Ausrottung yet again

Jonathan Harrison and Roberto Muehlenkamp have made some short blogs attempting to rebut particular elements of my memo post on ausrotten. This post consists of replies to several such points.

Ausrottung in Hitler’s speech of 30.1.42

As I had pointed to Hitler’s speech of 30.1.42, in which he referred to the potential Ausrottung of all European peoples, as an example of a National Socialist using Ausrottung in a sense not implying killing, Harrison writes

German propaganda truly did claim that the allies were embarked on the physical extermination of the German people. Hitler’s speech repeated that claim, and thus did use “ausrottung” in the sense of physical extermination.

Unfortunately for Harrison’s attempted interpretation, in the speech in question Hitler referred not to the Ausrottung of the German people, but to the Ausrottung of all European peoples. Repeat: all European peoples, including those of the allied nations. Perhaps Harrison will explain how Hitler was claiming that every single English man, women, and child would be killed if Germany lost the war? And the same for the Irish, the French, the Swedes, the Dutch, etc.? Was this also a part of ‘German propaganda’? Of course not.

Thus, my argument stands: in this and other speeches, Hitler was using Ausrottung in a sense not implying that the people in question would be killed off. (In reality, his line of thought was probably something along the lines of “an allied victory will lead to the Bolshevization of Europe,” which he considered to be an Ausrottung.)

Harrison’s treatment of this speech answers a question I had asked: evidently he does not bother to read the writings to which he responds or the sources he interprets. However, Harrison refused to answer my question regarding whether (or to what extent) he can read German. To admit that he cannot read German to any reasonable extent, in light of how many German-language sources he cited in his contribution to the HC manifesto, would be rather embarrassing for him, as it means he has not and can not properly read most of his sources. Nevertheless, this appears to be the case: Harrison seems to have a rather limited (at best) ability to read German, which means that when he wrote his chapter in the manifesto he understood even less German. How, then, does he justify citing so many German sources – sources he could not read? The same question applies to Nick Terry, who can’t read Polish but still cites lots of Polish-language sources.

Muehlenkamp runs away

Roberto Muehlenkamp had, before the release of my “Memo for the controversial bloggers”, repeatedly argued with me concerning whether Ausrottung can be applied to a human population in a non-lethal sense – he claimed it could not. He has now made an awkward retreat from that position, likely because his blogging colleague Harrison quoted a statement from Peter Longerich that contradicted Muehlenkamp’s former position. Muehlenkamp’s attempt to shift his ground confirms the suspicion I earlier expressed regarding how Muehlenkamp and Harrison will treat my most explicit example. As I wrote:

I gave a number of examples of the word’s non-homicidal use, including a particularly explicit one from “Fürchtegott Leberecht Christlieb”. That particular passage is so explicit in stating that an expulsion counts as an Ausrottung that we can expect Muehlenkamp and Harrison to continue to ignore it, as it is so clear in its meaning that they will not be able to creatively misinterpret it.

Muehlenkamp now states that the various 19th century examples I’ve given of the application of ausrotten to groups of people in a sense not indicating killing are “of little if any relevance to Nazi uses of the term in connection with what they meant to do, were doing or had done to Jews”. This is rather odd, as Muehlenkamp had included 19th century examples on his list of uses of ausrotten which he thought to be homicidal. Apparently evidence only becomes irrelevant when it disproves Muehlenkamp’s (former?) thesis that ausrotten applied to groups of people always means killing.

Ausrottung in the Luther bible

Despite the fact that he has declared the subject irrelevant, Roberto Muehlenkamp has made another rash attempt (updating a previous post) to defend his thesis that the Luther’s use of ausrotten with respect to people always means killing. With respect to some additional examples which I cited in which Luther uses “ausrotten” to render what is generally given as “cut off” in English, a penalty which is explicitly contrasted with being put to death, Muehlenkamp (engaging in characteristically uninformed speculation) argues that Luther probably thought the offences in question so atrocious that they must have also been punishable with death. This argument, based as it is on Muehlenkamp’s ideas of what Luther thought was atrocious, fails because ausrotten was also used with respect to offences of an entirely different nature. For instance being ausgerottet from your people is the penalty for eating blood, for visiting fortune tellers, and eating leavened bread at the wrong time.

It’s easy to find more examples of Luther’s use of ausrotten showing that the word has a meaning much broader than just “killing”. For instance, those who collect money have been ausgerottet (Zeph 1:11), and Yahweh refers to “alle Völker, die ich ausgerottet habe” (Jos 23:4), which might suggest extermination if not for the fact that the next verse states that “der HERR, euer Gott, wird sie ausstoßen vor euch und von euch vertreiben, daß ihr ihr Land einnehmt”. Here being ausgerottet meant being driven from your land – brutally, certainly, but not always via extermination in the holocaust sense of the word. For a Volk to be ausgerottet meant that it was deprived of Lebensraum. Again, words have broader meanings than the controversial bloggers believe.

Or take something from Proverbs:

Denn die Gerechten werden im Lande wohnen, und die Frommen werden darin bleiben; aber die Gottlosen werden aus dem Lande ausgerottet, und die Verächter werden daraus vertilgt.

or in English

For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.

When killing is meant there is sometimes even clarification regarding those who are ausgerottet durch Morden (Ob 1:9) – if being ausgerottet already implied killing, as Muehlenkamp thinks, such statements would be superfluous.


We turn now to some more general considerations relevant to ausrotten in the Luther bible and beyond. The Deutsches Wörterbuch confirms an argument that I had made earlier regarding the “literal” meaning of Ausrotten. While Muehlenkamp argued that the literal meaning when applied to a group of people is to kill while other meanings are merely figurative, I pointed out that the actual literal meaning is to uproot or root out, and that all other meanings, while perfectly normal, are still figurative, so that the meaning of “to kill” is not privileged over others. The DWB entry for ausrotten emphasizes the literal sense of uprooting, and terms the biblical applications to humans “bildlich” (figurative) – regardless of whether they are lethal or not.

The DWB gives ausreuten as an equivalent, which it describes in terms also emphasizing the literal sense of uprooting, and also gives the Latin exstirpare, which has a literal meaning of uprooting, as an equivalent. This latter word has a direct English version, extirpate. English also has another Latin-derived word indicating uprooting, eradicate. While both of these words certainly can be used to indicate killing, they do not necessarily have this meaning – just as with ausrotten. Consider the case of extirpate. Just as with ausrotten, it can be used in a territorial sense. Consider talk of Indians planning to extirpate the English nation out of the continent of America, or a desire to “extirpate the white man” which could be expressed by making “one great effort to drive them from the land“, or their desire to “extirpate the whites out of Kentucky,” or Indians who “determined to extirpate, or drive all the English from New-England.” Or one could mention a reference to the cost of expelling and extirpating the formerly resident Indians as reason not to allow them to settle in an area again. Or a Quaker activist who, complaining of the expulsions of the Indians (in the context of the debate over the Indian Removal Act), spoke of the Indians being extirpated from their country.

On Vernichtung durch Arbeit and Harrison’s new interpretation of a Rosenberg diary entry

Jonathan Harrison has made another blog post rejecting his previous interpretation of a particular entry in the Rosenberg diary to which I had pointed, and suggesting a different one. In this connection I should first point out that Harrison has focused exclusively on this single issue, and has ignored the main line of my argument regarding Rosenberg’s diary, namely that it confirms Rosenberg’s postwar statements to the effect that he was unfamiliar with any extermination of the Jews in the sense in which Harrison believes it to have taken place, and in particular offers further evidence in support of Rosenberg’s explanations of what his use of Ausrottung meant. In any event, Harrison now interprets the entry to refer to policy in the Reich, which is a possible reading but not a necessary one – the entry speaks of an intention in the Reich, which may or may not have been associated with a policy implementation in the Reich. In fact, Harrison undermines his own interpretation somewhat by quoting Thierack’s reference to opening up Eastern territories for German settlement.

The context Harrison gives for the entry is that of Vernichtung durch Arbeit, a phrase used with reference to an enhanced sentencing program for asocial elements. Harrison does not address the considerable range of meanings which Vernichtung can take, although I gave a number of examples of this in one of my memo posts, but reads Vernichtung durch Arbeit as meaning “worked to death”. Harrison completely ignores the relevant passage from Goebbels’ diary, which shows that death was not necessarily the intended goal, but simply an accepted possible consequence of the harsh conditions in which convicts were to work. Indeed, the intended Vernichtung of asocial elements is already to an extent achieved in that they are separated from the German people – ausschaltet, nach dem Osten verfrachtet. Their death, while not viewed as regrettable, is also not prescribed.

Goebbels wrote:

Der neue Reichsjustizminister Thierack hält mir Vortrag über seine Maßnahmen. Er vertritt einen durchaus nationalsozialistischen Standpunkt. Sein Weg führt dahin, die Juristen wieder mit neuem Selbstbewußtsein zu erfüllen, dem Richter ein neues Selbstbewußtsein zu geben, einerseits die unbrauchbaren Elemente auszuschalten, andererseits aber den brauchbaren wieder den Rücken zu stärken. Ich verspreche ihm in dieser Arbeit weitestgehende Unterstützung der deutschen Publizistik. Vor allem halte ich es für notwendig, daß im Gegensatz zu früher, wo vielfach psychologisch schlechte Urteile veröffentlicht wurden, jetzt psychologisch gute Urteile veröffentlicht werden. Die Frage der asozialen Elemente will Thierack dadurch lösen, daß er die mit hohen Zuchthausstrafen belegten Gewohnheitsverbrecher zu Strafkompanien zusammensetzt und sie nach dem Osten verfrachtet. Dort sollen sie unter den härtesten Bedingungen Arbeiten verrichten. Wer an dieser Arbeit zugrunde geht, um den ist es nicht schade. Allerdings rate ich ihm dringend, das nicht einfach mechanisch und schematisch nach der Höhe der Zuchthausstrafen zu beurteilen, sondern hier eine individuelle Beurteilung Platz greifen zu lassen. Es gibt eine Re[i]he von Fällen, in denen zwar harte Strafen ausgesprochen werden müssen, in denen es sich aber nicht um Elemente handelt, die gänzlich unbrauchbar für das Staatsleben geworden sind. Thierack vertritt hier einen sehr großzügigen, aber auch nationalsozialistischen Standpunkt. Ich glaube, man wird mit ihm gut arbeiten können. Jedenfalls verspreche ich ihm, jede Kritik an der deutschen Justiz in der deutschen Presse zu unterbinden. Man muß Thierack und seinen Hilfsorganen zuerst einmal eine Anlauffrist geben. Jedenfalls hat er den besten Willen, den ihm vom Führer erteilten Auftrag baldmöglichst und in der großzügigsten Weise durchzuführen. Im übrigen hat der Führer ihm bei seinem Besuch im Führer-Hauptquartier genau die Gedankengänge entwickelt, die ich letzthin bei meiner Rede vor dem Volksgerichtshof dargelegt habe.

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