E[ileen]. and I last night walked though Soho to see whether the damage to Italian shops etc. was as reported. It seemed to have been exaggerated in the newspapers, but we did see, I think, 3 shops which had had their windows smashed. The majority had hurriedly labelled themselves “British”. Gennari’s, the Italian grocer’s, was plastered all over with printed placards saying “This establishment is entirely British”. The Spaghetti House, a shop specialising in Italian foodstuffs, had renamed itself “British Food Shop”. Another shop proclaimed itself Swiss, and even a French restaurant had labelled itself British. The interesting thing is that all these placards must evidently have been printed beforehand and kept in readiness.
…. Disgusting though these attacks on harmless Italian shopkeepers are, they are an interesting phenomenon, because English people, i.e. people of a kind who would be likely to loot shops, don’t as a rule take a spontaneous interest in foreign politics. I don’t think there was anything of this kind during the Abyssinian war, and the Spanish war simply did not touch the mass of the people. Nor was there any popular move against the Germans resident in England until the last month or two. The low-down cold-blooded meanness of Mussolini’s declaration of war at that moment must have made an impression even on people who as a rule barely read the newspapers.