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9165751-Victor-Klemperer-by-Katharina-Barbe

9165751-Victor-Klemperer-by-Katharina-Barbe

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Published by Marina Ta

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Published by: Marina Ta on Mar 05, 2011
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Journal of Sociolinguistics
11/4, 2007: 505–519
DIALOGUE
Victor Klemperer:The accidental sociolinguist
1
Katharina Barbe
Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois
Wer denkt, will nicht ¨ uberredet, sondern ¨ uberzeugt sein;wer systematisch denkt, ist doppelt schwer zu ¨ uberzeugen.
2
(Victor Klemperer)
DuringtheThirdReich,theromancephilologistVictorKlemperer(1881–1960),a baptized Jew, lived in Dresden married to a non-Jew. After the enactment of the
N¨ urnberger Gesetze
in 1935, he lost his professorship and, in late 1938, hisaccess to libraries. No longer able to pursue his scholarly endeavors officially,Klemperernonethelesstriedtoremainactivebyrecordingastute albeitalsoverypersonal observationsofhissurroundings.Thesediaryentrieshadtobehiddenwith friends, as the Gestapo frequently searched Klemperer’s residence. Thediaries in their entirety were not published until 1995 in Germany. Klemperer’sselection of language-related observations from his diaries appeared for the firsttime in print in 1947 as
Die unbew¨ altigte Sprache
– 
LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: AusdemTagebucheinesPhilologen
(hereafter,
LTI 
).
LTI 
hassubsequentlybeenpublishedin several editions. In a translation by Michael Brady,
LTI 
has only recentlybecomeavailabletotheEnglish-speakingmarketwiththetitle
The language of theThird Reich: LTI 
– 
Lingua Tertii Imperii. A philologist’s notebook
(Klemperer 2000;hereafter, Brady).
3
LTI 
provides perceptive and personal observations of how the Nazis bothemployed and manipulated language. This paper starts with a reflectionon Klemperer’s
LTI 
to set the stage. Based on J¨ager and J¨ager (1999) andJ¨ager (1999), I will then position Klemperer’s linguistic observations intosociolinguists, more precisely, into critical discourse analysis (CDA), whilefocusing on the metaphor that emerges, ‘propaganda is a poisonous jargon’,which Klemperer uses throughout
LTI 
.
REFLECTIONS ON KLEMPERER’S
LTI 
Klempererdeemeditimportanttosharehisobservationswithawiderreadershipand ‘to attempt to understand how anything as barbaric as National Socialism
C
The author 2007Journal compilation
C
Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 20079600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK, and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA
 
506 BARBE
could take root and flourish in a society with an almost unparalleled tradition of culturalachievement
(Watt2001:36).Hepersonalizedhisintentions,whichhedisclosed in the last chapter of 
LTI 
. Two women influenced this decision. TherewasK
¨
athchenSara,
4
fortwoyearshissixtyishroom-mateofnecessity,whowithinfantile fervor believed him to be a chronicler of the times. And then there wasa fellow refugee, whom he met after the war and who proudly proclaimed, thatshe had
been locked up for a year
. . .
cos of certain expressions
(Brady: 286).
5
She had insulted Hitler and Nazi organizations. These expressions as well as
LTI 
-words, i.e. those coined, manipulated or re-fashioned by the Nazis, are at thebasis of his discussion. On a personal level, Klemperer kept his diaries becausehe believed that they helped assure his intellectual and emotional survival, andconstitutedaconnectiontoordinarylife,somethingthatwasdeniedtohimsoonafter 1933:
1.
Ich sagte mir: du h
¨ 
orst mit deinen Ohren, und du h
¨ 
orst in den Alltag, gerade in denAlltag,indasGew
¨ 
ohnlicheunddasDurchschnittliche,indasglanzlosUnheroischehinein
. . .
Unddann:ichhieltjameineBalancierstange,undsiehieltmich
. . .
(
LTI 
:313).Itoldmyself:youhearwithyourownears,andwhatmattersisthatyoulistenin specifically to the everyday, ordinary and average things, all that is devoidof glamour and heroism
. . .
And moreover: I kept hold of my balancing pole,and it kept hold of me
. . .
(Brady: 286).During the Nazi ascension to power, Klemperer was bitterly disappointedbecause he was forcefully excluded from German society, whose nationalisticGermanandconservativeaimshehadsupportedwholeheartedly.Inotherwords,forthefirsttime,hewasmadetoidentifyhimselfasaJew(J
¨
ager2000).Therearemany places in
LTI 
where he shows his ambivalence. While on the one hand, henolongerbelongsinGermansociety,ontheotherhand,hestillfeelslikeaGermanratherthanaJewandstronglyidentifieswithGermanintellectualachievements.He attempts to put the Nazis in the pariah position by describing them as un-German. He sees his beloved language co-opted for odious objectives. With utterdespair, he shares his doubts about the
deutschen Sprachcharakter 
, the characterof the German language:
2.
Nie habe ich von mir aus verstanden, wie er [Hitler] mit seiner unmelodischenund 
¨ 
uberschrieenen Stimme, mit seinen grob, oft undeutsch gef 
¨ 
ugten S 
¨ 
atzen,mit der offenkundigen, dem deutschen Sprachcharakter v
¨ 
ollig kontr 
¨ 
aren Rhetorikseiner Rede die Masse gewinnen und auf entsetzlich lange Dauer fesseln und inUnterjochung halten konnte
(
LTI 
: 64).For my own part I have never been able to understand how he [Hitler] wascapable, with his unmelodious and raucous voice, with his crude, often
C
The author 2007Journal compilation
C
Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007
 
KLEMPERER AS A SOCIOLINGUIST 507
un-Germanically constructed sentences, and with a conspicuous rhetoricentirelyatoddswiththecharacteroftheGermanlanguage,ofwinningoverthemasseswithhisspeeches,ofholdingtheirattentionandsubjugatingthemfor such appalling lengths of time (Brady: 54).In(2)KlemperergrievesfortheGermanlanguage,whichshouldhaveprevailedand made the Germans aware of the dangers of unsophisticated propaganda,but which could not carry out this task. This is interesting, too, because ititerates the assumption that
good
ideas should be conveyed in
good
language,a descriptive linguist
s nightmare. If a language contains all the spiritual andintellectual property, as Klemperer asserts, then it contains the negative as wellas the positive aspects. In his diary, he writes that all cultural elements, be theyconsumedunconsciouslyorconsciously,findtheirexpressionthroughlanguage.That is, language contains the collective intellectual property (see J
¨
ager 1999).Thus,Klemperermaintainsthatthesoulofapeopleisexpressedthroughtheirlanguage.Speakerscannotescapeorovercometheirnativelanguage,aWhorfiannotion. Klemperer has been criticized for his Whorfian ideas (see especially Watt2001).UndertheNazis,everythingthatGermanyoncestoodforeitherchanges,becomes contaminated, or even disappears. Klemperer asks himself whether thepeople of Hitler are the same as those of Goethe. He does not seem to have theanswertosuchacomplexquestion
– 
andtheremaynotbeananswerintheend.His writings appear tentative as his belief is being shaken. His resignation findsexpression when he says of terms, conscripted by the Nazis for their purposes,that perhaps this term also belongs to
LTI 
, in German
auch das geh
¨ 
ort wohl zur LTI 
(J
¨
ager 2000). While J
¨
ager and J
¨
ager (1999) and J
¨
ager (2000) consider themodal particle
wohl
(perhaps, arguably) to indicate insecurity, I see it rather asindicating resignation and disappointment.
LTI 
is in some way a re-evaluation
– 
an analysis with hindsight. Klempererappearstohaveknownsomethingaheadofitsactualoccurrence(K
¨
amper2000:35). For example, he talks about the treatment of pets living in Jewish families;these pets were considered contaminated by association.
3.
Man hat uns denn auch sp
¨ 
ater unsere Haustiere: Katzen, Hunde und sogar Kanarienv
¨ 
ogel weggenommen und get
¨ 
otet, nicht in Einzel
¨ 
allen und ausvereinzelter Niedertracht, sondern amtlich und systematisch, und das ist eine der Grausamkeiten, von denen kein N 
¨ 
urnberger Prozess berichtet
(
LTI 
: 113).Later they took our pets away from us, cats, dogs, even canaries, and killedthem,notjustinisolatedcasesandoutofindividualmalice,butofficiallyandsystematically;thisisoneofthoseactsofcrueltywhichwillnotbementionedat any Nuremberg Trial (Brady: 101).The reference to the
¨ 
urnberger Prozesse
is clearly made in retrospect, addedlater when he reviewed his diaries for extracts to publish as
LTI 
. K
¨
amper (2000:35) points to a diary entry from 1933, which appears also in
LTI 
:
C
The author 2007Journal compilation
C
Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007

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