The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War

By Panikos Panayi | Go to book overview

5
Measures Against German Business
Interests

Writing in 1923, C. R. Hennings claimed that the treatment of German property in England during the War was guided by the motto Vernichtung und Aneigung (annihilation and acquisition). To support his assertion, he quoted an extract from a speech made by Sir Edward Carson (then a member of the War Cabinet) at Portsmouth in October 1917, which ran: 'We must destroy every German business and get these businesses ourselves. We can do that now.'1 While this may not have been the aim of politicians, the public and civil servants in 1914, such views had become widespread by the conclusion of the War. As with measures against alien enemies and the development of internment policy, attitudes hardened as the War progressed and the government introduced new measures in response to public pressure. Again, the Radical Right played a major part in directing the attitudes of the populace. Members of this group had taken an active role in the tariff reform campaign during the Edwardian period: the Great War presented an opportunity to strike a blow at German business. That which existed within Britain provided easy prey. Whether it consisted of the branches of major German banks within London, or a local grocer of German nationality, all represented a threat and, by the end of the War, the government had taken steps to deal with enterprises of all sizes.

German business interests in Britain before 1914 fell into three categories. Within the first, we can count the small retailers, already discussed, in baking, hairdressing and tailoring. In addition some Germans established business concerns on a larger scale. The founders of major firms entered Britain before the 1870s and in many cases their concerns became purely British. In some instances the houses had originally been established when a representative of a German company made his way to Britain. Thus we can give the example of J. Henry Schröder and Co., the merchant bank orig-

____________________
1
C. R. Hennings, Deutsche In England ( Stuttgart, 1923), p. 180.

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The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations Used in References x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Victorian and Edwardian Background 9
  • 1 - The Victorian and Edwardian Background 9
  • Part I - The Official Reaction 43
  • 2 - Measures Against Enemy Aliens 45
  • 3 - Internment and Repatriation 70
  • 4 - The Experience of Internment 99
  • 5 - Measures Against German Business Interests 132
  • Part II - The Popular Reaction 151
  • 6 - Anti-German Sentiment: Spy-Fever, Anti-Alienism and the Hidden Hand 153
  • 7 - Anti-German Manifestations: Witch-Hunts, Boycotts and Movements 184
  • 8 - Anti-German Riots 223
  • 9 - Support for Enemy Aliens 259
  • Part III - Conclusion 281
  • Conclusion 283
  • Bibliography 292
  • Index 303
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