Have you noticed that when translating English to German, the German version always seems much longer and the words are endless?

Sippenhaft is a German word, and it has the opposite effect. It’s an evil word for an evil concept, and I am actually amazed that it exists at all.

Sippe means “extended family” and haft means “imprisonment.” Sippenhaft therefore means “imprisonment of the extended family.”

When someone committed a crime under the Nazi regime that they felt threatened them, they invoked this concept. One such offense was the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler.

Presumably to create strong disincentives against threatening “crimes” against the regime, Sippenhaft was practiced. They simply arrested the offender, his family and children, often his parents, siblings, cousins, anyone in the extended family, and hauled them off to concentration camps – or worse.

Knowing that failure of any plot would result not only in severe punishment of oneself, but particularly one’s loved ones probably squashed many an attempt.

And thus dictators, once they get to power, are very hard to unseat.

Sippenhaft – a German word you really didn’t want to know.

One thought on “Sippenhaft

  1. I had a long apposite post written and by human error I deleted it. Gist of it? When present-day, so-called democratic governments feel exposed and vulnerable, these effective practices will be used openly, as in the Greenwald case. What threats are being used covertly we don’t know…yet. I suspect there are more whistles out there waiting to blow.

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