Car fanatic Jeremy Clarkson, well-known for not being scared of saying what he wants, offends the Germans on his BBC2 show Top Gear, in scenes reminiscent of Basil Fawlty "The Germans" sketch. Clarkson is also notorious for hating most foreigners.
With all the sensitivity for which he is famous, Jeremy Clarkson has made his own unforgettable contribution to Anglo-German relations. Discussing BMW's new Mini, he gave the Heil Hitler salute on screen and made mocking references to the Nazis and the Second World War.
It was a German viewer who complained.
Clarkson's blitzkrieg offends the Germans
by ALLAN HALL and HENRY MELLER, Daily Mail
15th December 2005
Clarkson goes Fawlty: The presenter delivers his Hitler salute to colleagues and an audience on Top Gear
With all the sensitivity for which he is famous, Jeremy Clarkson has made his own unforgettable contribution to Anglo-German relations.
Discussing BMW's new Mini, he gave the Heil Hitler salute on screen and made mocking references to the Nazis and the Second World War.
The 6ft 5in presenter's performance on the BBC car programme Top Gear last month passed unremarked at the time.
But now, with police and diplomats making desperate efforts to stop England football fans singing about the war at next year's World Cup in Germany, the director-general of the BBC has received an angry letter about Clarkson's 'odious' behaviour.
It was on November 13 that Clarkson, 45, evoked memories of Basil Fawlty's "don't mention the war" tirade with his anti-German message.
After hearing that the Mini had been designed with built-in teaspoons and teabags to give it a British touch, he suggested it be recreated as a "quintessentially" German car.
"Give it trafficators that go like that," he said, lifting his arm up and down Nazi-style to mime old-fashioned car indicators.
Then, mocking the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, he said: "A satellite navigation system that only goes to Poland."
And finally, in a reference to Hitler's boast that his Third Reich would last ten centuries, he added in a mock-German accent: "And a fan belt that lasts for a thousand years."
Clarkson drew the wrath of top German industrialist Lanbert Courth, head of the Bayer Corporation in the UK, who found his on-screen antics "unpleasant and disturbing."
The German government, which has no official comment, is also said to be highly displeased.
Diplomats pointed out that had Clarkson made the Hitler salute on German TV, he would be staring at six months behind bars as -joking or not - such behaviour is outlawed under the country's post-war constitution.
The letter to BBC director-general Mark Thompson came from David Marsh, a leading figure in the German-British Forum, who has worked for many years to break down wartime stereotypes between the two countries.
He wrote: "As a British person with strong links to Germany, I take exception to this poisonous rubbish carried out by a publiclyfunded broadcasting company. Such actions are out of place in our society.
"It is no excuse to say that people (often German) who complain about such programmes have no humour or do not understand the British people's quirky characteristics. Modern Germany has come to terms with, and made amends for, the crimes and aggressions of the Nazi period and the Second World War. It does no good for people such as Mr Clarkson to dredge up the past in crude stereotypical fashion masquerading as outrageous humour.
"Does Mr Clarkson consider the effect on Germans who were born after the war who may be watching the programme?' He added that, had the presenter made such slurs against Muslims or Jews, he would probably be prosecuted.
"Somehow, Germany and the Germans are fair game. Mr Clarkson was wearing an Armistice Day poppy.
"Such odious comments and gestures do injustice to the British who died in the world wars.
"The BBC should take firm action to stop this sort of behaviour. I hope it will."
Yesterday a BBC spokesman said a formal investigation would follow, adding: "The letter hasn't actually arrived yet, but when it does the complaints will be fully investigated."
Only two months ago, Clarkson said he feared "that it will soon be illegal to make derogatory remarks about people from other countries" and "it was possible to sum up the people of every nation on Earth with a single word."
The word he chose for Germans was "humourless".
Yesterday fellow television presenter Piers Morgan, who has had several public altercations with Clarkson, proved an unexpected ally.
Morgan, who as editor of the Daily Mirror put 'Achtung Surrender' on the front page before an England football game against Germany, said: "I find myself in a difficult position, because my instinct is to deplore everything that Jeremy Clarkson does, but I found myself to be in total agreement with him for the first time ever.
"I myself found out in 1996 that the Germans can be remarkably sensitive about being the butt of a joke, and I say more power to Clarkson's elbow in bashing the Germans."
Comedian Stan Boardman said: "This politically correct brigade is trying to stifle us and make us humourless like the Germans.
"I've had complaints from a German magazine saying why have I spent my whole career taking the mickey out of the Germans and I told them that they bombed our chippy - so what do they expect?"