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Notes on The Language of the Third Reich

by gmoke Tue Aug 7th, 2018 at 06:56:25 PM EST

I first learned of Victor Klemperer's The Language of the Third Reich in a column Mike Godwin of Godwin's Law ("As an online discussion continues, the probability of a comparison to Hitler or to Nazis approaches one") wrote in June 2018 in the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-godwin-godwins-law-20180624-story.html).

Godwin quoted Klemperer on how, at the beginning of the Nazi regime, he "was still so used to living in a state governed by the rule of law" that he couldn't imagine the horrors yet to come. "Regardless of how much worse it was going to get," he added, "everything which was later to emerge in terms of National Socialist attitudes, actions and language was already apparent in embryonic form in these first months."  Klemperer was, by training, a philologist, the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is a combination of literary criticism, history, and linguistics, and kept a diary throughout the Third Reich which I've always meant to read.

This is a good introduction to Klemperer and seems to be very apt in these days when the public discourse is full of misinformation, propaganda, and outright downright lies. Klemperer classified the language of the Third Reich as LTI [Lingua Tertii Imperii].  Very interesting book which I'm still digesting.  Thanks Mike Godwin.


The Language of the Third Reich by Victor Klemperer
NY:  Continuum Books, 2000
ISBN 0-8264-9130-8
(page 14)   Words can be like tiny doses of arsenic:  they are swallowed unnoticed, appear to have no effect, and then after a little time the toxic reaction sets in after all.  If someone replaces the words `heroic' and `virtuous' with `fanatical' for long enough, he will come to believe that a fanatic really is a virtuous hero, and that no one can be a hero without fanaticism.

(21)  One of their banners contends that `You are nothing, your people is everything.'  Which means that you are never alone with yourself, never alone with your nearest and dearest, you are always being watched by your own people.

The sole purpose of the LTI [Lingua Tertii Imperii] is to strip everyone of their individuality, to paralyse them as personalities, to make them into unthinking and docile cattle in a herd driven and hounded in a particular direction, to turn them into atoms in a huge rolling block of stone.  The LTI is the language of mass fanaticism.  When it addresses the individual - and not just his will but also his intellect - where it educates, it teaches means of breeding fanaticism and techniques of mass suggestion.
(24)  But clichés do indeed soon take hold of us.  `Language which writes and thinks for you....'
NB:  Listen for how often clichés and buzzwords become common among politicians and pundits and the public

(201)  But did the Americans and the Nazis really go in for the same kind of intermperance when it came to numbers and figures?  I already had my doubts at the time.  Wasn't there a bit of humour in the thirty feet of intestines, couldn't one always sense a certain straightforward naivety in the exaggerated figures of American adverts?  Wasn't it as if the advertiser was saying to himself each time:  you and I, dear reader, dervie the same pleasure from exaggeration, we both know how it's meant - so I'm not really lying at all, you subtract what matters and my eulogy isn't deceitful, it simply makes a greater impression and is more fun if it's expressed as a superlative?

... It may well be that the LTI learned from American customs when it came to the use of figures, but it differs from them hugely and twice over:  not only through exorbitant use of the superlative, but also through its deliberate maliciousness, because it is invariably and unscrupulously intent on deception and benumbing.

NB:  Barnum from  The Humbugs of the World: An Account of Humbugs, Delusions, Impositions, Quackeries, Deceits and Deceivers Generally, in All Ages:  "But need I explain to my own beloved countrymen that there is humbug in politics? Does anybody go into a political campaign without it? are no exaggerations of our candidate's merits to be allowed? no depreciations of the other candidate? Shall we no longer prove that the success of the party opposed to us will overwhelm the land in ruin?"

Trmp (or Tony Schwartz) from The Art of the Deal:  "The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration--and a very effective form of promotion."
Full notes at http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com/2018/08/notes-on-language-of-third-reich.html

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Is it complete, or did they remove the chapter comparing the Nazis and the Zionists? If I remember correctly, this even was a problem for the DDR government. (His diaries are mostly unknown in Israel)
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Aug 7th, 2018 at 10:16:16 PM EST
Counterpunch yesterday published an essay by Ken Surin on the instrumentality of and connotations assigned to rhetorical "anti-semitism" and "NAZI" simile suicide. It is titled The UK's Labour Party and Its "Anti-Semitism" Crisis.

The prompt is not nearly as interesting as the variety of "demons" and "evil" that humans have conjured with mere speech these past millennia to rationalize, ironically, a desire to murder or eat ... their own and others.

Why? That is the biggest question the answers to which are not satisfying either.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 12:32:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First of all, Klemperer writing about this under the Nazis is a bit different from your comparisons. As I recall it (I can't look it up right now) he bases his comparisons on a careful study of writings by Herzl and Buber on the one hand, and Rosenberg on the other, and regards them both as consequences of German Romanticism. But you should really base your comments on what he writes, not what is happening in the Labour party (not  in the Conservative party? They joined with the far-right antisemites in the European Parliament, not Labour) who have probably not even heard of some of the writes that I just mentioned.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 01:43:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ahh, yes, "German Romanticism" in particular, periodicity in general as if to differentiate the form of a motif: I have alluded here to this 19th century era in the context of reactionary European "nationalism," epitomized by  The French Revolution, as well as the "völkisch movement" that quickly followed Bonaparte's imperial project which began with pacifying continent. No one took up the topic.

I have also more recently excerpted purported testimony from History of the Peloponnesian War to emphasize the continuous and ubiquitous employments of rhetorical symbols among belligerents to rationalize war (genocide).

To your point, I don't disagree. I also wrote:

"The prompt [CORBYN] is not nearly as interesting as the variety of 'demons' and 'evil' that humans have conjured with mere speech these past millennia to rationalize, ironically, a desire to murder or eat ... their own and others."

I will note here, from your appeal for precision in correspondence ("truth" of Proposition A), the urge to resist the implications of studied, successful methods of political indoctrination within the society you inhabit. "Demonizing the Other": Some call it "meme."

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 02:46:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ahh, yes, "German Romanticism" in particular,

As I recall (I read it 20 years ago) his analysis was much more specific than that. But my main question (which you haven't answered) is whether this chapter is present in the English translation or not (as I recall, the DDR removed it, at least in the first edition).

But in any case, there's no point in discussing my (possibly inaccurate) recollections of what he said. How about somebody with access to the book (which I don't have while travelling) actually reading what he wrote? It's only one chapter, probably not very long.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 03:17:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
whether this chapter is present in the English translation or not

My answer is, it doesn't matter whether or not is was. The point has been made a thousand times (figuratively, speaking) before.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 03:40:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Really? I have never seen it made in the form of a detailed analysis of the sources by an expert on literature, without reference to what Israel has actually done (the state didn't exists when he wrote). How about some examples? And may I point out that without reading LTI or his diaries (a good thing to do in any case) you can't really know whether whether the point has been made or not (once again, my summary based on memories from 20 years ago should not be the basis for discussion)
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 03:47:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(189)  `He definitely got the idea from Herzl of seeing the Jews as a people, as a political entity, and of categorizing them as "global Jewry [Weltjudentum]"'.
NB:  Hitler and Zionism, beware of who you take as an enemy for you become like them

(193)  Later, using a number of key words and quotations, I set down clearly the similarities and dissimilarities between Herzl and Hitler.  There were, thank God, also dissimilarities between them.

(196)  Of all the things on which Herzl bases his idea of a unified people, there is only one which truly fits the Jews:  their common opponent and persecutor;  seen from this point of view the Jews of all nations certainly unite into `global Jewry' in their opposition to Hitler - the man himself, his persecution complex and the precipitous cunning of his mania gave a concrete form to that which previously had only existed as an idea, and he converted more supporters to Zionism and the Jewish state than Herzl himself.  And Herzl once again - from whom could Hitler have gleaned more crucial and practical ideas for his own purposes?

... The problem is that Hitler and Herzl feed to a very large extent on the same heritage.

Copied from my complete notes at http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com/2018/08/notes-on-language-of-third-reich.html


Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 05:02:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From your blog:

and kept a diary throughout the Third Reich which I've always meant to read.

The diaries before and after the Third Reich are also worth reading, but may not have been translated.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 10:26:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there any new information or knowledge to be found in these notes?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 12:20:27 PM EST
It was new when he wrote it.....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 01:44:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe, you misspelled "new", to wit: Arendt Eichmann in Jerusalem, anything Frankfurt School, and
The Pitfalls of National Consciousness, for example. What I'm saying is, the motives and subjects of war (genodide) are well known, not unique to jews, and, sadly, socially acceptable.

Remediation OTOH is not well understood.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 02:55:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Arendt was writing well after 1943 or 1944, when Klemperer developed these ideas in his diaries (and may have written some of LTI as well)
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 03:14:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ahh, yes, the the appeal to primacy to which I've not already alluded in English translations of "moral imperative" across millennia:

What message are you attempting to communicate?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 06:03:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You asked what was new. I answered your question. If you didn't care about primacy, why did you ask?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 09:53:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was new to me before I read it.  If you haven't read it, it will be new to you too.

There is some news that stays news.

Now, I'd be interested in finding an English translation of Hermann Broch's book on Massenwahnprojekt, a project I understand that has yet to be undertaken.

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 at 05:09:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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