Revived Nazi-era term 'Luegenpresse' is German non-word of year

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German linguists’ panel has chosen a Nazi-era term “Luegenpresse” (lying press), which anti-immigrant protesters have revived and shouted at the media, as the country’s non-word of the year.

Protesters take part in an anti-racism demonstration against the anti-immigration movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) in Duesseldorf, January 12, 2015. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the demands - an end to multiculturalism - of the grassroots “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West” (PEGIDA) at weekly rallies as “reprehensible” and said her conservative-led government would use all constitutional means to fight intolerance.

“Luegenpresse”, first used in Germany by critics of the free press during World War One, earned the dubious “Unwort des Jahres” (Non-Word of the Year) honor in the eyes of a panel of experts out of 730 terms submitted by 1,250 contributors.

“‘Luegenpresse’ is a word contaminated by the Nazis,” said Nina Janich, a professor at the Technical University Darmstadt and head of the six-member jury that selects such terms each year from the submissions.

“It’s used deliberately in the PEGIDA movement to steer it against those (in the media) who criticize their movement.”

The announcement of the “Unwort des Jahres” is a major news item in Germany and holds a special resonance in a country whose language is filled with words and concepts tarnished to the point of taboo status by their use under the Nazi regime.

A record 25,000 anti-Islam protesters marched through the east city of Dresden on Monday, some holding banners with anti-immigrant slogans, in the largest such rally to date. They chanted “Luegenpresse, halt die Fresse” (Shut up, lying press)

However, nearly 100,000 people joined counter-demonstrations against racism in other marches across Germany. And the Dresden-based PEGIDA has drawn far less supporters in other cities.

The jury picked two other terms as runners-up: “enhanced interrogation techniques” (“erweiterte Verhoermethoden”) as a euphemism for “torture”, and “Russia apologist” (“Russland-Versteher”) that is often used as criticism of Germans who have defended Russia’s point of view in the Ukraine crisis.

Previous non-words of the year have included “Doener-Morde” (doener killings) in 2011, referring to a string of neo-Nazi killings of people of Turkish origin; and “alternativlos” (no alternatives), which Merkel used to refer to Berlin’s unpopular support for struggling euro zone states.

Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum