From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.
Monday, January 26, 2004
In the hall of infamy reserved for German words that insult a group or simply offend against common sense, Tätervolk - which translates as “race of perpetrators“ - has been chosen as the Unwort des Jahres in the German language for 2003.
An Unwort des Jahres - literally “non-word of the year,“ but described by one commentator as “the word that dare not speak its name - has been designated by an independently appointed group of five linguistics professors since 1991. Their mission: to expose “linguistic mistakes“ or made-up words that are “entirely inappropriate factually and possibly hurtful to human dignity.“
Tätervolk entered the public discourse after a Christian Democratic Union member of parliament said in a speech in October that “neither the Germans nor the Jews are a Tätervolk,“ implying that it was no fairer to blame Germans for the Holocaust than to put collective responsibility for the Bolshevik Revolution on Jews just because some of its most important leaders were Jewish.
When the CDU parliamentarian Martin Hohmann used Tätervolk, he chose a word not found in Duden, usually considered the standard dictionary for German, and which in recent years had mainly been confined to the political fringe. One committee member noted that Tätervolk had in the past been used to refer to the Jews' presumed collective guilt for the crucifixion of Christ. It mattered little that Hohmann said he meant no anti-Semitic offense: After a national and public uproar, he was expelled from the CDU's parliamentary group.
The above F.A.Z. article seems to gloss over to a significant degree the issue of anti-Semitism in this matter, but the issue is addressed more fully in this article from a website called Expatica: ‘Anti-Semitic’ word is year's ugliest.
FRANKFURT - A panel of German language experts has chosen an "anti-Semitic" phrase which caused a political row last year as the country's "ugly word" of 2003.
The word "taetervolk" - which translates as "perpetrator people" or "perpetrator nation" - caused outrage when used by a member of parliament to describe Jewish guilt for crimes allegedly committed during the Russian Revolution.
The independent jury said Tuesday "taetervolk" was particularly reprehensible because it attempted to make an entire people responsible for the actions of a small group.
The panel agreed it was "current proof of the anti-Semitism which still exists", said jury chairman Horst Dieter Schlosser, a German studies professor.
A review of Adolf Hitler’s unpublished sequel to Mein Kampf in the current issue of The New Republic, entitled He Meant What He Said: Did Hitlerism Die with Hitler? offers some additional, and rather troubling, information about the Hohmann/Tatervolk Affair, not the least of which is that Hohmann is hardly alone in his sentiments:
Anyone who has access (that is, anyone on the Internet) to racist, anti-Semitic, and neo-Nazi publications in the United States and elsewhere will find almost precisely the same opinions and depictions. These hateful representations are normally not much remarked upon. But there are some important exceptions. Most striking was the speech made by Martin Hohmann, a parliamentary representative of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the German Bundestag, to an audience of one hundred thirty people, on October 3, 2003. Hohmann argued that one had no right to speak of the Germans as a "people of perpetrators" ( Tätervolk ) because the Jews--presumably those making that argument--were themselves a "people of perpetrators," considering their high representation among the murderous Bolsheviks. This was the first time since the end of Nazism that a member of the Bundestag made an anti-Semitic argument based on the very logic of Hitler's rationalization for war against the Soviet Union. And an elite Bundeswehr general expressed agreement with Hohmann's speech. Under much public pressure, Hohmann was eventually ejected from the parliamentary fraction of the CDU--but 20 percent of his colleagues opposed his removal. And Hohmann knew, like so many fascists before him who said what he said, what many others were thinking. In a poll recently conducted by the University of Bielefeld, it was found that 70 percent of Germans resent being blamed for the Holocaust, and 25 percent believe that the Jews are trying to make political capital out of their own genocide (and another 30 percent say that there is a measure of truth in this assertion), and three-quarters believe that there are too many foreigners in Germany.
The New Republic article is interesting in other respects as well, including its discussion of anti-Israel rhetoric and the often concurrent attempts to equate so-called anti-Zionism with, of all things, anti-Nazism. These sorts of quasi-intellectual machinations to cast Israel as a racist Apartheid state and a “perpetrator nation” built on genocide, ethnic cleansing, and so on have become commonplace, despite (or, perhaps, precisely because of) the clichéd and counterfactual nature of such claims, not to mention the intellectual bad faith that so often buttresses them. Indeed, the notion that Israel is a nefarious Apartheid state has become one of the most popular and repeated, almost neurotically if not gleeful at times, refrains of the various efforts to criticize and disparage Israel. Do an Internet search for “Apartheid Israel,” for example, or ask anyone who attended the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s recent conference at Ohio State. Yet it is troubling, and often telling, how these discourses so frequently embody almost identical qualities as earlier discourses of stigmatization. If Jews were a taetervolk of earlier centuries—the taetervolk par excellence, even—then “Zionists” are certainly emerging as a favorite object of "taetervolk" stigmatization in today’s world. The protestations that it’s just progressively anti-Zionism ring hollow in the face of the virulent obsessiveness and intellectual violence that so often accompany anti-Zionist discourses, whether they take place on American college campuses or in the Middle East, Europe, or elsewhere. The shallow, derogatory use of “Zionist” as a sort of epithet is but one symptom of this.