Did the Nazis do only Dutzen (calling people you instead of more formal thou)


I am from the Netherlands and was wondering about the following. Some historians told me that the Nazi’s spoke to eachother with the informal “Du” in situations were they today would use the more formal “Sie”. I would totally not expect that because of there hierarchal nature.

This doesn’t really translate well to English were everyone including the queen is you I assume. In Dutch with have a distinction as “jij” for the informal “Du” and the formal “Sie”. Spanish and French have there own versions.

In the Netherlands we now use the informal “Jij/Du”. This really started after World War 2/1960s as “everyone is equal” . To put it bluntly some of us including me get a bit “allergic” when the more formal sounding “Sie” etc. is used in the German language as it seems like a “authority” thing. In the Netherlands people including me were inclined to think that this “hierarchal way of speaking” probably is another cause why the Nazi’s managed to more easily get power than say the more “anarchistic” us Du/Jij speakers.

Any information is most welcome.

Best Regards,

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In his book on the Fall of Berlin, Beevor mentions that Himmler allowed Fegelein to address him as ‘du’, but I’ve not seen anything else. Given that the SS in particular were very much sticklers for full titles including all the academic honorifics, I’d be surprised if the use of Du was widespread


As a German, I have never heard anything about this. Maybe inside the SA or SS there were certain groups who practiced this form of “egalitarianism”, but I can’t say anything for sure.


In english, “you” is the formal one, not “thou” which is the more familiar one (though mainly unused now)


Even most Native speakers of English with cursory knowledge or interest in the subject think that ‘thou’ used to be the formal second person. It was the informal and, I think ironically, for religion. It’s only use today is religious except for extremely rare places. Quakers and isolated places like Nantucket historically used ‘thou’ until recent decades, but I think even they only use ‘you’ today.


Well, I think I’m some parts of Yorkshire, you’ll still get ‘Tha’ used for the informal, which would derive from thou.

The use of thou in religion was deliberate. It was meant to denote a personal connection with God. This became misinterpreted, and led to thou being seen as the formal form