War May Die, but Words Remain

Through Robin Tolmach Lakoff’s essay, I thought I should further my investigations through parallels of the Holocaust. Within the Holocaust, 6 million were murdered at the hands of soldiers. These soldiers were given specific instructions to eliminate specific ethnic groups. This persecution is nothing more than what the soldiers in Lakoff’s essay are rightfully accused of – subjective murder; however, the accusation Lakoff portrays is on a much smaller scale and clearly not as repulsive. Nothing speaks more true than, “Bullets and bombs are not the only tools of war. Words, too, play their part,” (1). Although 6 million deaths are quite unfathomable, the words that lead these militia to their crime play a massive role.

Each prisoner of war was given a specific number in which they were identified. This number represented their existence in the small aspect of the concentration camp and nothing more. If they were relevant to the real world, they would have names – which they did, but they were stolen and shattered by the brutes. These German soldiers created a new identity and category that these organisms now lived in. They were no longer part of the homo sapiens classification but one, as I stated in a previous post, of almost insect like existence. Repetitively the statement to “terminate” the Jewish population was Germany’s goal; however, we do not terminate humans. To terminate or be a terminator indicates, to me, someone who will extract and kill bugs. The identification through number classification and termination expresses that the prisoners were nothing more than bugs waiting to be killed off by their gases or mass weapons.

In the clip above, Schindler sees a girl in a red coat. Although the entire layout is black and white, the little girl’s red coat stands out. This signifies the innocence that is being killed off due to the war. She is alone and looking for a way out but also in a sense calm. The chaos around her represents the corrupted government and the girl in the red coat represents the Jewish citizens that are just trying to escape the persecution they do not deserve. The character being a young girl represents the childlike aspect that is forced upon the prisoners when they are sought after. This is a realization for Schindler of the innocence that stands in the soul of the prisoners. The German Jewish citizens are mortified by the soldiers that are forcing them out of homes. It is easy to see that the Jewish civilians have the Star of David around their arms to signify their existence as a bug. They were called “subhuman” and “Jewpig.” These terms represent that “they are not really human, so they will not feel the pain,” which enables the soldiers to easily murder the innocent souls (2).

It is through Schindler, and I’m sure other soldiers as well, that they realize the brain wash they have soaked in. The slur and derogatory terms that follow these people help accommodate those who are uncertain with what they are doing. This again makes what they are doing seem justifiable because they know that no rightful man would kill another innocent man. For the Germans, they can be thankful for their slang that allowed them to “call their enemies by names that make them seem not quite human,” (1). Without that, I’m sure they would go mad.

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4 comments

  1. livymelberg · September 17, 2015

    I went to a concentration camp in north Germany last year. It is one of the saddest experiences of my life. I think words can really have an effect. 😦

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  2. jayktilly · September 17, 2015

    It’s unbelievable to see how many Germans and German soldiers were brainwashed by the Nazi regime into thinking they need to exterminate Jews and other undesirables. The derogatory words and phrases used carried such a negative power with them that they managed to create a regime based on mass genocide.

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  3. meghanrogers7 · September 19, 2015

    It’s terrible to see how words can change the demeanor on how you see an individual. To label them into one specific group or category before even getting to know them. All of this has arose from society and how picky certain industries are towards individuals.

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  4. chrisimpson · September 21, 2015

    It’s amazing to think about what was going on in the concentration camps. We never really get to fully understand how troubled the outside world is because America is almost a Utopia compared third-world countries and corrupt areas. The fact that things like concentration camps actually happened is almost too much to even handle. I couldn’t imagine being Schindler and watching the terror that was happening in front of him.

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