Sie sind auf Seite 1von 15

Journal of Sociolinguistics 11/4, 2007: 505–519


Victor Klemperer:

The accidental sociolinguist 1

Katharina Barbe

Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois

Wer denkt, will nicht uberredet,¨

sondern uberzeugt¨


wer systematisch denkt, ist doppelt schwer zu uberzeugen.¨ (Victor Klemperer)

During the Third Reich, the romance philologist Victor Klemperer (1881–1960), a baptized Jew, lived in Dresden married to a non-Jew. After the enactment of the N¨urnberger Gesetze in 1935, he lost his professorship and, in late 1938, his access to libraries. No longer able to pursue his scholarly endeavors officially, Klemperer nonetheless tried to remain active by recording astute – albeit also very personal – observations of his surroundings. These diary entries had to be hidden with friends, as the Gestapo frequently searched Klemperer’s residence. The diaries in their entirety were not published until 1995 in Germany. Klemperer’s selection of language-related observations from his diaries appeared for the first time in print in 1947 as Die unbew¨altigte Sprache LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: Aus dem Tagebuch eines Philologen (hereafter, LTI). LTI has subsequently been published in several editions. In a translation by Michael Brady, LTI has only recently become available to the English-speaking market with the title The language of the Third Reich: LTI Lingua Tertii Imperii. A philologist’s notebook (Klemperer 2000; hereafter, Brady). 3 LTI provides perceptive and personal observations of how the Nazis both employed and manipulated language. This paper starts with a reflection on Klemperer’s LTI to set the stage. Based on Jager¨ and Jager¨ (1999) and Jager¨ (1999), I will then position Klemperer’s linguistic observations into sociolinguists, more precisely, into critical discourse analysis (CDA), while focusing on the metaphor that emerges, ‘propaganda is a poisonous jargon’, which Klemperer uses throughout LTI.



Klemperer deemed it important to share his observations with a wider readership and ‘to attempt to understand how anything as barbaric as National Socialism


The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007

9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK, and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA



could take root and flourish in a society with an almost unparalleled tradition of cultural achievement(Watt 2001: 36). He personalized his intentions, which he disclosed in the last chapter of LTI. Two women influenced this decision. There was Kathchen¨ Sara, 4 for two years his sixtyish room-mate of necessity, who with infantile fervor believed him to be a chronicler of the times. And then there was a fellow refugee, whom he met after the war and who proudly proclaimed, that

she had been locked up for a year

She had insulted Hitler and Nazi organizations. These expressions as well as LTI-

words, i.e. those coined, manipulated or re-fashioned by the Nazis, are at the basis of his discussion. On a personal level, Klemperer kept his diaries because he believed that they helped assure his intellectual and emotional survival, and constituted a connection to ordinary life, something that was denied to him soon after 1933:

cos of certain expressions(Brady: 286). 5


Ich sagte mir: du horst¨

Alltag, in das Gewohnliche¨

mit deinen Ohren, und du horst¨

in den Alltag, gerade in den

und das Durchschnittliche, in das glanzlos Unheroische


Und dann: ich hielt ja meine Balancierstange, und sie hielt mich



I told myself: you hear with your own ears, and what matters is that you listen in specifically to the everyday, ordinary and average things, all that is devoid

And moreover: I kept hold of my balancing pole, (Brady: 286).

During the Nazi ascension to power, Klemperer was bitterly disappointed because he was forcefully excluded from German society, whose nationalistic German and conservative aims he had supported wholeheartedly. In other words, for the first time, he was made to identify himself as a Jew (Jager¨ 2000). There are many places in LTI where he shows his ambivalence. While on the one hand, he no longer belongs in German society, on the other hand, he still feels like a German rather than a Jew and strongly identifies with German intellectual achievements. He attempts to put the Nazis in the pariah position by describing them as un- German. He sees his beloved language co-opted for odious objectives. With utter despair, he shares his doubts about the deutschen Sprachcharakter, the character of the German language:

of glamour and heroism and it kept hold of me


Nie habe ich von mir aus verstanden, wie er [Hitler] mit seiner unmelodischen und uberschrieenen¨ Stimme, mit seinen grob, oft undeutsch gefugten¨ Satzen,¨ mit der offenkundigen, dem deutschen Sprachcharakter vollig¨ kontraren¨ Rhetorik seiner Rede die Masse gewinnen und auf entsetzlich lange Dauer fesseln und in Unterjochung halten konnte (LTI: 64).

For my own part I have never been able to understand how he [Hitler] was capable, with his unmelodious and raucous voice, with his crude, often

The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007




un-Germanically constructed sentences, and with a conspicuous rhetoric entirely at odds with the character of the German language, of winning over the masses with his speeches, of holding their attention and subjugating them for such appalling lengths of time (Brady: 54).

In (2) Klemperer grieves for the German language, which should have prevailed and made the Germans aware of the dangers of unsophisticated propaganda, but which could not carry out this task. This is interesting, too, because it iterates the assumption that goodideas should be conveyed in goodlanguage, a descriptive linguists nightmare. If a language contains all the spiritual and intellectual property, as Klemperer asserts, then it contains the negative as well as the positive aspects. In his diary, he writes that all cultural elements, be they consumed unconsciously or consciously, find their expression through language. That is, language contains the collective intellectual property (see Jager¨ 1999). Thus, Klemperer maintains that the soul of a people is expressed through their language. Speakers cannot escape or overcome their native language, a Whorfian notion. Klemperer has been criticized for his Whorfian ideas (see especially Watt 2001). Under the Nazis, everything that Germany once stood for either changes, becomes contaminated, or even disappears. Klemperer asks himself whether the people of Hitler are the same as those of Goethe. He does not seem to have the answer to such a complex question and there may not be an answer in the end. His writings appear tentative as his belief is being shaken. His resignation finds expression when he says of terms, conscripted by the Nazis for their purposes, that perhaps this term also belongs to LTI, in German auch das gehort¨ wohl zur LTI (Jager¨ 2000). While Jager¨ and Jager¨ (1999) and Jager¨ (2000) consider the modal particle wohl (perhaps, arguably) to indicate insecurity, I see it rather as indicating resignation and disappointment. LTI is in some way a re-evaluation an analysis with hindsight. Klemperer appears to have known something ahead of its actual occurrence (Kamper¨ 2000:

35). For example, he talks about the treatment of pets living in Jewish families; these pets were considered contaminated by association.


Man hat uns denn auch spater¨ unsere Haustiere: Katzen, Hunde und sogar Kanarienvogel¨ weggenommen und getotet,¨ nicht in Einzelfallen¨ und aus vereinzelter Niedertracht, sondern amtlich und systematisch, und das ist eine der Grausamkeiten, von denen kein Nurnberger¨ Prozess berichtet (LTI: 113).

Later they took our pets away from us, cats, dogs, even canaries, and killed them, not just in isolated cases and out of individual malice, but officially and systematically; this is one of those acts of cruelty which will not be mentioned at any Nuremberg Trial (Brady: 101).

The reference to the Nurnberger¨ Prozesse is clearly made in retrospect, added later when he reviewed his diaries for extracts to publish as LTI. Kamper¨ (2000:

35) points to a diary entry from 1933, which appears also in LTI:


The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007




wo kunftig¨ das Wort Konzentrationslager fallen wird, da wird man an Hitlerdeutschland denken und nur an Hitlerdeutschland (LTI: 44/45).

I think that when in future people say concentration campeveryone will

think of Hitlers Germany and only of Hitlers Germany

Kamper¨ indicates that Klemperer could not have known the effect of such words as Konzentrationslager or even Hitlerdeutschland in 1933. Be that as it may, in LTI (and throughout his Tagebucher¨ ), Klemperer documents how, through re-definition, re-introduction, new coinages and frequent repetitions, ordinary language was used to influence citizensattitudes and judgments. In addition, the languageof extralinguistic entities took part in the indoctrination. Jager¨ (1999, especially pp. 6 and 14) points out that the Nazis wove a web of propaganda which covered all official institutions. This web also reached into the private sphere, where it even included womens pregnant bellies proudly borne for Hitler, to produce more potential soldiers. Klemperer refers, thus, to a whole network of language and context and conceives a net of discourse. Many expressions and phrases with similar allusions weave this net, which is thrown over the public and in the end is accepted by them (cf. LTI: 126). Klemperer clearly recognizes in language the effect of discourses and their subject-imprinting power. Speakers and listeners are at the mercy of this discourse if they are careless and/or unwilling to interact critically with their surroundings (Jager¨ 1999: 10).

(Brady: 36).


There is disagreement in the relevant literature regarding whether Klemperer can be considered a sociolinguist in general, or more specifically a discourse analyst as, for example, Jager¨ and Jager¨ (1999) do. Some see him primarily as an individual, personal chronicler of the impact of politics on daily life, Alltag, who was not able to isolate linguistic matters from their societal embedding (see especially Maas 1984: 209). But it is now generally accepted that linguistic matters do not appear isolated from their societal embedding. Rather language and context are seen as being mutually informing and dependent on each other (see e.g. Bork 1970; Reisigl and Wodak 2001; Van Dijk 1985, 1998; Wodak and Chilton 2005; Wodak and Meyer 2001; and others). Klemperer uses relatively colloquial language, not loaded with linguistic terminology (Jager¨ and Jager¨ 1999). His reflections have been dismissed as moralizing language criticism by some (Maas 1984). But, surely, the type of language used should not be at issue, especially because linguists can gain public support only if relevant publications are accessible to an audience larger than mere specialized linguists (Van Dijk 1998, 2001: 97). Outside of linguistics, LTI can be analyzed in many different ways, by sociologists, philosophers, or historians, to name but a few. 6

The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007




In LTI, Klemperer wrote down everything, not only the spitefulness, the absurd folly, the lunacy accepted as reality, but also the little gestures, the remarks, and the jokes. All in all, while he recognized the horrible reality, he also saw the nuances and the existing contradictions (see Gerstenberger 1997: 19). Moreover, in his observations he combined linguistic and contextual issues and discussed the effects of the same. Klemperer describes in detail the ways in which linguistic forms are used in various expressions and manipulations of power(Wodak 2001: 11). In the language, or more precisely, the vocabulary, old words receive new meanings and new words are coined on the basis of existing ones. Language becomes powerful

through its use by people in control, that is, language is not powerful on its own

it gains power by the use powerful people make of it(Wodak 2001: 10). Because

of his personal circumstances, Klemperers point of view now derives from his membership in the dominated group (Van Dijk 2001: 96). So far then, Klemperers LTI can and should be deemed a critical analysis. Therefore, I primarily follow Jager¨ (1999) and Jager¨ and Jager¨ (1999) and consider Klemperers LTI an exercise in sociolinguistics or, more precisely, in CDA, even though it may not seem so at first glance, nor might it have been intended to be. Klemperer saw a close connection between language and power, and that, Jager¨ maintains, puts him close to modern discourse theory, which is based on the premise that discourses transport collective knowledge through time and thus exercise power because discourses then lead to subjective action (Jager¨ 1999: 3). While Klemperer to a large extent looks at single words, he always does so in the

context of their use (but see Watt 2001 for a different view). Klemperer lived his data; in this respect, he is not a detached, unbiased, and impartial observer because he is also a victim of the situation. Certainly, the reader knows Klemperers point of view and his biases right from the outset. He paints himself as the forcefully expelled critical outsider who is compelled against his will to modify or even sever his connection to German nationalistic ideas. In his role as

a participant observer, he is somewhat unreliable, in the sense that everything he commentsonalsoappliestohimselfandhislife.Klemperersanalysisisyetanother assertion that the by now traditional approach, to disconnect form (grammar and lexicon) from function (usage and context), is not sustainable. What good would

it do to think about terms in the LTI detached from their contexts? By detaching

the terms, would we ever be able to find out how they have been used, abused, and misused? Considering propaganda to be a poisonous jargon, Klemperer ponders how the Nazis exploited and manipulated language, as well as how the language was, in turn, received, employed, and applied.


Language molds its speakers, which generally prevents speakers from stepping outside their language and observing that there are as Tyler (1978) points out other ways of being in the world. This influence ranges from the rather


The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007



trivial (assuming the existence of relative clauses in every language) to the more profound, considering speakers of other languages to be simply mistaken in their conduct of life, and to feel thus justified in treating the unknown other with contempt. To an extent, Klemperer was able to step outsidebecause he was excluded; at the same time though, he was not immune to propaganda. Throughout LTI he addresses the power that a propaganda machine exerts in redefining linguistic terms, and he uses the metaphor propaganda is a poisonous jargonto describe the influence of propaganda. Klemperer asserts that the use of the Nazi language leads to Nazi thinking, again a Whorfian notion:


nicht nur nazistisches Tun, sondern auch die nazistische Gesinnung, die

(hat als) Nahrboden¨ die Sprache des Nazismus

nazistische Denkgewohnung¨ (LTI: 10).

(not) only Nazi actions

but also the Nazi cast of mind, the typical Nazi

(has as) its breeding ground: the language of Nazism

way of thinking (Brady: 2).

He further notes how the breeding ground of Nazism is reflected in language and then internalized by the citizens.


der Nazismus glitt in Fleisch und Blut der Menge uber¨ durch die Einzelworte, die Redewendungen, die Satzformen, die er ihr in millionenfachen Wiederholungen aufzwang, und die mechanisch und unbewuβt ubernommen¨ wurden (LTI: 23).

Nazism permeated the flesh and blood of the people through single words, idioms and sentence structures which were imposed on them in a million repetitions and taken on board mechanically and unconsciously (Brady: 15).

It was ordinary language that was used to influence citizensattitudes and judgments through re-definition, re-introduction, new coinages, and frequent repetitions. Because of the persistent automatic and involuntary absorption, words can function like tiny doses of arsenic. Initially, the doses are swallowed unnoticed and without any apparent effects. However, after longer exposure the poison starts to take effect, and then a subtle, and ultimately more substantial transformation in attitudes can be detected. Klemperer notes that even those who suffered under the Nazis were not immune to the regimes misinformation. As he relates in his discussion of the word organisieren, he caught even himself using Nazi-words (see also Schmitz-Berning (2000), Brackmann and Birkenhauer (1988), Sternberger, Storz and Sukind¨ (1989) and Friedlander¨ (1980) for a discussion of the LTI word organisieren):


Aber wer hat denn gestern erst gesagt: Ich muβ mir ein biβchen Tabak organisieren?Ich furchte,¨ das bin ich selber gewesen (LTI: 114).

The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007




But who was it that said only yesterday I must organize some tobacco for myself?I fear it was me (Brady: 102).

Klemperer has been accused of using LTI-words seemingly unawares and without explanation (Watt 2001: 38). While, at times, that criticism may be valid, I believe in a few instances his usage of LTI-words may be due primarily to carelessness. At other places, Klemperer seems to use them intentionally. Watt (2001: 39) claims that Klemperer uses the word Sippe, i.e. family, clan, without any apparent sign of embarrassmentin the following instance:


Aber in welchen Zusammenhangen¨ war denn dieser Generation, die 1933 noch kaum uber¨ das Abc hinaus gewesen, das Wort heroisch mit seinem ganzen Sippenzubehor¨ ausschlieβlich entgegengetreten? (LTI: 11, emphasis added).

But after all, in what contexts had this generation come across the word heroisch {heroic}and all its kindred spirits, a generation which in 1933 had barely mastered the alphabet? (Brady: 2).

Here Klemperer writes about heroisch, which as an LTI-word has a

Sippenzubehor¨ , an LTI-family. His usage of the LTI-term Sippe can be also be seen as being intentional. In the context and description of the LTI-word heroisch it is clearlyusedderisivelyandnegatively.TheoccasionalunfairnessofWattscriticism becomes apparent when Klemperer is taken to task for himself using the LTI-word


ausrotten (exterminate) one of the seminal words of Nazi anti-Semitism

na¨ıvely and uncritically(Watt 2001: 39) in several places. One of the occurrences in question is shown in the following excerpt:


ausrottbar seien die deutschen Juden wohl (LTI: 226, Watt 2001: 39). 7

the German Jews could certainly be exterminated (Brady: 207).

Note the Subjunctive I (seien) in the German version. Klemperer is indirectly quoting from a conversation with Markwald, a fellow Jew, who was later killed in the concentration camp Theresienstadt. It is at this point not Klemperer who uses ausrottbar, but a fellow sufferer. This supports Klemperers argument that even the sufferers use the detested terms at times, which Seidel and Seidel-Slotty (1961) contend is quite a common occurrence. Nobody seems to be immune to propaganda. In order to illustrate the infectiousness of propaganda and its far-reaching effects, Klemperer relates an incident which happened on a Bornholm to Copenhagen boat trip. He describes a chain reaction of seasickness (cf. LTI:

4849). After one person throws up over the railing, everybody else at first smiles compassionately while secretly assuming that this is not going to happen to me, but in the end, of course, nobody is left standing. Through this anecdote he describes the influence of the new languageof the Nazis, implying that nobody


The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007



can willingly escape propaganda any more than one can escape the onset and

effects of seasickness. The effect of the propaganda is compared to the action of throwing up. So in a shared surrounding, the often choppy waters of the Baltic Sea leading to Copenhagen, participant A succumbs to seasickness, participant

B, literally and figuratively in the same boat, observes A throwing up and cannot

suppress his/her own reflex and joins A, the same then happens with C, D, and on down the line. Klemperer puts all participants in the same context, Germany, while

A resists the lure of propaganda briefly, he/she succumbs; B observes this, tries to

resist but involuntarily, reflexively also surrenders. This is the explanation of

the effects of propaganda, which he describes as contagious and involuntary. So,

a recurring argument in LTI, using metaphors of poisoning (examples 1012),

sickness, infection, or disease (1315), is the discussion of propaganda as leading

to an involuntary consumption:


Worte konnen¨ sein wie winzige Arsendosen: sie werden unbemerkt verschluckt, sie scheinen keine Wirkung zu tun, und nach einiger Zeit ist die Giftwirkung doch da

(LTI: 2324).

Words can be like tiny doses of arsenic: they are swallowed unnoticed, appear to have no effect, and then after a little time the toxic reaction sets in after all (Brady 2000: 15).

Klemperer notes that even those people who surely were not Nazis were still not immune to the poison, which, as we have seen in (7), includes even himself:


Keines war ein Nazi, aber vergiftet waren sie alle (LTI: 108).

None of them were Nazis, but they were all poisoned (Brady: 96).

But they could not do anything against this poison as it was spread in the LTI drinking water, and drinking water is a primary human nutritional need.


Das Gift ist uberall.¨ Im Trinkwasser der LTI wird es verschleppt, niemand bleibt

davon verschont (LTI: 105).

The poison is everywhere. It is borne by the drinking water of the LTI, nobody is immune to its effects (Brady: 93).

Here the poison is accidentally ingested, in particular because it is contained in the drinking water. The poison can also be the poison of disease. Involuntary

action is also insinuated in the sickness metaphors (see also Jager¨



Wie sich Trichinen in den Gelenken eines Verseuchten ansammeln, so haufen¨ Charakteristika und Klischees der LTI in den Familienanzeigen (LTI: 133).


The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007




Just as trichinae gather in the joints of someone with an infection, so the characteristic features and cliches´ of the LTI gather in personal announcements (Brady: 119).

Discussing the dangers of LTI, Klemperer compares them to a plague, yet another metaphor implying involuntary infection:


Seuchen sollen ja immer dort am heftigsten wuten,¨ (LTI: 244).

wo sie zum erstenmal grassieren

epidemics are supposed to spread like wildfire in places they assail for the first time (Brady: 222).

An epidemic initially infects a people who do not yet have access to antibodies, whose bodies are incapable of fighting it. Clearly this constitutes an involuntary seizure of the afflicted. Klemperer notes that even a deeply religious principal of a Catholic school, who retired rather than become a party member, replied upon being asked for an explanation of his sons unusual name, Isbrand Wilderich:


So hieβ der Mann unserer aus Holland stammenden Sippe im siebzehnten Jahrhundert (LTI: 91).

In the seventeenth century it was the name of one of our kin {Sippe}, which originally came from Holland (Brady: 80). 8

Klemperer notes that by using the term Sippe alone, even the anti-government principal showed his Nazi infection. Note that in (15) Klemperer quotes the principal. Sippe is also translatable as relatives, family, clan, or tribe (see also above (8)). It was rarely used before the Nazi era. During the Nazi regime this term was elevated and used especially in agrarian literature (Schmitz-Berning 2000: 574 ff.). Following the poison metaphor, the unfortunate principal could not help becoming infected because propaganda is a poison swallowed involuntarily. Is the poison perhaps homegrown, as Klemperer writes in (16)?


Erwies es sich, daβ es sich hierbei um ein spezifisch deutsches, aus deutscher Geistigkeit gesickertes Gift handelte, dann half kein Nachweis ubernommener¨ Ausdrucke,¨ Brauche,¨ politischer Maβnahmen: dann war der Nationalsozialismus keine eingeschleppte Seuche, sondern eine Entartung des deutschen Wesens selber, eine kranke Erscheinungsform jener traits eternels´ (LTI: 147).

Were it to be proved that this was a specifically German poison, one oozing out of German intellectualism, then evidence of expressions, customs and political measures appropriated from abroad would be of no use: if that was the case, then National Socialism was not an imported scourge but rather a degeneration of the German character itself, a diseased manifestation of those traits eternels´ (Brady: 132).


The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007



What if this poison is seeping out of the German collective psyche? What if German intellectualism constitutes an especially fertile ground for National Socialism? What if National Socialism was not imported but homegrown? Klemperer asks himself these questions without ever really providing answers. But even in (16) he seems to find a way out by stating that the traits eternels´ were diseased. A disease as discussed above is involuntarily acquired. In order to eradicate a disease, the infective agents, the culture, the event(s), the people who infected the Germans have to be found. So again, he locates a culprit outside of the German mindset. Sickness is still involuntary and blameless. At this point it seems that Klemperer is an apologist and the criticism of Maas (1984), Watt (2001) and others is appropriate. However, in several instances, Klemperer takes the Germans to task when he bemoans the voluntary befoggednessof most citizens. He undoubtedly recognizes a voluntary aspect of accepting propaganda when he describes propaganda as an intoxicator (17), a drug (18) or even as bait (19). He refers judgmentally to an acquaintance as a not particularly well educated, morally upright burgher and calls him a:


kleinburgerlicher¨ Kramer¨ , der sich von hunderttausend Standesgenossen nur dadurch unterschied, daβ er sich von den verlogenen Phrasen der Regierung nicht betrunken machen lieβ (LTI: 74).

petty-bourgeois grocer who only differed from hundreds of thousands of his kind in not allowing himself to be intoxicated by the perfidious phrases of the government (Brady: 64).

To follow Klemperers metaphor: if the intoxicating substance is so easily available, and, moreover, offered as legitimate, and if everybody is ingesting it, then it is much simpler to become intoxicated than to stay sober. A critical evaluation of what one hears (ingests) takes effort, and at this juncture some action on the part of the speaker, however reluctant, is necessary. In order to imbibe, one has to lift a bottle or glass to the mouth. Once the bottle or glass is at the mouth, then drinking is effortless, so no thinking is involved. Similarly, a narcotic or drug needs be consumed. One needs to have:


das eingeschluckte, das umnebelnde Rauschgift (LTI: 106).

swallowed the mind-numbing drug (Brady: 94).

Swallowing is yet again a voluntary action. Accordingly, taking Rauschgift (in German a compound of Rausch (intoxication) and Gift (poison)), just like imbibing intoxicating drinks, actually requires the consumers cooperation. An individual need not consume drugs and alcohol in order to subsist, but doing so may well lead to dependency and a craving for more. In this case, the consumption is officially encouraged and inhibitions may be overcome because it is a communal action,

The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007




generally accepted as reasonable. For the individual as a member of a group, conforming becomes easier than defiance. The majority were probably content

to swim with the tide(Townson 1992: 149). Bait also has to be resisted actively.

An enticing pledge promises more than it can keep. Klemperer considers Stieves book Geschichte des deutschen Volkes (History of the German people) published in twelve editions between 1934 and 1942, to be a:


guter Koder¨

, sein Gift ist in unschuldige Brocken gewickelt (LTI: 288).

good bait, its poison

wrapped up in innocent scraps (Brady: 263).

Bait is surely a lure which can be resisted, so here again collaboration is needed for one to fall for the bait. Klemperer knows that it is harder to refuse to go along with the general trend than to submit to it. To recapitulate, Klemperer describes propaganda as either involuntarily (1015) or voluntarily (1719) received, internalized and accepted as truth. He also considers a number of prerequisites which are necessary for propaganda to be effective and to influence the masses. The first of these (20) requires the electorate to refrain from questioning:



Denken kommen, behandle alles simplistisch! (LTI: 193).


thought, deal with everything simplistically (Brady: 176).

oberstes Gesetz lautet uberall:¨ laβ deine Horer¨ nicht zu kritischem

golden rule is always: dont let your listeners engage in critical

The masses need to be kept ignorant; their minds can be completely dulled(Brady: 217). Klemperer uses Verdummbarkeit here, -keit involves a process, here

a process of making stupid. Ideally, to be easily influenced, the population

need to be both primitive types(Brady: 208) and childlike masses(Brady:

209). Note that Klemperer does not include himself in the masses he describes although he criticizes himself for occasionally falling under the spell(see above

(7)). Klemperer admits that it is not easy to elude these power grabs because

of the endless repetition of lies and half-truths, as well as the twisting of facts.

He concludes that the unquestioning acceptance of authority and the resulting subservience, paired with a reluctance to question authority, make the public susceptible to propaganda.

Klemperer chastises even himself for unreflected actions prior to 1933, the

time when he still belonged. He remembers his tendency to overgeneralize and

to put himself above others and notes contritely:


Sage nie wieder Der Bauer oder Der bayerische Bauer, denke immer an Den Polen, an Den Juden! (LTI: 307).


The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007



Make sure you never again say The Farmer or The Bavarian Farmer, dont forget The Pole and The Jew! (Brady: 280).

In addition, he bemoans his past attitude of judging a group either based

) or generalizing an individuals frowned-upon

on stereotypes (All Poles are

actions or behavior to cover all of his/her compatriots.


Vielleicht hatte vordem auch ich zu oft DER Deutsche gedacht und DER Franzose, statt an die Mannigfaltigkeit der Deutschen und Franzosen zu denken (LTI: 311)

Had I too also once thought too readily about THE German and THE Frenchman, rather than keeping in view the diversity of the Germans and the French? (Brady: 284).

LTI and the diaries also depict Klemperers personal development, relating his struggle and his transition from a quasi-sympathizer to an outside observer. Furthermore, they include Klemperers doubts and his missteps, as well as his arrogance and feeling of intellectual superiority which appear in several places (such as in (17)). While he admires the grocer for his steadfast opposition, he also puts him down as kleinburgerlich¨ , petty bourgeois, which amounts to an insult. His is also a journey, which he openly admits. And, after all, is it not specifically in a diary where we can freely write about our thoughts, doubts, and shortcomings?


Klemperer discusses the effects of propaganda mainly in metaphorical poisoning terms. On the one hand, he suggests that the Nazi infection happened involuntary, that the public could, therefore, do nothing against it. Moreover, this infection spread even to those people who suffered under the regime. Thus, if this propaganda poison affects every person without their willing participation, includingevenJews,howcouldtheGermanpeoplebeguilty?Particularly,because of these metaphorical choices, Klemperer has been criticized for minimizing guilt precisely because he seems to show a way out by offering the explanation of the involuntary aspect the I could not help itdefense (see also Ehlich 1989). In this respect, Lang (1996: 72) calls LTI a profound analysis of the spiritual and cultural prerequisites of gullible following. Conversely, several rejoinders can be found in his writings. Not all of his metaphors imply involuntary affusion; many imply voluntary ingestion, usually because it is easier and more satisfying to do so than to think about what is being consumed. In several places Klemperer rebukes those speakers who are ignorant, uncultured, and generally unwilling to question both their own beliefs as well as authority in general. Jager¨ (1999) points out that Klemperer would reject acquittal, as Klemperer calls for critical, self-reflective scrutiny of language especially of propaganda. While ignorance leads one to be easily influenced, it

The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007




cannot be used as a justification for suspending critical thinking. The publics voluntary submission to propaganda is a result of laziness, an unwillingness to think,scrutinizeandquestion.Thinking,scrutinizingandquestioningtakeseffort and can be dangerous. Klemperer calls for citizens to be perceptive; he envisions a mature, thinking, and reflecting public. However, such awareness is difficult and often reserved for people who are like Klemperer outcasts from the system. Ultimately, Klemperer wants to entice everybody to become that thinking

person outcast or not when he talks about speakerspersonal responsibilities. It

is every speakers duty to question the language used by leaders, to be critical of this

language, and not to remain ignorant. It seems that Klemperer would like every speaker to acquire the tools for critical language evaluation. Many basic elements of CDA are dispersed throughout LTIs pages (Jager¨ 2000); therefore, Klemperer can be considered a sociolinguist and, more precisely, a critical discourse analyst. This becomes especially clear in his choice of the metaphor propaganda is a poisonous jargonas well as in the didactic aim of LTI, in which he argues that

a vigilant speaker/hearer has the potential to avoid ingestingthe metaphorical

poison. Klemperers colloquial language should not detract from the fact that LTI is an example of CDA. It is vital that CDA enlightens and that it is accessible to a large public (Van Dijk 2001), as it has a crucial role to play in the general education of a responsible citizenry.


1. I am indebted to John Bentley, Wendell Johnson, and Doris Macdonald, as well as Allan Bell, Nikolas Coupland and other reviewers for their helpful suggestions.

2. (Klemperer 1967: 110). Someone who thinks does not want to be persuaded but rather convinced; someone who thinks systematically is doubly hard to convince(Brady: 98). In the body of the text, I will provide the German original in italics followed by the English translation.

3. Throughout the paper the 1967 edition is used. In the 1947 and 1967 editions, the title of the book was Die unbewaltigte¨ Sprache: Aus dem Notizbuch eines Philologen LTI(The unresolved language: From the notebook of a philologist LTI). Later editions, which

appeared after Klemperers death, omit unbewaltigt,¨ which is a loaded word meaning not yet overcomeor unresolved. The title of the 1996 edition, for example, is simply LTI: Notizbuch eines Philologen.

4. After the adoption of a decree (17 August 1938), Jewish women had to add the name Saraand men Israelin order to be immediately identifiable as Jewish.

wejen Ausdrucken¨ (LTI: 313); the dialect places

the fellow refugees origins in Berlin. Brady translates this into Cockney, and thus draws on an already established link. In the German version of Shaws Pygmalion as well as in its popular adaptation My Fair Lady, Eliza initially uses the dialect of Berlin.

6. In history, for example, Klemperers reflections have been regarded as an example of the history of everyday life that is Alltagsgeschichte (Bartov 2000: 176; also Niven

5. In the original: ein Jahr gebrummt



The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007



7. Watt (2001) uses the 1996 LTI edition and cites p. 265 for this quote.

8. Brady often includes the German term in curly brackets, especially at places where several translations are possible and the translation cannot make the relationships clear. Here he may have followed a convention also found in Weinreich (1999



Bartov, Omer. 2000. German soldiers and the holocaust: Historiography, research and implication. In Omer Bartov (ed.) The Holocaust: Origins, Implementation, Aftermath. London: Routledge. 16284. Bork, Siegfried. 1970. Miβbrauch der Sprache: Tendenzen nationalsozialistischer Sprachregelung. Bern and Munchen,¨ Germany: Francke Verlag.

Brackmann, Karl-Heinz and Renate Birkenhauer. 1988. NS-Deutsch:

Selbstverstandliche¨ ’ Begriffe und Schlagworter¨ aus der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Straelen, Germany: Straelener Manuskripte Verlag.


Ehlich, Konrad. 1989.

Uber den Faschismus sprechen Analyse und Diskurs. In

Konrad Ehlich (ed.) Sprache im Faschismus. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Suhrkamp.


Friedlander,¨ Henry. 1980. The manipulation of language. In Henry Friedlander¨ and Sybil Milton (eds.) The Holocaust: Ideology, Bureaucracy, and Genocide. Millwood, New York: Kraus International Publications. 103113. Gerstenberger, Heide. 1997. Meine Prinzipien uber¨ das Deutschtum und die verschiedenen Nationalitaten¨ sind ins Wackeln gekommen wie die Zahne¨ eines alten Mannes: Victor Klemperer in seinem Verhaltnis¨ zu Deutschland und den Deutschen. In Hannes Heer (ed.) Im Herzen der Finsternis. Victor Klemperer als Chronist der NS-Zeit. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag. 1020. Jager,¨ Siegfried. 1999. Sprache-Wissen-Macht. Victor Klemperers Beitrag zur Analyse von Sprache und Ideologie des Faschismus. Muttersprache 109: 118.

Jager,¨ Siegfried. 2000. Die Sprache bringt es an den Tag: Victor Klemperers Beitrag zum Verstandnis¨ des Faschismus und seiner Nachwirkungen in der Gegenwart. Last accessed December 2006. Jager,¨ Margaret and Siegfried Jager.¨ 1999. Gefahrliche¨ Erbschaften: Die schleichende Restauration rechten Denkens. Berlin: Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag. Kamper,¨ Heidrun. 2000. SprachgeschichteZeitgeschichte: Die Tagebucher¨ Victor Klemperers. Deutsche Sprache 28: 2541. Klemperer, Victor. 1947/1967. Die unbewaltigte¨ Sprache: Aus dem Notizbuch eines Philologen LTI. Darmstadt, Germany: Melzer Verlag. Klemperer, Victor. 1996. LTI: Notizbuch eines Philologen. Leipzig, Germany: Reclam. Klemperer, Victor (translated by Martin Brady). 2000. The Language of the Third Reich:

LTI Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologists Notebook. London/New York: Continuum. Lang, Ewald. 1996. Victor Klemperers LTI. Osnabrucker¨ Beitrage¨ zur Sprachtheorie 33:


Maas, Utz. 1984. Als der Geist der Gemeinschaft eine Sprache fand’ – Sprache im Nationalsozialismus: Versuch einer historischen Argumentationsanalyse. Opladen, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag.

The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007




Niven, Bill. 2002. Facing the Nazi past: United Germany and the Legacy of the Third Reich. London: Routledge. Reisigl, Martin and Ruth Wodak. 2001. Discourse and Discrimination: Rhetorics of Racism and Anti-Semitism. London: Routledge. Schmitz-Berning, Cornelia. 2000. Vokabular des Nationalsozialismus. Berlin:

de Gruyter. Seidel, Eugen and Ingeborg Seidel-Slotty. 1961. Sprachwandel im dritten Reich: Eine kritische Untersuchung faschistischer Einflusse¨ . Halle, Germany: VEB Verlag Sprache und Literatur. Sternberger, Dolf, Gerhard Storz and W. E. Suskind.¨ 1989. Aus dem Worterbuch¨ des Unmenschen. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Ullstein. Stieve, Friedrich. 1934. Geschichte des deutschen Volkes. Munchen/Berlin:¨ Verlag von R. Oldenbourg. Townson, Michael. 1992. Mother-Tongue and Fatherland. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press. Tyler, Stephen. 1978. The Said and the Unsaid: Advances in the Study of Cognition. New York: Academic Press. Van Dijk, Teun A. (ed.). 1985. Handbook of Discourse Analysis. London: Academic Press. Van Dijk, Teun A. 1998. Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach. London: Sage. Van Dijk, Teun A. 2001. Multidisciplinary CDA: A plea for diversity. In Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer (eds.) Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage.


Watt, Roderick. 2001. Victor Klemperers experience of the totalitarian manipulation of language. In Jeffrey Welsh and Peter Lynch (eds.) Language Change: Poetry, Politics, and Common Usage. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: Cranbook Press. 3345. Weinreich, Max. 1999 [1946]. Hitlers Professors. The Part of Scholarship in Germanys Crimes Against the Jewish People. New Haven, Connecticut and London: Yale University Press. Wodak, Ruth. 2001. What CDA is about a summary of its history, important concepts and its development. In Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer (eds.) Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage. 113. Wodak, Ruth and Paul Chilton. 2005. A New Agenda in (Critical) Discourse Analysis: Theory, Methodology and Interdisciplinary. Amsterdam, The Netherlands:

Benjamins. Wodak, Ruth and Michael Meyer (eds.). 2001. Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage.

Address correspondence to:

Katharina Barbe Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures Northern Illinois University DeKalb Illinois 60115 U.S.A.


The author 2007

Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007