Language Matters

Most people are aware of a phonetic alphabet (A = Alpha, B = Bravo, C= Charlie, etc) that is used to spell out words and to avoid confusion.

In 1934, the Nazis altered the German version because, they said, the original was too Jewish. They changed S = Samuel to S = Seigfried, for example, D = David to D = Dora, and Z = Zacharias to Z = Zeppelin, amongst other changes. That version, the Nazi version, has been used more or less intact for the last 86 years. Many people in Germany today have no knowledge of the Nazi background to this symbolism.

But no longer. Germany will now revert to the pre-Nazi version, at least until a new version is approved next year.

“Michael Blume, the ombudsman for antisemitism in the state of Baden-Württemberg … has been leading a quiet campaign to get rid of the Nazi version of the system. The fact it had stayed in place for so long, he said, was proof in itself of a “deep-seated antisemitic and racist mindset” in Germany. “Just in that one name change, Nathan to Nordpol, which we still use today, you can see how deeply into our language and our thinking this Nazi idea has seeped, with no one really questioning it,” he told the broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. In the Nazi’s pseudoscientific ideology, the north pole was seen as the original home of the Aryans.”

“Clemens Schwender, a professor of media who has studied decades of spelling tables that were typically listed in telephone books from 1881 onwards, told Die Welt that the fact that people still habitually used words such as Siegfried “shows that the 12 years of the Nazi era, which they had intended to be 1,000, still have their impact … even secretaries who are supposed to have learned S is for Samuel hardly ever use it,” he said.”

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