For many people, the prospect of breathtaking scenery, medieval towns and world famous spas made Germany a tempting holiday option in the 1930s.
A visit to Bayreuth for the Wagner festival was an absolute must, or for the more liberated, Berlin nightlife offered many delights.
The assent of Hitler had not completely killed off the tourist trade, much to the obvious relief of the government and in an effort to reassure a jittery public, Thomas Cook’s adopted the slogan: “Everywhere you will meet with the friendliest of welcomes” in Germany.
Sadly that campaign was launched around the same time as the bloodbath known as The Night of the Long Knives was dominating headlines.
Gruesome details of Hitler’s henchmen butchering scores of their own comrades, resulted in a sudden rush of holiday cancellations.
Berlin needed foreign exchange and issued an ‘official assurance’ that the country was quite safe for tourists, and that there was no risk of getting mixed up in a street machine-gun melee or a firing squad.
“It seems fairly certain that a lot of people, either from political prejudice or physical nervousness, will think twice before making a holiday in Germany,” reported the Nottingham Evening Post.
The political situation stabilized the following year, leading to more bookings for summer breaks.
“Young people are going to Germany in increasing numbers on walking tours,” reported the Leeds Mercury.
“They go in parties, usually with leaders, and make for some such attractive region as the Rhine Valley, the Bavarian Highlands, or the Black Forest.”
While youngsters seemed keener on holidays in Germany than ever before, older people were less enthusiastic, probably as a result of the political situation, the report concluded.
The fluid political situation was never far for the mind of potential tourists. Many still recalled the chaos of 1914, when floods of holidaymakers scurried back to Britain at the outbreak of the First World War.
Some of those stranded in Germany in 1914 ended up in squalid internment camps, such as the notorious Ruhleben near Berlin.
There was also a growing distaste for the fascist regime in Berlin.
Indeed, at a Transport and General Workers’ Union meeting in September 1937, a Mr. J. Porter from Distributive Workers, Manchester, recommended a boycott on holidays in Germany by British people.
“My advice to this Congress is to tell affiliated members to keep out of Germany until a decent moral standard of government is in force there,” he said.
The stabilization of the tourist industry did not last long. With the annexation of Austria, Germany was yet-again anxious to reassure holiday-makers that everything there remained ‘normal.’
‘But’, wrote the Belfast News in April 1938, ‘foreigners were not easily persuaded’.
“The experiences of those who happened to be in Austria during the weekend Hitler made his entry brought back rather unsettling stories, and the plans of many a party were changed forthwith. Women who were there say it was a nerve-racking experience. In any case, the old charm of Austria must to a great extent have vanished, and the delightful hospitality the people will have been overshadowed in some degree by their own national problems.”
By the summer of 1939, the tourist trade had all but died.
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