Sunday, August 17, 2008

Goebbels' Slip of the Tongue: 'Ausrott-Ausschaltung'

Kent Ford has kindly brought to my attention the moment when Goebbels unintentionally revealed that 'elimination' had become 'extermination.'

Read more!

This moment comes from Goebbels' speech at the Sportpalast on 18th February 1943. The slip was captured on tape and can be heard here. Donald M. McKale's Hitler's Shadow War, p 311, refers to Goebbels' mistake as "a telling slip of the tongue," and has a translation that runs as follows:
but means to counter [the Jewish threat] in time and if necessary with the most complete and radical exterm- [correcting himself] elimination [Ausrott-Ausschaltung] of Jewry.
McKale adds:
The large crowd received Goebbels' words with applause, shouts of "out with the Jews," and laughter.
McKale's source is Jeremy Noakes' Nazism, 1919-1945, p. 239.

This slip is significant because, among other things, it destroys a denier gambit regarding Himmler's Posen speeches, whereby Himmler's use of elimination ['ausschaltung'] is deployed to minimize his use of 'ausrotten', such as in Porter's translation of this passage:
I am thinking now of the evacuation of the Jews, the extirpation of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that's easy to say: "The Jewish people will be extirpated" , says every Party comrade, "that's quite clear, it's in our programme: elimination of the Jews, extirpation ; that's what we're doing."
Goebbels' slip makes it clear that Himmler's usage conflates elimination, extirpation, evacuation and extermination because, when they are used in the context of the Final Solution, all of those terms amount to the mass murder of Jews. This is the opposite of the denier claim that Himmler's use of 'extermination' is just a hyperbolic expression of a policy that is really just 'ethnic cleansing' and forced deportation. If the denier claim were correct, there would be no need to use a stronger term than 'ausschaltung' or 'Säuberung' [cleansing] to describe Nazi policy.

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