Nazi-Deutsch/Nazi-German: An English Lexicon of the Language of the Third Reich
Maybe you are a professor of German culture. Or maybe, as a hobby, you research and reenact the major historical jargons of Europe. Or maybe you’re already thinking about this year’s Halloween costume and have considered dressing as a Nazi, so that everyone at the party can smile uncomfortably upon your entrance and then, several drinks later, finally take you aside and tell you just how far beyond the pale you have wandered this year—this, as you gaze across the room at the two smiling Maos, welcome in the fold.
If any of the above is true, this wonderful bilingual glossary, Nazi-Deutsche/Nazi-German: An English Lexicon of the Language of the Third Reich, might be just the thing for you. Written by Robert Michael and Karin Doerr, this surprisingly manageable volume provides all you need to know about the various slang words, bureaucratic nomenclatures, and military terms of art the Nazis bandied about during their murderous rampage. It will surely help you to interpret those obscure archival documents you’ve stumbled across, or at last to make sense of those letters grandma saved from great great uncle Wilhelm, or even, come October, to make your own guttural pronouncements one measure more authentic.
Having written their reference clear through the Zs, Michael and Doerr can now, unlike most lexicographers, rest in the comfort of a task completed. Whereas most dictionaries of modern language will demand constant revision and expansion to keep abreast of changing verbiage, the language of the Nazis is more or less done with evolving. It may be fitting, then, that the authors introduce their lexicon with two definitive essays on the ideology of the jargon of the Third Reich. Their passion for the subject really comes through in the essay titles: “Nazi-Deutsch: An Ideological Language of Exclusion, Domination, and Annihilation,” by Doerr, and “The Tradition of Anti-Jewish Language,” by Michael. It should come as no surprise that the ideological gist of Nazi jargon is rather an open-and-shut case, but the authors make the assessment especially cutting and clear. As Doerr puts it at the start of her essay, “German, as it changed during the Third Reich period, represents a deviation from human and humanistic language development and a violation of civil interaction and even the meaning of speech.” The sinister black and red cladding drives home this point: Nazi language barely even qualifies as a mode of human communication. We the humanists spend plenty of time learning that language is a pure texture of ideology and difference, but few are the occasions for summing up an entire lexicon in two tidy essays. Michael and Doerr bring off their anti-Nazi pronouncements with rare verve and aplomb.