Germany is revamping its phonetic alphabet to remove words added by the Nazis.
The phonetic alphabet, in which words are assigned to each letter to aid with verbal communication, was altered in 1934 by the Nazis, who removed Jewish names as part of their plan to reject all Jews from German society.
Before the Nazis changed the alphabet, Jewish names were used in it, such as “D for David”, “N for Nathan” and “Z for Zacharias”. The Nazis replaced these names with “Dora”, “Nordpol” (“North Pole”) and “Zeppelin”. Germany has continued to use these words since, with many unaware of their anti-Semitic origins.
Other Jewish names removed by the Nazis in 1934 were “Jacob” and “Samuel”, which became “Julius” and “Siegfried”.
After World War Two, a few Nazi references were removed and replaced, such as “Ypres” for “Y”, which became “Ypsilon”. Ypres was the first battle for poison gas to be used by the Germans in World War One.
A similar phonetic alphabetic is used in many other countries, including the UK, which uses the NATO system. This incorporates letters and words such as “B for Bravo”, “F for Foxtrot” and “T for Tango”. Some English speakers make up their own system for ease, using English names or objects instead, such as “C for Cat” or “T for Toby”.
The idea for change came from Michael Blume, the man in charge of fighting anti-Semitism in the state of Baden-Württemberg, backed by the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Since gaining support from Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, as well as several parties in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, the move is now in the hands of the German Institute for Standardization (DIN).
These experts are working on new terms, with aims for them to be put out to the public and adopted in 2022.
Julian Pinnig, a spokesman for DIN, 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.
In order to preserve the memory of the original list, it will be presented as an annex to the new list. This will then be presented to a public consultation next year.
The new phonetic alphabet should be adopted in Germany by late 2022.