Linguists analyzed the work of Nazi propaganda before and during the Holocaust in 1927-1945

(ORDO NEWS) — A linguistic analysis by Stanford University researchers showed that anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda in Germany changed over time.

Propaganda prior to the start of the Holocaust in 1941 dehumanized the Jews and portrayed them as “not human”.

But after the beginning of the Holocaust, the propaganda changed: on the contrary, it showed the Jews as people, but malicious and dangerous, from whom it is necessary to defend themselves.

If the process of “dehumanization” of another nation occurs gradually and constantly, it succeeds, even if initially a person is completely unprepared to accept the terrible conclusions to which propaganda gradually leads him.

A linguistic analysis of Nazi propaganda by Stanford University scholars shows that anti-Jewish propaganda in Germany changed between 1927 and 1945.

Propaganda before the start of the Holocaust in 1941 portrayed the Jews rather as “not people”, on the contrary, after the start of the Holocaust Jews “became people”, but malicious and dangerous.

It is widely believed that dehumanization is a harbinger of mass violence. Many believe that dehumanization encourages violence by lifting moral inhibitions. But few studies have actually explored the empirical evidence for this idea.

To better understand the role of dehumanization in mass violence, Stanford linguists conducted a linguistic analysis of Nazi propaganda, including hundreds of posters, pamphlets, newspapers, and transcripts of political speeches before and during the Holocaust.

The researchers assessed the prevalence of certain mental state-related terms by distinguishing between terms associated with the ability to act, such as “plan” or “think”, and terms associated with experience, such as “pain” or “enjoy”.

The findings suggest that pre-Holocaust propaganda progressively denied the ability of Jews to experience basic human emotions and sensations. This is consistent with the idea that dehumanization leads to the removal of moral restrictions. But after the start of the Holocaust in 1941, things change.

Dehumanization changes to description of malevolence after the start of the Holocaust

Linguists analyzed the work of Nazi propaganda before and during the Holocaust in 1927 1945 2
Arbeit Macht Frei inscription in Auschwitz

Propaganda during the Holocaust increasingly used language to describe Jewish malevolence. They were increasingly demonized and portrayed as having the capacity for dangerous acts. The researchers speculate why this shift occurred.

This may have been in line with attempts to portray the Jews as a threat. This provided a rationalization of attitude towards them to appease Nazi performers who were traumatized by their experience of killing Jews.

Overall, these results suggest that the dynamics of dehumanization associated with mass violence can change over time.

The authors note that their analysis included limited data for some time periods, especially for the most important months leading up to the start of the Holocaust in July 1941.

Future research could address these limitations and further explore the dynamics of dehumanization both during the Holocaust and in other contexts of genocide.


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