hand, the British are the largest group of tourists in Berlin. And among youngsters, Berlin has the reputation of being a cool city. The movie "Goodbye Lenin" was a huge hit in Britain, as was the Joseph Beuys exhibition at the Tate Gallery and the recent play about Willy Brandt by Michael Frayn. If, however, you're set on finding a negative aspect, you will always find something. But it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The question remains, even if it's only superficial: Why are the Nazis still such a bit topic in your home country?

Torry: I don't have the impression that they are. I think one shouldn't be too sensitive. I actually find that it's more the German press that is continually writing about this topic. It's developing into a stereotype itself. We talk about the allegedly bad relations because there aren't any other problems. We are running the risk of slowly turning Germany's image in Great Britain into a problem.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The football world cup will be held in Germany next year. What, in your view, will it do for German-British relations?

Torry: That depends on who wins. If England wins, it's going to be a huge success for the German-British relations. Best would be to win 5:1 over Germany in the finals, like in our last match against the German national team (laughs).


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