Gott strafe England

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Gott strafe England, illustration from Germany, The Next Republic?, by Carl W. Ackerman, published in 1917 in the US - unknown origin.

"Gott strafe England" was a slogan, during World War I, used by the German Army. The phrase means "May God punish England". It was created by the German-Jewish poet Ernst Lissauer (1882–1937), who also wrote the poem Hassgesang gegen England (lit. "Hate song against England", better known as "Hymn of Hate").[1]


"Gott strafe England" cufflink

In the hysterical atmosphere brought on by World War I, Lissauer's Hassgesang became an instant success. Rupprecht of Bavaria, commander of the Sixth Army, ordered that copies be distributed among his own troops. The Kaiser was pleased enough to confer upon the author the Order of the Red Eagle. An informative account of Lissauer and the "Hymn of Hate" can be found in Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday.

Even despite the general atmosphere of condemnation against England for "causing the war", the Hassgesang was not without its critics. The Frankfurter Zeitung was bold enough to denounce the "impotent hatred that spits at us everywhere". With one or two exceptions it was not widely popular among Lissauer's fellow Jews, who had a tendency to identify with England's liberal tradition. The publicist Benjamin Segel said that the poem did not contain "as much as a spark of Jewish sentiment." Lissauer's song and slogan proved to be similarly less popular within the wider German intelligentsia. The painter, photographer, and caricaturist Helmut Herzfeld went so far as to change his given name in protest into an English one and to anglicise his surname, hence to be known as John Heartfield.

Unofficial stamps with the motto were produced by organisations, such as the "Federation of the Germans in Lower Austria".[2] In at least 1916 browncoal bricks were embossed with the motto "Gott Strafe England" and sold in the Netherlands.

In 1946, in Hamburg, Germany, "Ausgebombte" (bombed out refugees) demonstrators sang the song.[3]

In England in 1916,the music hall singer, Tom Clare wrote a comic song "My Hymn of hate" giving a list of people and phenomena that he hated, in a comic vein. The list included, for example, journalists who criticized how the war was being run, but didn't want to join the army themselves.

Others uses

German postcard, 1916; second line reading "Er strafe es!" ("So be it!")

J. C. Squire:
God heard the embattled nations sing and shout
“Gott strafe England” and “God save the King!”
God this, God that, and God the other thing –
“Good God!” said God, “I’ve got my work cut out!”

George Bellows created a lithograph titled " Gott Strafe ".[5] Louis Raemaekers created a cartoon titled "Gott strafe England".[6]

The phrase gave rise to the term "Strafing" and to the nickname "Strafer" being given to the British General William Gott (Gott strafe...) in World War II.