Dictionary book

After outcry, German dictionary changes definition of ‘Jew’

The main dictionary of standard German has changed its definition of Jew, or “Jude” in German, after a recent update sparked an outcry in the country’s Jewish community

BERLIN — The main dictionary of standard German has changed its definition of Jew, or “Jude” in German, after a recent update caused uproar in the country’s Jewish community – a move reflecting lingering sensitivities eight decades after the Holocaust.

The Duden Dictionary had recently added an explanation to its online edition saying that “sometimes the term Jew is perceived as discriminatory due to memory of National Socialist use of language. In these cases, formulations such as Jewish people, Jewish fellow citizens or persons of the Jewish faith are generally chosen”.

This explanation caused an outcry from prominent Jewish groups and individuals who pointed out that identifying or being called Jewish is not discriminatory, contrary to what Duden’s definition implied.

The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Joseph Schuster, said last week that for him the word “Jew” is neither a dirty word nor discriminatory.

“Even if ‘Jew’ is used pejoratively in schoolyards or only hesitantly by some people, and Duden’s editors are certainly well-meaning in emphasizing this context, every effort should be made to avoid solidifying the term as discriminatory,” Schuster said.

The Executive Director of the Central Council of Jews, Daniel Botman, wrote on Twitter “Is it correct to say Jew? Yes! Please don’t say “fellow Jews” or “persons of the Jewish faith”. Just JEWS. Thank you!”

Duden’s publisher responded to the criticism and updated its definition again on Monday to reflect input from the Jewish community.

“Because of their anti-Semitic use in history and in the present day, particularly during the Nazi era, the words Jew/Jew have been debated…for decades,” the site’s entry now reads. Dictionary web. “At the same time, the words are widely used as a no-brainer and are not seen as problematic. The Central Council of Jews in Germany, which has the term itself in its name, supports its use.

During the Third Reich, the German Nazis and their henchmen murdered 6 million European Jews. After the end of World War II, the once thriving German Jewish community of some 600,000 had shrunk to 15,000.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, approximately 200,000 Jews from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics immigrated to Germany, bringing new Jewish life to the country.