At the end of World War II, Germany made concerted efforts to scrub itself and its residents of Nazi language, culture, and ideas. But, researchers say, some of that may have returned.
More and more, German politicians are now using the language of the Third Reich’s to describe refugees, and the German public seems to be responding to it.
The chairwoman for the Alternative For Germany (AFD) party, Frauke Petry, has been using the word “völkisch,” an ethno-nationalist term that the Nazis used to describe what they believed to be their superior German race, according to Josefin Graef, a doctoral researcher at the Institute for German Studies at the University of Birmingham.
Petry has even defended the word, saying it should have positive connotations because it simply derives from the word “volk,” or “people.”
However, Petry has faced outrage from the press, who she has been describing with another Nazi word, “lügenpresse,” or “lying press.” The media argued that Nazi vocabulary is key to creating an exclusionary policy toward people that Germans perceive as non-German — specifically, refugees and asylum seekers.
In fact, terms such as “volksverrater,” or “traitor of the people,” are often heard at German anti-refugee protests held by anti-Islamic movements. The phrase was also used as a slur against Angela Merkel and Christian Democratic Union ministers for letting 890,000 refugees into Germany.
Furthermore, this unprecedented borrowing of Nazi vocabulary follows a significant rise in attacks on refugees and asylum seekers. Attacks increased five-fold between 2014 and 2015, according to figures released by German interior minister Thomas de Maizière.
Homes of refugees are being targeted as well, with attacks quadrupling to 1,031. That number includes 94 arsons, 60 assaults, eight explosions, and four attempted murders, with swastikas and neo-Nazi slogans spray-painted on homes as well.