Thursday, January 14, 2016

On the Meaning of German Words - and a Latin one

6.107 Irving was critical of the reliance placed by the Defendants on such documents as are said by them to cast light on the allegedly genocidal use to which the camps were put. Much time was spent in evidence and argument on discussing the meaning and true significance of a number of German words to be found in the speeches of Hitler and others and in contemporaneous documents generally. There was prolonged cross-examination of Longerich by Irving as to the meaning of certain German words which he listed in a glossary prepared for the purpose of these proceedings. Those words include ausrotten, vernichten, liquidieren, evakuieren, umsiedeln and abschieben. A considerable number of documents were scrutinised in an attempt to ascertain whether the words in question were being used or understood in a genocidal sense. Irving contended that most of these words are properly to be understood in a non-genocidal sense. Longerich's agreed that most, if not all, of these words are capable of being used in a non-genocidal sense. For example ausrotten can bear such anodyne meanings as "get rid of" or "wipe out" without connoting physical extermination. But he asserted that its usual and primary meaning is "exterminate" or "kill off", especially when applied to people or to a group of people as opposed to, for example a religion. He contended that all depends on the context in which the words are used. Another example is Umsiedlung, which can mean no more than resettlement in a ghetto but more often embraces a homicidal meaning as well. Whilst Longerich was prepared to concede that some of the words in question may be used in a non-genocidal sense in the years leading up to 1941, he argued that from about that date onwards the words are invariably used in a sinister sense to connote killing on a major scale. For instance he contends that when, in a document dated 20 February 1942 the Reichsicherheitshauptamt (RHSA) use the term Evakuierung in connection with the issuing of guidelines for the implementation of the evacuation of Jews to Auschwitz, the word is being used in a genocidal sense.

The Nizkor Project
VI. Justification: Evidence of the attitude of Hitler towards the Jews and of the extent, if any, of his knowledge of and responsibility for the evolving policy of extermination

Are Jews "a group of people" or "a religion"?

Albigensians were mostly "ausgerotted" (if at all) by conversion to Catholicism, at least external such, the burning on the stake being decidedly rarer (see for instance the 900 plus cases tried by one inquisitor*, of which 45 or 48 were ending on stake).

Were Jews mainly "ausgerotted" by dying of gas in gas chambers? Or were they mainly "ausgerotted" by abjuring Judaism in gas chambers while being threatened with gassing?

There is a story about how Jews "sued God for breach of Covenant" and ther was a process. When all that Jewry involved in that process walked into a gas chamber, they were singing psalms of King David in Hebrew. Whom do we know this story from?

Well, if they all survived the gas chamber (for one reason or another), like Jo Wajsblat did, we know it from themselves, of course.

If on the other hand they all died, who told us?

Their guards?

Note that if "evakuieren", "umsiedeln" and "abschieben" may on THIS occasion have been used euphemistically for killing, this is very certainly not the primary meaning of the words, they all mean relocation, the last of these enforced relocation outside borders of strangers. An immigrant or refugee refused entry into a country is "abgeschoben", and so is a foreign citizen expulsed after serving prison for a crime.

For "vernichten" and "ausrotten", I will certainly say the most common meaning on a population of animals is physical killing. For human populations it is rarely used, and for a race or ethnicity it would mean physical killing. But for a religion, it could be enforced conversion (or apostasy : in Hitler's case, unlike the Simon of Montfort one, I don't think the end product needed to be orthodox Catholicism, just non-Jewishness, non-Talmudism).

As to "liquidieren" it is a current XXth C. euphemism for often individual killing - both in camps (when occurring) and by spies, both by Communists and presumably Nazis, if they used the word, and probably by other secret services than KGB as well. I can imagine a CIA or an FBI agent using the word "liquidate", and in German that would be "liquidieren".

Note that for Latin "exterminare", the cognates of which are in modern languages synonyms or translations of "ausrotten", the Medieval Latin sense (ok, Middle Ages may be defined as age between First and Second coming, but for Latin grammar, there are two "Medieval" periods, the post-Classic one and this one, between Carolingian and Humanistic Renaissances) was probably closer to "abschieben".

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
St Hilary of Poitiers

* Forgot his name while writing this. Wait, can it have been Bernard Gui? Btw, in Ancient Israel, they would hardly have been left in peace either. Their beliefs would have made them open to stoning, unless of course repenting from them - which was also the priority with Bernard Gui and colleagues. Update: yes it was. But the death sentences carried out were only 42, not 45 or 48.

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