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German dictionary changes definition of ‘Jew’ after outcry

FILE -  In this June 19, 1938 file picture, the word Jude (Jew) is smeared on the windows of a shop in Berlin run by Jews.  (AP Photo)
FILE - In this June 19, 1938 file picture, the word Jude (Jew) is smeared on the windows of a shop in Berlin run by Jews. (AP Photo)

The leading dictionary of standard German changes its definition of Jew, or “Jude” in German, after a recent update caused an uproar in the country’s Jewish community — a move reflecting the sensitivities that persist eight decades after the Holocaust.

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

This explanation led to an outcry from leading Jewish groups and individuals who stressed that identifying themselves or being called Jews is not discriminatory, in contrast to what Duden’s definition implied.

The publisher of Duden reacts to the criticism and updates its definition again to reflect the Jewish community’s protests.

“Because of their antisemitic use in history and in the present, especially during the Nazi era, the words Jew/Jewess have been debated… for decades,” it now says on the dictionary’s website. “At the same time, the words are widely used as a matter of course and are not perceived as problematic. The Central Council of Jews in Germany, which has the term itself in its name, is in favor of its use.”

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