Coming to terms with terms of the past

February 18, 2008

Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache. The German language presents many pitfalls, especially for native Germans. There are so many words that are taboo because the Nazis used them, for example Anschluss or Endlösung. If somebody uses these words out of their well-known historical context, it will most definitely mean the immediate end of their career. “But you don’t even need to use Nazi-tainted terms to get into trouble,SPIEGELOnline writes in a review of Thorsten Eitz’s and Georg Stötzel’s new dictionary, Wörterbuch der ‘Vergangenheitsbewältigung’ (Dictionary of ‘Coming to Terms with the Past’).

Just using the same rhetorical techniques as Joseph Goebbels, king of Third Reich propaganda, and other leading Nazis can land you in hot water. Former Vice Chancellor Franz Müntefering found this out the hard way in 2005 when he described hostile foreign investors as “locusts.” Müntefering, who belongs to the left wing of the Social Democratic Party, was criticized for comparing people with animals, a trope considered deeply problematic due to the Nazi practice of portraying Jews as parasites and vermin.

The dictionary, which discusses around 1,000 words and phrases, was published last December. Read the entire review here.


  1. There was more to Münte’s statement than just the terminoogy though; he’d made accessible a list of economic offenders, so to speak, that included quite a few Ashkenazi-Jewish sounding last names – without giving any evidence of the actual negative effects of their economic involvement in German biz.

  2. terminology*

  3. Interesting. I didn’t know that. Do you have the list somewhere?

  4. I’ll try to find it. Suppose I’m a lil’ older than you to remember. 😉

  5. Just found a Stern link http://www.stern.de/politik/deutschland/539759.html, but I recall the names of the CEOs were brought into play as well.

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