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German Wiedergutmachung (Reparations) Posted by on Aug 21, 2019 in Culture, History, Language

Guten Tag! Today we’re looking at the word die Wiedergutmachung.

Image via Pixabay

In 1953, the German government agreed to pay reparations to Holocaust survivors following World War II. This included anyone who was directly victimised by the Nazis in any way (it did not, however, include relatives/descendants of those people, for example). That is what the word die Wiedergutmachung means: reparation.

The word Wiedergutmachung is a bit of a handful, so let’s break it down:

wieder = again
gut = good
machung = from the verb machen: ‘to make’

So Wiedergutmachung literally means ‘again good make’.

Following the war, many Germans felt (and many still do feel) shame and guilt over the abhorrent actions of the Nazi party towards the Jewish people, and agreed that reparations should be paid to them. There is a term for this feeling of guilt: die Vergangenheitsbewältigung. You can read about it in this post here.

However, it is worth noting that Wiedergutmachung does not just refer to reparations made in money, nor does it only refer to the reparations made following WWII. In fact, there is a separate word for when talking specifically about money: das Wiedergutmachungsgeld! Literally ‘the make good again money’, where the word das Geld means money in German.

So as it does not necessarily involve money, Wiedergutmachung can simply refer to a way of making things good again. For example:

Zur Wiedergutmachung versprach er ihr, am nächsten Tag den Rasen zu mähen.
To make it up to her, he promised to mow the lawn the following day.

Although it is a multi-purpose word, the term Wiedergutmachung is so closely linked to the post-WWII reparations made to Nazi victims that this is often the first thing that springs to mind when people hear it (it’s also the first description that comes up when you type ‘Wiedergutmachung’ into a search engine).

There is an entire dictionary dedicated to words that have been ‘tainted’ by Nazism. The Wörterbuch der Vergangenheitsbewältigung – the ‘dictionary of coming to terms with the past’ – by Thorsten Eitz and Georg Stötzel is a publication examines around 1,000 German words and phrases with Nazi associations, and how they’ve changed and developed since the end of WWII. You can read about a handful of these words in this post here!

Bis bald! (See you soon!)


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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and love writing about German language and culture. I also work as a group fitness instructor and am training to be a personal trainer.