Nazism, Paranoia, & Language


by Sander L. Gilman

[. . . .]

The Jews had been seen as the speakers of the true German. Now they were seen as not speaking German at all. It was this thesis more than any other that attacked at the very roots of German Jewry’s identity. Max Herrmann, professor of the history of the theater at Berlin, stated in a letter to the ministry of culture on May 1, 1933, that he would not enter the university as long as the posters were displayed: “My honor is offended . . . by the reference to that group with which I am associated by birth, and about which it is publicly stated that the Jew can only think Jewish; that if he writes German, then he lies . . .  I write German, I think German, I feel German, and I do not lie.” Herrmann was removed from his post in the summer of 1933 along with the other Jewish professors in Germany and died in 1942 in Theresienstadt.

The importance of the poster announcing the basis for the book burnings in May 1933 is that it directly stated that the Jews’ language was not to be considered German. Hitler had already presented his objections to acculturation in Mein Kampf. He saw in the possibility of any group “becoming” German by merely learning the German language the eventual conquest of the majority through the insidious power of the minority:

It is a scarcely conceivable fallacy of thought to believe that a Negro or a Chinese, let us say, will turn into a German because he learns German and is willing to speak the German language in the future and perhaps even give his vote to a German political party. . . . Only too frequently does it occur in history that conquering people’s outward instruments of power succeeds in forcing their language on oppressed peoples, but that after a thousand years their language is spoken by another people, and the victors thereby actually become the vanquished. (389)

The German Student Union in their book burnings carried out Hitler’s dictum that “a man can change his language without any trouble—that is, he can use another language; but in his new language he will express the old ideas; his inner nature is not changed. This is best shown by the Jew who can speak a thousand languages and nevertheless remains a Jew” (312). The Jews’ use of the language of the people among whom they dwell has but one purpose:

For . . . [the Jew’s language] is not a means for expressing his thoughts but a means for concealing them. When he speaks French, he thinks Jewish, and while he turns out German verses, in his life he only expresses the nature of his nationality. As long as the Jew has not become the master of the other peoples, he must speak their languages whether he likes it or not, but as soon as they have become his slaves, they would all have to learn a universal language (Esperanto, for instance!), so that by this additional means the Jews could more easily dominate them. (307)

Hitler’s racial linguistics is based on the image of hidden infiltration, a paranoia echoed elsewhere in Mein Kampf in his use of the image of the Jews as the cancer hidden within the German body politic. But it is the reality of the language of the Jews that permits them to burrow within. Like the blacks, they will never be able to hide their true nature, and thus like the blacks, they can never become truly German. Their mask has only one purpose: the eventual destruction of the host culture and its language. The language that the Jews will use to control the enslaved peoples is not Hebrew or Yiddish but Esperanto, an artificial tongue, a hybrid with no roots in any culture that is the product of a Polish Jew, Ludwig Zamenhof. The Jews still retain their hidden language for themselves, robbing those whom they conquer from within of all language and culture.

The program of action according to which the Jews in Germany would be able to publish in only Hebrew or Yiddish (or present their works as translations) was a natural consequence of Hitler's reasoning. The fact that somewhat less than 6 percent of German Jews even had a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew did not faze the German Student Union. The Nazis did translate this view of the special language of the Jews into practice. They ordered “Jewish” writers to be published only by a limited number of “Jewish” publishing houses. (Thus Kafka’s novels were published posthumously by the Jewish publishing house operated by Zalman Schocken.) But what is more, they denigrated the ability of the writers of Jewish descent to express themselves in “good” German, relegating all such authors to the intellectual ghetto of the Cultural Association for Jews, founded in 1933.

[. . . .]

SOURCE: Gilman, Sander L. Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 310-311.

Note: Footnotes have been removed and an arbitrary title was selected for this excerpt.

Review of Sander L. Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews

Reviews of Stephen Eric Bronner, A Rumor about the Jews: Antisemitism, Conspiracy, and the Protocols of Zion

Anti‑Semitism and National Socialism” by Moishe Postone

To Spinoza” by Friedrich Nietzsche

L. L. Zamenhof & the Cultural, Religious, Professional & Political Context of 19th-20th Century Eastern European Jewish Intellectuals:
Selected Bibliography

Zamenhof & Zamenhofologio: Retgvidilo / Web Guide

Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide / Esperanto-Gvidilo

The Paranoia Papers: Theory of the (Un)Natural History of Social Paranoia: Selected Bibliography

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Uploaded 21 February 2011

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