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Book Recommendation: Understanding the Power of Language in Political Movements

Book recommendation: LTI: Lingua Tertii Imperii

Book recommendation: LTI: Lingua Tertii Imperii, © Art deco created with Dall-E by N. Daiminger

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Language shapes thoughts and opinions, a truth that the Nazis knew all too well and cleverly exploited to spread their ideology.

This concept has been dramatically illustrated in recent news since the AfD politician Björn Höcke has gone on trial in Germany, being accused of using Nazi propaganda that is forbidden by German law: “Alles für unsere Heimat, alles für Sachsen-Anhalt, alles für Deutschland” (“Everything for our homeland, everything for Saxony-Anhalt, everything for Germany.”). The last three words were the central slogan of the Sturmabteilung (SA) of the NSDAP. Using them in public is a criminal offense punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to three years.

This case underscores the enduring impact of language on societal and political dynamics, an influence that has led to dangerous political developments throughout history.

According to court decisions by the public prosecutor's office in Frankfurt am Main (2023) and the administrative court in Meiningen (2019), Björn Höcke may officially be referred to as a “Nazi” and a “fascist”. The decision was based on the assessment that the term was not a punishable insult, but rather “a value judgment based on facts”, according to the investigators.
According to court decisions by the public prosecutor's office in Frankfurt am Main (2023) and the administrative court in Meiningen (2019), Björn Höcke may officially be referred to as a “Nazi” and a “fascist”. The decision was based on the assessment that the term was not a punishable insult, but rather “a value judgment based on facts”, according to the investigators.© PIC ONE/Christian Ender

In our everyday interactions, we are continuously influenced by the language we hear and use, often without realizing its subtle power.

Victor Klemperer, a scholar and philologist who witnessed the horrors of Nazi Germany, explored this phenomenon in depth. His seminal work, Lingua Tertii Imperii, published in English as The Language of the Third Reich, delves into how Nazi propaganda insidiously manipulated the German language. Klemperer’s analysis reveals how mundane words and phrases were imbued with ideological significance, steering public perception and enabling mass manipulation.

Klemperer, a professor of Romance languages at the University of Dresden who was stripped of his position due to his Jewish heritage, survived the Third Reich and dedicated his life to studying the linguistic tools of its tyranny. His insights are crucial for anyone seeking to understand how words can be wielded as tools of power and oppression.

In an era where political rhetoric often veers toward polarization and extremes, Klemperer's work serves as a timely reminder of the need for vigilant attention. This is especially crucial in a time characterized by manipulations through artificial intelligence and deepfakes or election fraud - especially considering how many important elections are coming up.

The Language of the Third Reich is not just a book; it's a warning about the persuasive power of language. It’s a must-read for those interested in political history, linguistics, and the enduring impact of propaganda.

Victor Klemperer: Language of the Third Reich: LTI: Lingua Tertii Imperii

Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz: Rechtsextremismus: Symbole, Zeichen und verbotene Organisationen (PDF)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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