John Ramsden begins his chronicle of Anglo-German attitudes with an anecdote about a holiday encounter with a German couple in Italy. The conversation turned to Russia. Ramsden asked the ‘handsome, upright’ German if he had visited Russia.
‘Well, just once,’ he wryly responded. ‘I went there in a tank in 1942.’ Pause. ‘To Stalingrad.’ This was followed by a delightful smile and the whispered, ‘I’m sorry. I know we are not supposed to mention the war.’
Ramsden admits that the relish with which his German acquaintance then regaled them with tales of the war left him with ‘an uneasy feeling throughout that he really ought to be a bit more apologetic about the whole thing’. That and other kinds of unease have characterised relations between the