Writing my grandfather’s story is going to mean writing about the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1920’s.
The word “Nazi” is loaded — for good reason. It’s what call the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP.) The Nazis are responsible for the murder of over 6 million Jews, a war that killed another 50 to 80 million people, and shaped the world in ways that still affect us today. It’s hard to list all the bad they caused because it’s easy to leave something out and offend someone. We should think twice when we refer to them and when we use their name to describe others.
But that’s what makes the word so hard to use now: it’s been diminished via overuse. It appears so often online there’s an adage about the inevitably of it being used to describe someone.
The word has been in very heavy use the past couple of years to describe our current President, political opponents from both parties, and at least of two of the current candidates.
In none of these cases is the word deserved. It’s pure hyperbole. Doing and saying things you don’t like doesn’t make someone a genocidal fascist (or even a non-genocidal fascist) it’s makes them someone who does things you don’t like.
Yes, Trump seems to have the potential, but right now that’s all it is. He’s still just a reality TV star that knows how to work an audience. That is a little scary but he’s not a dictator yet, and there is a difference between a garden-variety racist and a genocidal dictator.
My dilemma is this: I’m going to have to refer to members of the NSDAP and their party affiliation. Sometimes it will be in a character’s dialogue and the word “Nazi” will fit: it was still used as a word to insult NSDAP members then. Other times I will need to refer to the party in “neutral narration” or in this blog. What name do I use?
Which terms fits? Does the work Nazi generate more heat than light? What do you think?
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