Debutantes were dispatched to Germany in 'Dirty Thirties'

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 01, 2012 11:20 hrs

In Hitler's Germany, laws were being passed to discriminate viciously against Jews while teachers, doctors and lawyers are being bullied into joining the Nazi party, a new book has claimed.

In the Dirty Thirties, the "Downtown Abbey set" are dispatching their girls in pearls to Munich, to the birthplace of Nazism, to dance with the devil.

"Oh, it was absolutely normal for girls who would go on to become debs - especially musical ones - to be "finished" in Munich between the wars," the Sun quoted Anne de Courcy author of 'Debs (debutantes) At War' as saying.

"We met the Downton Abbey girls when they were grown up and - out - but I'm sure one of them would have been sent off to Munich for six months or a year before she was presented. The music, the architecture, the culture and the beauty of Germany was much admired," Courcy said.

Lady Anne Spencer - Princess Diana's aunt - was in Vienna in 1938 at the time of the Anschluss, when Hitler annexed Austria. So was the Hon Anne Douglas-Scott-Montagu, daughter of Lord Montagu.

Her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Montagu Douglas Scott, the daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch, who later married the Duke of Northumberland, was in Munich for two months to learn German and be "finished" in time for the shooting season in Scotland and hunt balls at Christmas.

In the inter-war years, the English upper-classes, desperate to avoid another war, cosied up to the jackboot. It all made sense at the time.

Munich, with its Wagnerian connections, was famous for music and general all-round culture. Girls would be sent there to acquire "polish", to learn German and gain a musical education.

There was a very strong bond between many upper-class English and German families - often of marriage - and, of course, our Royal Family was German, from the Hanoverian kings to Queen Victoria.

So peers of the realm would travel to Germany as a matter of course, impressed by the glamour, efficiency and excitement of the new regime and untroubled by the evil realities behind it.

At home, they would also queue to attend German Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop's tiara'd soirees in London. The list of guests reads like a Who's Who of the aristocracy and includes politicians such as Neville Chamberlain, families such as the Astors and even Sir Brograve and Lady Evelyn Beauchamp, the daughter of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, of Highclere - the very Berkshire castle where Downton Abbey is filmed.

The English upper classes, decimated by the First World War, were desperate to steer clear of another, and in Germany, this feeling was reciprocated.

Everyone in Germany made a huge fuss of the English girls, from Hitler down, not just because they were pretty, but because they were useful, too, as they would go back to England and rave about the smart uniforms - and the straight roads.

"My relationship with Claus blossomed and so did my German. He was very handsome, very blond, big and blue-eyed, rather like Boris Becker in his prime," late Jean Tongue, a teenager in Germany during the period, had said.

She remembers being ordered to salute Hitler at a Brownshirt rally and also seeing signs saying, "Juden nichterwunsch" (Jews not wanted) but it was the tea dances and attractive men that stayed with her.

She also said that the men were "madly elegant, arrogant and conceited lot, and had tremendous presence a" their uniforms immaculate, their selfesteem Perspex strong."

"Of course, they would have been very strictly chaperoned but even if they gave their host families the slip, their escapades were probably very innocent," Anne de Courcy said.

"I once interviewed 47 pre-war debutantes and only two of them knew the facts of life by the age of 18," she added. (ANI)

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