Language of the Third Reich: LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii (Continuum Collection Series) Paperback – 20 Jan 2005
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"'brilliantly conceived analysis that sought to crystallize the meaning of Nazism from its official language' Gordon A. Craig, Stanford University '... the most profound and entertaining study ever written in English of the impact of political tyranny on language. This book is a necessary and fascinating read.' Mark Mazower, New Statesman 'It deserves to be read by anyone interested in this period of history. A classic in the Literature on National Socialism.' Michael Burleigh, Times Literary Supplement 'valuable... compelling...classic' Hans Reiss, Emeritus Professor of German, University of Bristol in Times Higher Education Supplement"
About the Author
Victor Klemperer (1881-1960), a front-line veteran of the First World War, became Professor of French Literature at Dresden University. As a Jew, he was removed from his university post in 1935 and only survived thanks to his marriage to an Aryan. Throughout the years 1933 to 1945 he kept detailed diaries, which contain in note form some of the raw material for LTI, of the German edition of 1975. Dr Martin Brady is a film historian, lecturer and artist.
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Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who seems to "parrot" back what they have heard; nothing is an original thought, but only some form of "propaganda" or "mind-controlled" speech? I have! Perhaps this is why this book upset me so.I see and hear this everyday and it scares me to see how propaganda and word use in a very particular way can all of a sudden take on a new and more sinister meaning.
I read this fascinating book after seeing LANGUAGE DOES NOT LIE: The Victor Klemperer Diary on The Sundance Channel.
Other suggested materials concerning Klemperer,whose Diary was not published until 1995 include I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 (Modern Library Paperbacks), I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945: A Diary of the Nazi Years,and Biography - Klemperer, Otto (1885-1973): An article from: Contemporary Authors,and The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror.
ANYONE WHO VALUES LANGUAGE, will undoubtedly find these books invaluable,fascinating,riveting and quite disturbing.
this is an excellent, excellent book and the two other reviews accurately describe it to a potential reader.
As a well known professor of philology, Klemperer goes into great detail as to the change of the German language during the 12 year reign of the Third Reich. Along with the daily writings of Klemperer's diaries, Victor also engaged in his thesis of the language change which occurred in Germany from 1933 to 1945.
Many things that were said during the aforementioned time period had double meanings. To a Jew in Nazi Germany, the word privilege had an ominous meaning. In fact many rather innocent words, phrases and idioms meant rather different things to different people in Nazi Germany.
Victor Klemperer had the time and also the temerity to note these changes in the German language. As an oppressed Jew who actually survived the Nazi regime, he indeed noted the change of meanings in language and also the change of meanings in the very essence of German being and culture.
Klemperer is a latter day descendant of a mythical fly on the wall. To note he was a rather highly educated fly. Herr Klemperer really did see the black side of a totalitarian government. What is amazing is that Klemperer did indeed survive. To add to this rather amazing fact, the person who survived, was indeed intelligent enough to write about the happenings and form a rather succinct opinion of what transpired.
This book in a gem. I'm going to read it again, in order to benefit from all of Klemperer's thesis. I'm sure I'll learn more of this rather gruesome time period. If you have an historian's inclination, please do read this rather magnificent work.
He documents the incursion of usages such as "fanatical" to describe everything praiseworthy. He notes how the names of mythic Teutonic heroes or Wagnerian characters became popular as given names, while Biblical names such as "Christian" were discouraged or banned altogether from use by "Aryan" members of the population. Jewish people, on the other hand, were required to append Old Testament names to themselves to further identify and segregate them.
Language was inflated. Nothing was allowed to be ordinary. Everything was pronounced as if from the podium of a State Occasion, and was directed, not to individuals, but to the masses. The smallest act became "historical" or indicative of a "blood" struggle. The use of superlatives abounded.
Besides such gross changes in language, Klemperer explores many subtle changes - the kind that seep into use below the level of awareness and work to insidiously alter one's outlook. You didn't any longer ask if so-and-so was ill. You asked if he was on the sick-list, because illness had to certified. It was a status that could only be bestowed by a higher authority. You didn't say you earned some money. You said you took home a package of pay. Again, the good was bestowed by a higher authority and did not come as a result of your singular, individual efforts.
These are just a few examples of the telling observations you'll find in these pages. Although Klemperer gets a little philosophically abstract here and there, and even makes some contradictory observations regarding usage - overall this book provides the kind of insight into the everyday lives of people in the Third Reich that you find in few other places.
It is strongest in documenting specific changes in languages usage. However, like almost every other work examining the horrors of the Regime, it fails to answer the overarching questions of "Why? - "How?" The reader is left to grapple with that overwhelming puzzle. The transformation and appropriation of the German citizenry becomes especially puzzling when viewed in light of certain other dictatorships that we've become familiar with since then - regimes that, despite heavy inflictions of a dictator's exhortations, have not led members of the general population to speak or think in such overloaded tanker terms.
What causes one people to be so virulently infected with the fervor of grandiose abstractions, while other groups of people come away from similar exhortations simply with regret and an ironic shrug?? That remains the unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable question. Even as brilliant an observer as Klemperer doesn't quite pull all the individual instances of transformation together to answer that ultimate "How?"
I was intrigued, sometimes fascinated, by Klemperer's observations of how language evolved under Nazism. An example: readers of concentration camp memoirs will be familiar with the camp term "organize," meaning to steal. Well, according to Klemperer, the ordinary German also used the term "organize" meaning to obtain something illegally, either by theft or black marketing - that is, "They don't issue ration cards for that anymore, so you'll have to organize it." I had no idea the same term was used outside the camps -- and Klemperer, it appears, had no idea it was used within the camps, because he doesn't mention this act in his book.
I think he would have been very intrigued by 1984 and its Newspeak. I also think that if I applied his methods of observation to the media and conversation in my own country, I would probably learn some disquieting things.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in language, the Holocaust or World War II. I would also HIGHLY recommend Klemperer's diaries, especially the first two.