Thursday, 25 February 2010

Why Were the Germans Called Huns in Both the World Wars?

Wars are always horrendous. In wars both sides lie, cheat and use propaganda to debase the opponents.

In WWI and WWII both sides called each other derogatory names. The Allies used the derogatory names Fritz, Jerry, Hun, Heinies, Kraut, Nazi, Boche (WWI) etc. for the Germans. The Germans called the Americans Ami, the Russians Iwan and Brits Tommy. Among Allies, the French were frogs and the Australians were diggers

The Germans are called Moffen in Flanders and Les Boches in Wallonia, the Austrians called them Fritzen etc. Ordinary Germans called high-ranking Nazis Goldfasan. Luftwaffe pilots called enemy fighter planes Indianer (from the cowboys and Indians game).

Why did the British call the Germans Huns in both the world wars?

Does it come from Attila the Hun? Is there a suggestion that the soldiers on the German side were more ruthless and unstoppable like Attila the Hun’s hordes?

Especially in WWI, when there were no Nazis, no side was caught with mass tortures in concentration camps or other nasty things and both sides played by the same ruthless rules of war, the derogatory name Hun was used for the Germans, why?

Theories of the Origin of the Derogatory Name Hun for Germans

There are two theories. According to one, the German soldiers’ belt carried the motto Gott Mit Uns. The Brits deliberately mistook the word Uns for Huns.

In WWI, the Allied propagandists noticed that the German soldier’s helmet with the pointed Pickelhaube resembled the ancient Hun pointed headdress and exploited this dramatically to paint them as ruthless and barbaric.

The US Army was very skilful to exploit this Hun image to instill fear and get more recruits.

The second theory puts the blame totally on Kaiser Wilhelm II. During the Boxer Rebellion in China he wanted to scare the living daylight out of the Chinese for all eternity and gave the order in his speech to the German Expeditionary Corps leaving from Bremerhaven in July 1900 to quell the Boxer Uprising in China.
"When you meet the enemy, he will be defeated! No quarter will be given! No prisoners will be taken! Those who fall into your hands are forfeit to you! Just as a thousand years ago, the Huns under their King Etzel made a name for themselves that make them appear awe-inspiring in tradition and myth, so shall you establish the name of Germans in China for a 1000 years, so that a Chinese will never again dare to look askance at a German."
Source of quote:

Current German Attitudes Towards War

Many people would automatically equate Nazi aggression with Germany. But even they would have to admit the burden of guilt most Germans still feel about the past atrocities and the official apologies Germany has given repeatedly. 

Many people (some of them very jealous of how Germany has rebuilt itself after two World Wars and become almost the richest and strongest country in Europe) think that the Marshall Aid given to war-torn European countries by USA went towards the reconstruction of Germany. In reality UK (3297 Million US Dollars) got three times more than Germany (1448 Million US Dollars), yet Germany has become the most prosperous nation in Europe without a single act of aggression used by the state against other nations since WWII. Anyone with even a scant knowledge of history could point out how UK stands apart.

Beside Germany, no other country involved in the world wars has made guilt and shame for past atrocities so obvious and visible in their culture. According to the most recent polls, almost 70% of Germans now want their troops to pull out of Afghanistan. The Germans reluctantly agreed to send soldiers to Afghanistan under serious pressure from USA, where only 58% oppose the war.
"The war is so unpopular that politicians won't even call it a war," said Alan Posener, political correspondent for the German daily newspaper Die Welt.

Alistair Urquhart from Aberdeen, Scotland, who survived horrendous Japanese prisoner of war camps and the Nagasaki atomic bomb blast recently wrote in his book, The Forgotten Highlander: One Man's Incredible Story Of Survival During The War In The Far East that Germany has atoned for its crimes and young Germans are taught about them but Japan has not and does not teach its young about the past horrors. 

The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on for so long that people are used to the pro-war "information". But are all the people deadened in their conscience? In USA, there is a fair amount of resistance among the young people against the Afghanistan war and military recruitment as this video shows.


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Dorothy Rimson said...

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Anonymous said...

There might be another reason, Germans were called Huns in WWI (and according to that in WWII as well).
In 1900 the German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II. sent troups to China to help other European countries to put down the Boxer rebellion. In an infamous speech he said: "Just like 1000 years ago the Huns made a name for themselves leaded by their King Etzel..., so may the name of the Germans for 1000 years be confirmed in China, so that no Chinese will ever dare even to look at a German in a disapproving way."

Anonymous said...

I've a comment on your text. Well in your text is written: Belgians called them Moffen and the Dutch called them Fritzen. I have to remark that it is the other way around! The dutch called the germans Moffen, Fritzen is said by both countries.

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