The term is almost 100 years old, first used by the Klansman Lothrop Stoddard in 1922 and then subsequently adopted by the Nazis.
It means subhuman, or literally “under man.”
It was used to describe those whom the Nazis deemed lesser beings, whose sole value in life was to be terminated or worked as slaves.
In an earlier post (It’s in the Blood), I mentioned the remarkable words of one Menno Simons who described this devaluation of others and how our doing so has a direct correlation with our willingness to kill said others.
Menno penned those words in 1539, long before Stoddard or the Nazis laid the foundation in language for the systemic slaughter of those whose blood to them was of “well-nigh equal value” to swine’s blood.
Such devaluation has been happening since Cain and Abel. In every case, the end result is death, whether physical or otherwise.
In this day and age of 24/7 social media and talking heads, we would be wise to watch our words. And even more so, to be vigilant in avoiding the realm of thinking of another as less than a precious child of God, who loves each and every one of us with an equal and uninhibited love.
In the eyes of God, no one, let me repeat, no one is “untermensch.”
Nor is a specific group of people “animals,” the term so recently used by a certain person in a position of power. Such a description is merely the wicked lie of the “untermensch” raising its ugly head.
And let’s be clear. It is a lie. It is also very wicked.
As is the old adage;
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
Perhaps not physically, but they lay the foundation for such. Anyone who has lived upon this earth for any length of time knows the incredible hurt that can be caused by someone’s words. Or how words can become the catalyst for genocide.
We know the power of words. We can speak death words or life words. We can curse. Or we can bless.
One way of speaking is life-giving. It gives value to the other, whoever they may be. It lays the groundwork for mutual honor and respect.
The other way, the putting down of the other with the language of the “untermensch,” is just as evil in 2018 as it was in Genesis, in 1539, or in 1939.
Whether it leads to physical death or not, such speech is the Zyklon B for our collective soul.