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How Native German Speakers Read "Ausrotten"

 the IHR translates
"die Juden ausrotten"
as "exterminate the Jews"

While looking at the meaning of the word "ausrotten" (or "Ausrottung"), it is useful to see how Germans use the word themselves.

In particular, since it is English-speaking Holocaust-deniers who invent mistranslations for the word, we may learn something about their level of scholarship by seeing what their German-speaking colleagues have to say.

Let's try two examples.

First, let's turn to Günter Deckert, a German Holocaust-denier (and former chairman of Germany's extremist right-wing NPD party). On the denial website of the Adelaide Institute, after some truly abysmal attempts by non-German-speakers to explain away "ausrotten," he writes this comment in German:

  Günter's comment   Our translation
 "ausrotten" = ausmerzen = vernichten. Hier sollte man keine Haarspalterei betreiben. "Ausrotten" hat mit "Rottenführer" = Gruppenführer nicht zu tun. Es muß indes nicht konkret gemeint sein; es kann auch abstrakt verstanden werden H. wollte zweifelsohne die Juden im Deutschen Reich und in seinen Einflußgebieten loswerden.

Hätte er sie ausrotten wollen, dann dürfte es keine Überlebenden dort geben, wo "er was zu sagen hatte".

 "ausrotten" = eradicate = annihilate. There should be no hair-splitting about that. "Ausrotten" has nothing to do with "Rottenführer" = Gruppenführer. However it doesn't have to be meant concretely; it may be understood abstractly. Without any doubt H. [Hitler] wanted to get rid of the Jews in the German Reich and its areas of influence.

If he wanted to "ausrotten" them, then there would be no survivors where he had anything to say about it.

Deckert correctly notes that there is no way to quibble about the translation of "ausrotten"; it simply means "to annihilate."

(He goes on to argue that perhaps Hitler was talking about the annihilation of the Jews "abstractly." In the case of the Himmler speech at Poznan, it is clear that he was not. And we are also unconvinced by the old argument that "if the Nazis had wanted to kill the Jews, none would be left alive" -- really? zero? This requires a faith in Nazi superhumanity which most people are unwilling to extend.)

Second, let's turn to Wilhelm Stäglich, author of one of the central Holocaust-denial German-language books, from 1979, Der Auschwitz Mythos: Legende oder Wirklichkeit? ("The Auschwitz Myth: Legend or Reality?")

In Chapter 2, Stäglich rehabilitates Adolf Hitler by explaining that he was really a pacifist. When Hitler swore in 1939 that a war would bring about "the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe" -- this is how Stäglich proves Hitler loves peace -- Hitler used the word "Vernichtung" to mean "annihilation."

This is a simple translation: "Vernichtung" indeed means "annihilation."

In discussing Hitler's threat, Stäglich interchangeably uses the word "Ausrottung" as a synonym for "Vernichtung" -- because that is how the Nazis, at the time, also spoke.

And in the English translation of this work, other Holocaust-deniers correctly translate "Ausrottung" as it should be translated. The word means killing, and their translation reflects this:

  Stäglich's original   IHR's translation
 Hitlers erste Äußerungen, in denen er in bezug auf "die Juden" oder "das Judentum" ganz allgemein und zugleich konkret von "Vernichtung" oder "Ausrottung" spricht, stammen aus dem Jahre 1939...  The first remarks in which Hitler specifically uses the words "annihilation" ("Vernichtung") and "eradication" ("Ausrottung") in relation to "the Jews" or "Jewry" were made in 1939...

 "Wenn es dem internationalen Finanzjudentum innerhalb und außerhalb Europas gelingen sollte, die Völker noch einmal in einen Weltkrieg zu stürzen, dann wird das Ergebnis nicht die Bolschewisierung der Erde und damit der Sieg des Judentums sein, sondern die Vernichtung der jüdischen Rasse in Europa."

 If international finance-Jewry, inside and outside Europe, should once again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war, the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and with that the victory of Jewry, but rather the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.

 ... So meint denn auch Härtle, daß mit diesem Text allenfalls der unbedingte Friedenswille Hitlers bewiesen werden könne; dieser habe nicht den Krieg herbeiführen wollen, um die Juden ausrotten zu können, sondern er habe mit der Judenvernichtung gedroht, um einen Krieg zu verhindern. Mit dem von ihm in diesem Zusammenhang gewählten Begriff "Vernichtung" paßte Hitler sich nur dem Wortschatz seiner zionistischen Gegner an.  ... Heinrich Hartle interprets this text as a sign of Hitler's deep committment to peace. He believes Hitler did not intend to cause a war in order to annihilate the Jews, but raised the spectre of their annihilation in order to prevent a war. In using the word "annihilation," Hitler was only borrowing from the vocabulary of his Zionist foes.

Note that initially, the translator offers the slightly less damning "eradication" as a meaning for "Ausrottung." By the second usage, however, it is clear that Stäglich is using "ausrotten" to refer to the complete killing of the Jews, and "ausrotten" is used as a synonym for "vernichten," "annihilate."

(He goes on to suggest that Hitler's meaning in his 1939 speech was taken out of context, but then someone who thinks Hitler was a pacifist will believe anything. The point here is how Stäglich uses the word "ausrotten," not whether he thinks an Ausrottung actually was threatened or took place.)

We invite the reader to confirm this, since deniers offer both these texts on the web. Here is the German original and here is the translation.

This is one of the most-read books of Holocaust-denial, published in German on one of its largest websites. The translation is copyrighted by one of the oldest Holocaust-denial organizations, the Institute for Historical Review, and is published on one of the largest denial websites, CODOH.

English-speakers, take note: This is how deniers use the word "ausrotten" when they think you're not looking.

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Last modified: March 16, 2004
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