LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii
LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen (1947) is a book by Victor Klemperer, Professor of Literature at the Dresden University of Technology. The title, half in Latin and half in German, translates to The Language of the Third Reich: A Philologist's Notebook.
Lingua Tertii Imperii studies the way that Nazi propaganda altered the German language to inculcate people with National-Socialist ideas. The book was written under the form of personal notes which Klemperer wrote in his diary, especially from the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933, and even more after 1935, when Klemperer, stripped of his academic title because he was Jewish (under the Nuremberg Laws), had to work in a factory and started to use his diary as a personal exit to his frustrating and miserable life.
LTI demonstrates how a new language came to be naturally spoken by most of the population. On the reverse, the text also emphasizes the idea that resistance to oppression begins by questioning the constant use of buzzwords. Both the book and its author unexpectedly survived the war. LTI was first published in 1947 in Germany.
It underlines odd constructions of words intended to give a "scientific" or neutral aspect to otherwise heavily engaged discourses, as well as significant every-day behaviour.
Among the examples Klemperer recorded of propagandistic language use were the following.
- Artfremd ("Alien to the species")
- Ewig ("Eternal") E.gr.: der ewige Jude (the eternal Jew); das ewige Deutschland (the eternal Germany)
- Fanatical / Fanaticism (used in a particularly Orwellian way: strongly positively connotated for the "good" side, and strongly negatively connotated for the "bad" side)
- Evakuierung ("evacuation"): deportation
- Holen ("pick up"): arrest
- Konzertlager ("concert camp"): concentration camp
- Krise ("crisis"): defeat
- Sonderbehandlung ("special treatment"): murder
- Verschärfte Vernehmung ("Intensified interrogation"): torture
Recurrent expressions and motives
- the war "imposed" onto a peace-loving Führer (France and the United Kingdom did declare war on Germany, but only after the invasion of Poland.)
- the "incommensurable hate" of the Jews—note the Orwellian ambiguity: the Jews have an "incommensurable hate" of the Third Reich (aggressive or conspiratorial), but the German people have an "incommensurable hate" of the Jews (spontaneous and legitimate).
- Groß- ("grand")
- Volk(s)- ("Volk = people, Volks = of or for the people (prefix)"). Volksgemeinschaft designated the racially pure community of nations. Volkswagen is an example of a term which has outlived the Third Reich.
- Welt- ("world", as in Weltanschauung, "intuition/view of the world"): this was quite a rare, specific and cultured term before the Third Reich, but became an everyday word. It came to designate the instinctive understanding of complex geo-political problems by the Nazis, which allowed them to openly begin invasions, twist facts or violate human rights, in the name of a higher ideal and in accordance to their theory of the world.
How "the language of a clique became the language of a people"
"No, the most powerful influence was exerted neither by individual speeches nor by articles or flyers, posters or flags; it was not achieved by things which one had to absorb by conscious thought or conscious emotions.
Instead 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. . . language does not simply write and think for me, it also increasingly dictates my feelings and governs my entire spiritual being the more unquestioningly and unconsciously I abandon myself to it.
And what happens if the cultivated language is made up of poisonous elements or has been made the bearer of poisons? 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.
The Third Reich coined only a very small number of the words in its language, perhaps - indeed probably - none at all. . . But it changes the value of words and the frequency of their occurrence, it makes common property out of what was previously the preserve of an individual or a tiny group, it commandeers for the party that which was previously common property and in the process steeps words and groups of words and sentence structures with its poison.
Denaturisation of the German language
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 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.
Only a year after the collapse of the Third Reich a strangely conclusive piece of evidence can be advanced to support the claim that "fanatical", this key National Socialist term, never really had the sting taken out of it by excessive use. For although scraps of the LTI surface all over the place in contemporary language, "fanatical" has disappeared. From this one can safely conclude that either consciously or subconsciously people remained aware of the real facts of the case all through those twelve years, namely, that a confused state of mind, equally close to sickness and criminality, was for twelve years held to be the greatest virtue.
Klemperer speaks about the British "concentration camps" in Africa during the Second Boer War, which were internment camps, and bore "a taste of vacation camp", according to him. I think that, in the future, wherever the word "concentration camp" will be pronounced, people will think of Nazi Germany, and only of Nazi Germany. (29th of October, 1933)
- Language Does Not Lie (La langue ne ment pas), a 2003 documentary film based on Klemperer's book, directed by Stan Neumann
- Victor Klemperer, The Language of the Third Reich: A Philologist's Notebook, trans. Martin Brady, London: Continuum, 2002, pp. 15–16.
- The Language of the Third Reich, p. 54.
- The Language of the Third Reich, p. 61.