Germany to wipe Nazi traces from phonetic alphabet

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Image caption,
This phonetic alphabet used for decades is to be changed

Germany is to revamp its phonetic alphabet to remove words added by the Nazis.

Before the Nazi dictatorship some Jewish names were used in the phonetic alphabet - such as "D for David", "N for Nathan" and "Z for Zacharias".

But the Nazis replaced these with Dora, North Pole and Zeppelin, and their use has since continued with most Germans unaware of their anti-Semitic origin.

Experts are working on new terms, to be put to the public and adopted in 2022.

The initiative sprang from Michael Blume, in charge of fighting anti-Semitism in the state of Baden-Württemberg, backed by the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

The job of devising new terms for the problematic letters is now in the hands of the German Institute for Standardization (DIN).

The commonly-used equivalent in the UK is the Nato phonetic alphabet, with terms such as "F for Foxtrot, T for Tango". But many English speakers also use terms like "D for Dennis, S for Sugar" on the phone.

Sensitive choices

In order to preserve the memory of the anti-Semitic list, it will be presented as an annex to the new list to be put to a public consultation next year. After that discussion, the new German list is to be adopted in late 2022.

DIN spokesman Julian Pinnig said choosing new personal names would be more problematic than German town or city names, because the choice of personal names might not reflect the nation's ethnic diversity today.

Other Jewish names removed by the Nazis in 1934 were "Jacob" for the letter "J" and "Samuel" for "S", which became "Julius" and "Siegfried".

A few Nazi references were, however, replaced after World War Two, such as "Ypres" for "Y", which became "Ypsilon" - originally representing the Greek letter pronounced "U" and later the Latin letter "Y". Ypres was notoriously the battle where the Germans first used poison gas in World War One.

"Nordpol" (North Pole) retains echoes of Nazism, however. Adolf Hitler's ideology rested on the bogus superiority of a mythical northern Aryan race.

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Media caption,
Nazi era films screened in Berlin