In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, Victor Klemperer (1881-1960) served as a distinguished professor of French literature at the University of Dresden. Two years later, however, under the Nuremberg Laws of Citizenship and Race, the Nazis removed Klemperer, a German Jew, from his teaching position and banned him from any public discourse and study. Expelled from his home, forced to perform manual labor in factories, and routinely interrogated and beaten by the Gestapo, Klemperer kept a diary that became for him a place of refuge, his “balancing pole.” There, he recorded his observations of daily life and collected information on the growing lexicon of Nazi terminology and phrases.
Klemperer’s interest in philology, the study and analysis of language, developed during this time. Out of his diary grew this book, The Language of the Third Reich. In it, he explores how everyday language came to shape society in Nazi Germany and deftly highlights the power of language as a political tool.
In order to standardize language to conform to the party line, the National Socialist leadership made extensive, repetitious use of acronyms, euphemisms, and other impersonal terminology. In this carefully-crafted work, Klemperer analyzes how such language can hide the motives and intentions of its creators. For instance, the term Sonderbehandlung [special treatment] refers to murder, and the term Endlösung [final solution] is a clandestine reference to the systematic slaughter and annihilation of the Jewish people.
With abstracted language permeating daily life in the Third Reich, perpetrators, bystanders, and victims subconsciously began to communicate through the mandated code. As Klemperer puts it, everything “swam in the same brown sauce” and “supporters and opponents, beneficiaries and victims all conformed to the same models.” The title of the book itself is a manipulation of language: “LTI,” the acronym for “Language of the Third Reich” translated into Latin, was the code Klemperer used in his diary whenever he made a note to himself about a particular phrase or word used by the Nazis.
Originally published in German in 1947, The Language of the Third Reich consists of short, practical essays about the themes, expressions and particular words, such as Volk [people] and fanatisch [fanatical], which became standard-bearers for Third Reich ideology. It includes bibliographical references and an index.
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|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|Heroism (Instead of an introduction)||1|
|3. Distinguishing feature: poverty||19|
|5. From the diary of the first year||29|
|6. The first three words of the Nazi language||41|
|8. Ten years of fascism||50|
|10. Autochthonous writing||62|
|11. Blurring boundaries||66|
|16. On a single working day||93|
|17. ‘System’ and ‘Organisation’||97|
|18. I believe in him||103|
|19. Personal announcements as an LTI revision book||119|
|20. What remains?||125|
|21. German roots||129|
|22. A sunny Weltanschauung (chance discoveries whilst reading)||141|
|23. If two people do the same thing...||148|
|24. Café Europa||159|
|25. The star||166|
|26. The Jewish war||172|
|27. The Jewish spectacles||182|
|28. The language of the victor||190|
|30. The curse of the superlative||215|
|31. From the great movement forward||225|
|34. The one syllable||246|
|35. Running hot and cold||252|
|36. Putting the theory to the test||259|
|’Cos of certain expressions: An afterword||284|