Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern by Simon Winder - review by Miranda Seymour

Miranda Seymour

Don’t Mention The War

Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern


Picador 454pp £18.99

Germany, as Simon Winder points out at the beginning of this engaging blend of travel guide, social history and memoir, remains ‘a sort of Dead Zone’ to British tourists. Conscientious students set off to polish their language skills in austere, angst-laden Berlin or gourmandising, merrily aphasiac Munich. Academics, architects and opera buffs travel to their designated locations. But when – to take a provocative example – did you last hear of a family who elected to spend a holiday in Nuremberg? Historically tarnished and badly damaged by bombs, the medieval city still remains one of Europe’s jewels, a place of magical beauty. What is it, sixty years on, that still keeps us at bay and deprives us of enjoying a culture with which we have such rich connections? Aren’t we, as Winder suggests, allowing Hitler a final sneer from beyond the grave when we allow his estimation of Germany to prevail over our own common sense?

You don’t need to be a Germanophile, or even to know much German history, to enjoy travelling alongside Winder around a country to which he has become addicted (and the case for which he cunningly strengthens by cutting his narrative short in 1933, the year Hitler came to

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