Nazi Euphemisms.

June 21, 2011 0 Comments

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the decision was made by the Nazis to implement the Final Solution. The Schutzstaffel (SS), headed by Heinrich Himmler, was the Reich agency responsible for making German-occupied Europe Judenrein (free of Jews). Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), was placed in charge of coordinating the genocidal project. One of his early decisions was to disguise genocide by referring to the mass murder of the Jews with euphemisms as expressed in orders, memos, letters, and other forms of written communication. Heydrich placed a high premium on secrecy and cautioned German soldiers returning from the east not to talk about the atrocities they had witnessed or participated in. Thus, words were used that in themselves appeared harmless but were deadly in their consequences. Several samples of these euphemisms follow: “Cargo” referred to Jews who were crowded into the back of trucks, where they were murdered by carbon monoxide gas piped into the back of the vehicle. The term was also used to refer to the trainloads of Jews being deported to the death camps. “Deloused” refers to the Nazi ruse whereby the victims, upon arrival in the death camps, were told to undress and shower in order to rid themselves of lice. Moments later they were gassed to death.


Final Solution (Endlosung) was the Nazi euphemism for the extermination of European Jewry, or the Holocaust. Final Goal (Endziel) was the term used before the decision was made to implement the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” Reinhard Heydrich used this term in correspondence with Nazi officials to describe the pending physical annihilation of Polish Jewry.


“Resettlement” referred to the deportation of the Jews to the death camps. The victims were led to believe that they were being resettled on Jewish reservations in the east. “Special Handling” (Sonderbehandlung) referred to the extermination of European Jews. The term was used in Einsatzgruppen reports describing the liquidation of Jews in a specific area. A report of a particular atrocity would be sent to Berlin with the information that a targeted group of Jews “had been dealt with.” Both “Russian east” and “final camp” (Endlager) were the Nazi euphemisms for the death camps (Auschwitz was an Endlager but not Theresienstadt). “Special action” was the code name for an Einsatzgruppen killing operation against Jews. Following the invasion of Poland in September 1939, Heydrich predicted a “political housecleaning,” by which he meant the elimination of the Polish clergy, intelligentsia, aristocracy, and the Jews.


“Evacuation” was a Nazi euphemism that came into use at the end of October 1941, when Heinrich Himmler formally ended Jewish emigration from areas under German control. The word refers to Heydrich’s plan for the deportation of all Polish Jews to the east in huge labor columns. The expectation was that the great majority would die on the journey; the survivors would be “treated accordingly,” that is, worked to death or exterminated. “Final evacuation” was the term used by the RSHA to describe plans for the mass murder of the Jews in Poland. The term “re-Germanization” referred to the German plan to expel Jews and Poles from their homes in the annexed part of Poland and resettle ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe in their place. “Usefully employed” referred to the use of forced labor. Those who were arrested by the Gestapo and sent to concentration camps were said to be in “protective custody.”

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