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Nazi terminology on the rise

24 November 20160 comments

The use of words stemming from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi ideology are on the rise across Europe as tensions over issues like refugee migration and nationalism increase, new research suggests.

After the end of World War II, Germany embarked on a deliberate initiative to rid their society, culture and politics of any remains of the Nazism.

But now researchers say words coined under the regime of Third Reich are making a comeback and are being used by German politicians and citizens to criticise their government’s response to the refugee crisis.


Angela Merkel

And the increase in the use of Nazi terminology comes amid an unprecedented rise in the number of attacks on asylum seekers and refugee accommodation.

German crime statistics reveal that attacks on asylum seekers’ accommodation increased five-fold between 2014 and 2015.

Over the same time period, crimes targeting the homes of asylum-seekers also rose dramatically, quadrupling to 1,031, including four attempted murders, eight explosives offences, 60 assaults and 94 arson incidents.

Police have also reported crimes of vandalism, such as the spraying of swastikas and neo-Nazi slogans on refugee accommodation.

Now academics have charted the increased use of Nazi terms which echo their ideas of racial purity.

PhD candidate at Birmingham University’s Institute of German Studies Josefin Graef says the words are popping up in German political discourse and are being used against refugees and asylum seekers.

She pointed to the example of the chairwoman of the Alternative For Germany (AFD) party, Frauke Petry, using the word “Völkisch” (“ethnic”), which was used by the Nazis to describe those they saw as belonging to the superior German race.

Ms Graef said the term “Volksverrater” (“Traitor of the people”) is increasingly heard during anti-refugee protests such as those held by the anti-Islam Pegida movement.

The phrase has been used to denounce Angela Merkel and ministers from her Christian Democratic Union for allowing 890,000 asylum-seekers to settle in Germany over the last year.

Pegida have also referred to the media as “Lügenpresse” (“lying press”), a disparaging term used by Adolf Hitler to discount negative reports in the media.

“The use of Nazi terminology can also be seen as a response to political differences between the main German parties in recent years,” Ms Graef said.

“Provocation is easily achieved with the use of Nazi terminology,” she said.

Doctor Alim Baluch, a teaching fellow in German Politics and Society at Bath University, told The Independent newspaper that many Germans were unaware they were using sayings belonging to Germany’s Nazi past.

He said words such as “Abartig” (which translates to “abnormal and disgusting”) and the prefix Volks- are a throwback to the time of the Third Reich.

Dr Baluch cited two particular examples of the use of Nazi terminology, which he described as “imbued with pseudo-biological concepts which imply a scientific rationale for treating people differently based on their race or physical appearance”.

In the first, Bettina Kudla, MP for Ms Merkel’s CDU, used the phrase “Umvolkung” when criticising Germany’s immigration policy on Twitter, a term referring to Hitler’s idea of ethnic cleansing.

Ms Kudla was using the term to suggest ethnic Germans were being ethnically cleansed by immigrants, Dr Baluch said. She later deleted the tweet.

In another, Björn Höcke, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) chairman for the state of Thuringia, claimed Africans had a “fundamentally different type of reproduction” in contrast to Europeans.

Dr Baluch said Mr Höcke had used terms typically assigned by biologists to different species in order to suggest Africans have a higher birth rate compared to Europeans.

Similar rhetoric and attitudes can be found across Europe and are becoming part of the political discourse in France, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist