Meanings and translations of German words and Holocaust revisionism

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Meanings and translations of German words and Holocaust revisionism refer to debates regarding the meanings and translations of several German words used in certain German WWII speeches and documents. Non-Holocaust revisionsts claim that these words refer to genocidal killings. This is criticized by Holocaust revisionists.

There are several different sets of discussed words:

  • Ambiguous words
  • "Code words"
  • Words which unambiguously mean killing or death
  • Words claimed to refer to National Socialist ideology associated with the Holocaust


Ambiguous words

Non-revisionists argue that several German words (in particular Ausrottung, Vernichtung, and Liquidierung and their corresponding verb forms) in certain German WWII documents and speeches refer to genocidal killings and often translate these words as meaning "extermination" or "exterminate". Holocaust revisionists argue that these words refer to deportation/expulsion of Jews and removal/"destruction" of the large and by the National Socialists argued to be negative Jewish influence.

Criticisms of the politically correct translations

Notably the debate is not about explicit words such as töten (to kill), ermorden (to murder), and/or vergasen (to gas). Instead, it is about more ambiguous words such as Ausrottung ("rotting out") and Vernichtung ("bringing to nothing"). Holocaust revisionists argue that there are many examples of such words at this time being used in other senses than killing. See the "External links" section regarding detailed examples.

Even today leaders sometimes use strong language. The revisionist Thomas Dalton has written that "English sources always translate Hitler’s wording as wanting to “exterminate,” “destroy,” or “annihilate” the Jews; but this is another deception. None of his actual words demands mass killing—or even any killing at all. If the Jews have been driven out of Germany, they have indeed been ‘exterminated’ (lit. ‘driven beyond the border’). If their control over the economy has been terminated, their power has indeed been ‘annihilated,’ or ‘reduced to nothing.’ If Jewish society has been removed, it may rightly be said to have been ‘destroyed’ (lit. ‘un-built’ or ‘deconstructed’). Hitler’s tough talk was never any different than that of any world leader when confronting a mortal enemy. President Obama often speaks of “destroying” the “cancer” of the Islamic State, but no one accuses him of attempted genocide."[1]

Thus, for example, revisionist argue, the word "Ausrottung" in the sense of "rooting out" could be used by National Socialists instead of the words deportation/expulsion but with the same meaning. That such words would mean "extermination" is argued to be contradicted by, for example, other statements (sometimes in the very same source).[2] See also World War II statements argued to support Holocaust revisionism.

Revisionists have argued that the use of strong language for rhetoric effect was common at this time. This applies not only to National Socialist leaders but also to the language used by Churchill, Roosevelt, and Jewish organizations/individuals opposing the National Socialists. Nationalist Socialist use of such strong language was not limited specifically Jews.[3][2]

Furthermore, the revisionist Germar Rudolf has argued that "During the 1920s and early 1930s, the leaders of National Socialism, who later became Germany’s leading politicians, evolved politically in an atmosphere of permanent civil war. The language used by the more radical parties involved in this struggle was quite often inflammatory and violent. Words said in the heat of the moment were not always considered to be taken literally. This, too, needs to be kept in mind."[2]

Historians agree that until shortly before the invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, the Jewish policy of National Socialist Germany was not directed toward extermination at all. Rather, it was mainly to encourage as many Jews as possible to emigrate from the German sphere of influence.[2] This makes it dubious that National Socialist document and speeches should state that the Jews should be killed before the policy had allegedly changed. See also World War II statements argued to support Holocaust revisionism.

After this alleged policy change there is argued to have been an extreme secrecy regarding the Holocaust (such as by using "code words") and somewhat later large scale efforts to destroy the evidence such as by destroying all the corpses ("Aktion 1005").[2] This makes it dubious that any speeches or documents would openly state that the Jews should be killed and if doing so that they would not have been destroyed.

See also the "External links" section regarding more detailed arguments including many examples of these words being used in other senses than killing.


Ausrottung is a noun and the corresponding verb forms are spelled somewhat differently which may cause confusion:

  • The corresponding verb is "ausrotten".
  • Third-person singular simple present "rottet aus".
  • Past tense "rottete aus".
  • Past participle "ausgerottet".
  • Zu-infinitive "auszurotten".

Etymologically Ausrottung means "out-rooting" or rooting out. English words such as extirpate and eradicate have similar etymologies.

David Irving stated in the Irving-Lipstadt trial on the 1930s and 1940s meaning of the German word Ausrottung that "The plaintiff allows that there is probably no argument about what the word Ausrottung has come to mean in modern 1990s German usage. What it meant in Hitler's hands in the 1930s and 1940s is however what is germane to this issue. According to the standard Langenscheidt 1967 German dictionary, which suggests translations in descending order of likelihood, Judentum is translated only as: '(n.) Judaism,' while Ausrottung has the entry '(f.) uprooting; extirpation, eradication; extermination, pol. a. genocide.' Precisely because the verb ausrotten and the noun Ausrottung have so many different meanings, the plaintiff was careful not to translate it with only one given meaning, namely a meaning specifically pre-loaded with the meaning needed to support a special hypothesis needed. [...] When used by Hitler ausrotten has on several occasions demonstrably a meaning that can not be liquidate. Three examples: [...] Himmler used the word ausrotten on occasions to mean something other than murder. For example replying on February 21, 1944 to a report from Bormann on abuses in the Lublin concentration camp, Himmler wrote: 'The guilty commandant, SS-Sturmbannführer Florstedt, has been under arrest for two months already. The deplorable conditions are being severely ausgerottet and redressed in rigorous court-proceedings' (National Archives microfilm T-175, roll 53, at page 7290)."[4]

The judge at trial in the verdict wrote that "I did not derive much assistance from the debate as to how words such as ausrotten, vernichten, abschaffen, umsiedeln and abtransportieren are to be translated [...] depends on the context."[5] Thus, the judge implied that these words must not necessarily mean "exterminate".

The revisionist Mark Turley had stated that "However, older dictionaries, going back to the time when the events were more contemporary, further muddy the waters. A German/English dictionary printed in Germany in 1955, the Schöffler-Weis Taschenwörterbuch, published by the Ernst Klett Company of Stuttgart, provides a slightly different picture. It gives the following translations of ausrotten: ‘to root out’, ‘to destroy’, ‘to extirpate’, ‘to eradicate’ and ‘to exterminate’. For ausrottung we get two translations, ‘uprooting’ and ‘extermination’. According therefore to a dictionary published in Germany in 1955, Nazis discussing the ausrotten of the Jews or how the Jews were undergoing a process of ausrottung, could have been talking about rooting Jews out or uprooting them. Neither of these terms necessarily have genocidal implications. It is interesting that the literal translation of ausrottung, which is ‘uprooting’ as one can tell simply from looking at the word in both languages, seems to have disappeared from the modern dictionaries. With vernichten we get a similar picture. The 1955 German dictionary translates it as ‘to annihilate’, ‘to eradicate’, ‘to do away with’, to wipe out. ‘Vernichtung’ is ‘destruction’, ‘annihilation’, ‘extirpation’. Therefore Nazis using these words could feasibly have been discussing ‘doing away with’ the Jews (or ‘destroying them). Again it is interesting that this most anodyne translation of the term is not to be found in the modern dictionaries."[6]

Another non-revisionist argument is by admitting that Ausrottung (and Vernichtung) could have other senses than killing when not referring to humans but to argue that it always meant killing when referring to humans. This has been argued to contradicted by numerous examples from both non-National Socialist and National Socialist sources.[7][8][9][10] See the "External links" section regarding detailed examples.

See also the section ""Ausrottung" and "Vernichtung" in Mein Kampf" in the article on Alleged statements by Hitler on the Holocaust.

A well-known example of use of Ausrottung (and other ambiguous words and "code words") is in the Posen speeches. The politically correct interpretation of "Ausrottung" means that Himmler is alleged to have stated that genocide of Jews was part of the NSDAP party program (which is false). See Posen speeches: The NSDAP party program.


Etymologically Vernichtung means "bringing to nothing". English words/phrases such as nullify, annul, annihilate, and "bring to naught" have similar etymologies.

See the section on "Ausrottung" on changing meanings of Vernichtung in dictionaries.

Hitler even used the word "Vernichtung" in relationship to Jews in several public speeches and thus allegedly (according to the non-revisionist interpretation of the word) confessed the Holocaust before and while it occurred. This arguably strange considering the extreme secrecy that is claimed to have been used to conceal the Holocaust. See Alleged statements by Hitler on the Holocaust and the sections "1939 Reichstag speech" and "Other "Vernichtung" statements".

See also the section ""Ausrottung" and "Vernichtung" in Mein Kampf" in the article on Alleged statements by Hitler on the Holocaust.


Etymologically the German Liquidierung (verb: "liquidieren") and the English liquidate originate from the Latin liquidus ("liquid"). Various extended meanings originate from the sense of making something clear or to clarify. Applied by communists to ideological opponents in the sense of cleansing, purifying, or purging in the 1920s. This use by communists meant removing, such as by excluding from an organization, and not necessarily killing. A similar word is "purge", etymologically also meaning to "make clear", and in an extended sense also meaning "removing" (such as from an organization), and not necessarily killing.

How these ambiguous words are used in German (or English) today do no necessarily prove how these words were used in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s (especially as the current usage may have been influenced by the alleged use during the Holocaust). An example of an extensive changing of meaning is the English word liquidate. The 1828 and 1913 Webster's dictionaries list no sense in which liquidate means "to kill" but several related to "make clear". In 2015 Merriam-Webster lists "to kill" as one sense of the word and "to make clear" is described as archaic usage.[11][12]

A well-known example of use liquidieren is in Goebbels's diary. Regarding the use of the word "liquidieren" in Goebbels's diary and other WWII German sources, see the article on Joseph Goebbels.


A rarer word than the above three in controversial statements, Ausmerzung is etymologically possibly from März (“March”), the month in which animals not fit for further breeding were usually singled out from the stock, thus referring to culling or weeding out, rather than to an extermination of an entire group.

Used in various extended senses, such as regarding desires to eliminate various negative phenomena, such as poverty, without this implying killings or exterminations, such as killing all poor.

"Code words"

A different set of words are alleged "code words" which unambiguously do not mean killing/extermination (words such as "deportation" or "evacuation") or are very general (words such as "Sonderbehandlung" which translates as "special treatment").

However, non-revisionists argue that these words in documents and speeches do covertly refer to killing/extermination and are used to conceal the Holocaust. Revisionists have argued against this for reasons such as supposed "code words" with meanings contradicting what was actually written is implausible due to implying that numerous people supposedly ignored what their written orders stated and instead committed mass murders based only on hearsay and this despite that the punishment for unauthorized killings or sabotaging the war effort included the death penalty.[2]

Another criticism is that there would have been no need to use secret "code words" meaning something else in already top secret documents, "secret speeches", and private diaries, as alleged.

Furthermore, non-revisionists often cherry-pick, claiming that some parts of a document/speech is unreliable due to "code words", but often claiming that other parts that they argue support their view if interpreted in the context of "uncoded" "code words" is reliable. However, it some parts of a document/speech has been manipulated, this arguably means that everything stated is suspect.

Alleged use of "code words" is arguably inconsistent with the above mentioned ambiguous words meaning "extermination", since this implies that the National Socialists would sometimes have practiced extreme secrecy regarding the Holocaust, but sometimes instead have openly confessed it (including in public speeches, see Alleged statements by Hitler on the Holocaust: Other Vernichtung statements).

See also the "External links" section regarding more detailed arguments.


The most famous "code word" may be "special treatment" ("Sonderbehandlung") which does in some cases refer to killing. Revisionists argue that non-revisionists have wrongly concluded that "special treatment" therefore always meant killing but that the term instead had many different meanings depending on context. For example, in Auschwitz documents the term was used to describe treatment for improving camp hygiene in order to reduce the death rate and in compliance with the very highest directives such as Himmler in 1943 ordering that the death rate in the camps must be unconditionally decrease.[2]

"Appearing in German wartime documents in the context of the “Holocaust,” terms like “special treatment,” “special action,” and others have usually been interpreted as code words that signify homicides. While certainly the term “special treatment” in many such documents meant at times execution, the term need not always have had that meaning in German records. This is especially true when it comes to the infamous Auschwitz camp. In Special Treatment in Auschwitz, Carlo Mattogno has provided the most thorough study of this textual problem to date. By publishing and interpreting numerous such documents about Auschwitz – many of them hitherto unknown – Mattogno is able to show that, while “special” had many different meanings in these documents, not a single one meant “execution.” [...] The entire work highlights the potency of a traditional tool of the unscrupulous propagandist: (mis-)translation, a perfidious practice of which Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake.”) is perhaps but the most-famous and most-unfortunate example. This important study demonstrates also the insidious allegation of the use of a “code language” by the National Socialists of Germany, imputing homicidal meanings to completely harmless documents."[13]

See also the Korherr Report article on the word "Sonderbehandlung" in this document.

See also Arthur Greiser on another use of the word "Sonderbehandlung".

"Operation Reinhard"

Regarding "Operation Reinhard" or ""Operation Reinhardt", see the article on the Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka camps.

The "Final Solution of the Jewish Question"

Regarding the phrase the "Jewish Question", see the article on this.

Regarding the phrase the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question", revisionists argue that the phrase meant voluntary emigration by or forced deportations of Jews. They further argue that documents show that measures taking the during war such as the camps and deportations to Eastern Europe/Russia were seen as temporary solutions with the "Final Solution" to the "Jewish question" to be fully implemented only after the war. Those deported are argued to have become an important part of the wartime industry.[2] See Holocaust motivations on revisionist views on German motivations.

See World War II statements argued to support Holocaust revisionism regarding this subject, including examples of the phrase "final solution" not meaning killing but deportation.

The phrase appeared much earlier. Already in 1897 and 1899, the very prominent Jewish Zionist Theodor Herzl described Zionism as the "final solution of the Jewish question".[14][15][16]

Words which unambiguously mean killing or death

A third set of words (and associated documents) are words which unambiguously refer to killing or death. One example is the official National Socialist camp death records which however state a much lower death count than the politically correct one and which do not mention gassings. See Holocaust demographics: National Socialist camp death records and postwar death certificates. Another is the alleged reports by the Einsatzgruppen.

But as noted earlier such words were not used in many of the quotes which allegedly prove the Holocaust. The revisionist Thomas Dalton has stated on Goebbels’s diary that "I should note, by the way, that the German language does indeed have words for ‘killing’: morden, ermorden, töten, totschlagen, totschiessen. Goebbels had no shortage of alternatives if he wished to discuss literally killing the Jews. This is, after all, a personal and private diary. Consider his situation: Should the Germans win, he has nothing to fear. Should they lose, he must have known that his own death awaited, along with the ‘destruction’ of greater Germany—again, nothing to fear. Why hold back? So the reader might be wondering: Does Goebbels ever use such explicit terms? In fact he does: once. If I may temporarily leap ahead to one of his final entries, 14 March 1945, we read that certain soon-to-be-victorious Jews are calling for no mercy on the Germans—to which Goebbels replies, “Anyone in a position to do so should kill (totschlagen) these Jews like rats.” There we have it—an unambiguous call for murder. Except that it’s three years too late. One wonders, though, why, on the exterminationist thesis, Goebbels didn’t resort to such language much sooner.""[17]

There may be various inconsistencies regarding alleged used of "code words" and "uncoded words", even regarding documents allegedly produced at similar time periods. For example, the Jäger Report ("uncoded") and the Wannsee Protocol ("coded") were allegedly produced at about the same time. Similarly, the Einsatzgruppen: 29 December 1942 report ("uncoded") and the Korherr Report ("coded"), were allegedly produced at about the same time (and both allegedly intended for Hitler). The Posen speeches allegedly used both "coded" and "uncoded" words at the same time.

Words claimed to refer to National Socialist ideology associated with the Holocaust

A fourth set of words are claimed to refer to National Socialist ideology associated with the Holocaust. These claims have been criticized by revisionists. See the articles on Subhuman, Master race, and Lebensraum.

External links

Ausrottung and Vernichtung


"Code words"

See also


  1. Rethinking Mein Kampf
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Holocaust Handbooks, Volume 15: Germar Rudolf: Lectures on the Holocaust—Controversial Issues Cross Examined 2nd, revised and corrected edition.
  3. Wilhelm Stäglich. Auschwitz: A Judge Looks at the Evidence: Chapter Two: Contemporaneous Documents: Speeches and Other Public Statements by Political Leaders of the Third Reich: Adolf Hitler
  4. David Irving. The 1930s Meaning of the German Word Ausrottung.
  5. The Judgment handed down in the British High Court action by David Irving against Penguin Books Ltd and Deborah Lipstadt.
  6. Genocide at Nuremberg[1]
  7. Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIIa: Jonathan Harrison: the master of misinterpretation – Rosenberg and Vernichtung
  8. Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIIb: Ausrottung and back to Rosenberg, with a cameo by Julius Streicher
  9. A little more on Ausrottung
  10. Ausrottung yet again
  11. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828): Liquidate.
  12. Merriam-Webetser: Liquidate.
  13. Description of "Carlo Mattogno: Special Treatment in Auschwitz—Origin and Meaning of a Term"
  14. The Terms 'Final Solution' and 'Endlösung,' Growth in Usage by Year
  15. Straight Talk About Zionism: What Jewish Nationalism Means
  16. Zionism and the Third Reich
  17. Thomas Dalton. Goebbels on the Jews, Part 1. Inconvenient History Goebbels on the Jews, Part 1.
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