El más urgente de los problemas de nuestra época (ya denunciado con profética lucidez por el casi olvidado Spencer) es la gradual intromisión del Estado en los actos del individuo; en la lucha con ese mal, cuyos nombres son comunismo y nazismo, el individualismo argentino, acaso inútil o perjudicial hasta ahora, encontrará justificación y deberes.
Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Nuestro pobre individualismo’, in Otras inquisiciones, Buenos Aires, 1952
The Russians ran the eastern parts of Germany directly until the German Democratic Republic was established as a satellite state of the USSR in 1949. Production was nationalised, factories and property turned over to the state, health care, rent and food were subsidised. One-party rule was established with an all-powerful secret service to back it up. And the Russians, having refused the offer of American capital, plundered East German production for themselves.
They stripped factories of plant and equipment which they sent back to the USSR. At the same time, they required a rhetoric of ‘Communist brotherhood’ from the East Germans whom they had ‘liberated’ from fascism. Whatever their personal histories and private allegiances, the people living in this zone had to switch from being (rhetorically, at the very least) Nazis one day to being Communists and brothers with their former enemies the next.
And almost overnight the Germans in the eastern states were made, or made themselves, innocent of Nazism. It seemed as if they actually believed that Nazis had come from and returned to the western parts of Germany, and were somehow separate from them—which was in no way true. History was so quickly remade, and so successfully, that it can truly be said that the easterners did not feel then, and do not feel now, that they were the same Germans as those responsible for Hitler’s regime. This sleight-of-history must rank as one of the most extraordinary innocence manoeuvres of the century.
Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, New York, 2002, p. 161
Furthermore, all correspondence referring to the matter was subject to rigid “language rules,” and, except in the reports from the Einsatzgruppen, it is rare to find documents in which such bald words as “extermination,” “liquidation,” or “killing” occur. The prescribed code names for killing were “final solution,” “evacuation” (Aussiedlung), and “special treatment” (Sonder-behandlung); deportation—unless it involved Jews directed to Theresienstadt, the “old people’s ghetto” for privileged Jews, in which case it was called “change of residence”—received the names of “resettlement” (Umsiedlung) and “labor in the East” (Arbeitseinsatz im Osteri), the point of these latter names being that Jews were indeed often temporarily resettled in ghettos and that a certain percentage of them were temporarily used for labor. Under special circumstances, slight changes in the language rules became necessary. Thus, for instance, a high official in the Foreign Office once proposed that in all correspondence with the Vatican the killing of Jews be called the “radical solution”; this was ingenious, because the Catholic puppet government of Slovakia, with which the Vatican had intervened, had not been, in the view of the Nazis, “radical enough” in its anti-Jewish legislation, having committed the “basic error” of excluding baptized Jews. Only among themselves could the “bearers of secrets” talk in uncoded language, and it is very unlikely that they did so in the ordinary pursuit of their murderous duties—certainly not in the presence of their stenographers and other office personnel. For whatever other reasons the language rules may have been devised, they proved of enormous help in the maintenance of order and sanity in the various widely diversified services whose cooperation was essential in this matter. Moreover, the very term “language rule” (Sprachregelung) was itself a code name; it meant what in ordinary language would be called a lie. For when a “bearer of secrets” was sent to meet someone from the outside world—as when Eichmann was sent to show the Theresienstadt ghetto to International Red Cross representatives from Switzerland—he received, together with his orders, his “language rule,” which in this instance consisted of a lie about a nonexistent typhus epidemic in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, which the gentlemen also wished to visit. The net effect of this language system was not to keep these people ignorant of what they were doing, but to prevent them from equating it with their old, “normal” knowledge of murder and lies. Eichmann’s great susceptibility to catch words and stock phrases, combined with his incapacity for ordinary speech, made him, of course, an ideal subject for “language rules.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, New York, 1964, pp. 85-86