War games: deja vu edition

Compare and contrast. The Daily Mail in 2007:

During the dark days of the Second World War, British children passed the time with marbles, hopscotch, tiddlywinks and, for a lucky few, a Monopoly set.

But over in Germany, the amusements were far less innocent.

In one version of bagatelle named Bombers over England, children as young as four were encouraged to blow up settlements by firing a spring-driven ball on to a board featuring a map of Britain and the tip of Northern Europe.

Players were awarded a maximum 100 points for landing on London, while Liverpool was worth 40.

And the Daily Mail in 2010:

British children of the time were playing marbles and hidding [sic] in air raid shelters.

But for youngsters under the Third Reich, this board game was invented to teach them the tactics of warfare - against a British foe.

The war time amusement, Adlers Luftverteidigungs spiel, which translates as the Eagle Air Defence Game, involves two or more players attacking enemy positions on a geographically illustrated board while defending friendly territory.

The supposed contrast between pacifist British kids and militarist German kids is as silly now as it was then. Apparently the Daily Mail hasn't learned anything in the interim. (I checked to see if the same person was responsible for both, but the new article is credited to the improbably-named "DAILY MAIL REPORTER".) The only difference is in the quality of the comments: last time they took the writer to task for his foolishness, now they're almost spEak You're bRanes-worthy.

No doubt there were differences between British and German games of the period -- it's hard to imagine any British equivalent of the 1936 game Juden Raus, where the aim is to force the Jews in your town to emigrate to Palestine -- but simplistic dichotomies (as the Daily Mail seems to be fond of) are not going to help us understand what they were.

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10 thoughts on “War games: deja vu edition

  1. It's actually "Juden Raus", the small thingy over the u in the game's title is there to denote a difference from the letter n, ü would have had two dots over the u.

    Also one could argue that the pacifist picture of British youngsters might not be that accurate at all, didn't wargaming as a hobby start somewhere around that time as well?

  2. Christopher Amano-Langtree

    It is about par for the course for the Daily Mail to plagarise itself. British kids were very fond of Cowboys and Indians (as were German kids) at the time. And of course (admittedly from wartime) there is the battle game shown in Powell and Pressbuger's 'A Canterbury Tale' but harking back to earlier traditions. But as you note it is a very silly article.

  3. And the word for today is Umlaut. The English word for the symbol, when doing a similar but different job is diæresis. Worth getting up for today, eh?

    Interesting post. I also have no doubt that the British kids of the 1940s were playing (current) war games - the Opies would be an interesting source. We certainly had a number of games involving wars, Spitfires and Messerschmitts et al in the playground in the 1970s. There was a chant about 'We won the war in 1964' which I've never managed to figure out as well... The suggestions that British kids played only nice peaceful games is just clart.

  4. Chris Williams

    I can confirm the 1970s UK playground chant. I suppose that it may not have made sense, but at least it rhymed and scanned. 2/3 ain't bad. Also in 1970s playgrounds, when playing war, the baddies were _always_ Germans.

    I did a very quick and dirty survey of research on 'British attitudes to the Germans' as part of an equally quick and dirty paper on the way that image of the Gestapo fed into debates about policing in postwar Britain. The paper's a dog, but as usual the bibliography's the best bit. Incl:

    D.C. Watt, Britain Looks to Germany: British Opinion and Policy Towards Germany Since 1945 (Oswald Wolff: London, 1965).

    G Jahoda, ‘Development of Scottish children’s idea and attitudes about other countries’ in Journal of Social Psychology v. 58, (1962) 91-108.

    N Johnson, ‘Development of English Children’s Concept of Germany’ in Journal of Social Psychology v. 90 (1973) 259-267.

    D.Balance, Anglo-German attitudes - how do we see each other?: The changing attitudes of young people in Britain and Germany : a British German seminar on 28 and 29 November, 1991 at Goethe-
    Institut London. (Goethe-Institut London: London, 1992).

    M Barret and J Short, ‘Images of European People’ in British Journal of Developmental Psychology v. 10 339 -363.

    W Buchanan ‘Stereotypes and tensions as revealed by the UNESCO International Poll’ in International Social Science Bulletin Vol.3 (1951), 515-528.

  5. I'd like the T shirt. Illogical but scanning chant on the front, with asterisk, and the link to Chris' scary list of refs on the back.

    Would I have to read them first?

  6. Chris Williams

    Watt's account is worth a read. The articles all say the same thing - "yup, British kids still associate Germany merely with war". The UNESCO one's the best. They asked people in about 15 different countries to rate their own 'national characteristics', and printed the results.

    Country: GB US Oz D Fr It Neth Nor
    Peace-loving: 77 82 71 37 69 27 68 69
    Brave: 59 66 56 67 63 56 45 57 42
    Self-controlled: 44 37 26 12 12 5 36 21

  7. Thanks Alan.

    I never understood why Spinal Tap failed to go for a three dot Umlaut - How 'goes up to 11' is that?

    In that vein, while I'm not sure if the software can cope with the enhancement:

    "Brett Holmän’s Aïrminded" Rock or what?

  8. More seriously, I appreciate having the game 'Juden Raus' brought to our attention. As an extreme example, and touched on by Chris' later references to the underlying reality of the continued racism towards the Germans in the UK (witness 'light' items like the famous Carling Black Label Dam Busters spoof, and other adverts about German beach-towels being beaten by British 'Dam Buster' towels in another advertisement) it shows the scary (here terrifying) manipulation of children's ethics by 'play'.

    More examples of such British 'funny' xenophobic advertising for 'adults' here: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2009/12/spitfire_beer_ads.html

    Returning to British children's warlike tendencies (like many cultures) Saki's 'The Toys of Peace' is an interesting pre-Great War examination of the presumptions of 'appropriate' childlike games.

    Interesting that the Nazi Party didn't endorse the game, if I read the reference right.

  9. Post author

    Thanks for the correction, GN. And in the same vein, Alan, I believe it should be 'hëävÿ mëtäl ümläüts'.

    We had the same chant "we won the war in 1964" here in Australia, or at least we did at my school! But there are only three mentions of that phrase on the entire internet, according to Google, including this comment thread and a comment and blog post which seem to be from the same person. Curious.

    I possibly didn't make it clear in my post that I'm not arguing that it's unlikely on the face of it that British kids liked peaceful games unlike those horrid little German children. Rather that there are plenty of examples of war-themed British children's games from the world wars -- I list a couple of dozen examples in two (and a third), and came across a copy of one of them in York. If anything, the Brits seem even more bloodthirsty than the Germans! Of course, these commercially-produced games only tell us what messages adults wanted children to take from them, not what the children actually did take from them. Made-up games like 'Messerschmitts and Spitfires' (which I also played) probably tell us more about what children did think about war. Cf. the Grenata Street Army (though I suspect they also had help from adults!)

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