M.A. Kertesz: ‘The Enemy – British Images of the German People during the Second World War’

Kertesz, M.A. ‘The Enemy – British Images of the German people during the Second World War’
D.Phil completed, 1992, Sussex University

Abstract: The thesis examines the creation and development of enemy imagery in writing about the German people during the Second World War, tracing the gradual redefinition of the enemy from the Nazi elite to a wider hostility which, for some people, embraced the entire German population. The German role of enemy was established by the development of an imagery of the `other’, which placed the enemy outside the realms of Christianity, of culture, of civilisation, even of humanity. The German character was defined in opposition to British qualities; thus, the issue in wartime was as much about defining the British character as the condemnation of the German character. An introductory chapter outlines the history of Anglo-German relations from the mid-nineteenth century, tracing the growing hostility between the two cultures, noting the importance of the 1914-18 war in destroying the older, more favourable images of Germany, and discussing the war’s legacy and the British response to the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. The main body of the thesis consists of `slices’ of narrative – each chapter deals with a short, significant period of the war. These `slices’ are: the first week of the war, the period from Dunkirk to the fall of France (May-June 1940), the week after the German invasion of Russia (June 1941), the allied victory at El Alamein, which is often cited as the turning point of the war (first half of November 1942), the week following the D-Day landings (June 1944) and the last week of the war against Germany in May 1945. Each of these significant periods is approached from three different points of view – a general overview of `public opinion’, the press, and personal diaries written for Mass-Observation. The expression of private opinion in the diaries enters into dialogue with the published opinion of the press, challenging the accepted and establishment views expressed in newspapers, while dealing with the pressure to conform to this establishment view of the German people.