Thursday, March 12, 2015

Official Style in the Holocaust

            In “The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric Technology, and the Holocaust” by Steven Katz, Katz not only brings to light the ways in which the ‘Official Style’ is utilized within ‘Official’ documents, but he also emphasizes the importance and lack of ethics that are often overlooked within these documents.  In Katz article, Katz analyzes a memo that was written during the time of the Holocaust that allows us to understand how the ‘Official Style’ can conceal and overlook important information.  Before Katz begins his analysis, he allows us to read the original document his article is based on.  “For easy cleaning of the vehicle, there must be a sealed drain in the middle of the floor.  The drainage hole’s cover, eight to twelve inches in diameter, would be equipped with a slanting trap, so that fluid liquids can drain off during the operation.  During cleaning, the drain can be used to evacuate large pieces of dirt” (Katz 184).  The issue of this excerpt isn’t whether or not it uses the elements of the ‘Official Style’, but how it uses the elements of the ‘Official Style’ to affect its readers.
            By incorporating elements of the ‘Official Style’ into his memo, Just not only blinds the readers of the true motives behind his memo, but also eliminates the emotional attachment linked with the given situation.  “…it has been observed that when the doors are shut, the load always presses hard against them as soon as darkness sets in.  This is because the load naturally rushes toward the light when darkness sets in, which makes closing the doors difficult” (184).  Through this passage, we are able to identify some of the ‘Official Style’ elements Just makes use of.  By applying complex sentences, skotison, an impersonal voice, and verbose, Just creates a technically sound and credible memo.  However, by using elements of the ‘Official Style’, Just disregards the importance of ethics.  It is only when Katz analyzes Just’s memo that we come to the realization of the horror Just’s memo is built upon.  “In this memo, the writer, Just, attempts to persuade his superior, Walter Rauff, of the necessity for technical improvements to the vans being used in the early Nazi program of exterminating the Jews and other ‘undesirables’” (184).  Katz analysis allows us to comprehend the true motives of Just’s document.  However, like Just, Katz himself utilizes the ‘Official Style’.
            When making use of the ‘Official Style’, Katz does so to clarify the message Just encrypts within his document.  “…this is not the problem with this memo.  In fact, given the subject matter, we might wish to claim that this memo is too technical, too logical.  The writer shows no concern that the purpose of his memo is the modification of vehicles not only to improve efficiency, but also to exterminate people” (185).  Comparing and contrasting Just’s memo to Katz analysis of Just’s memo, there is a clear distinction between the ways in which the ‘Official Style’ is used and the impact they have on their audiences.
By writing a technical document with elements of the ‘Official Style’, Just is able to shape the way his readers initially interpret his memo.  Just’s memo is expressed as “an almost perfect document” (184) by Katz.  However, through Just’s memo “…expediency and the resulting ethos of objectivity, logic, and narrow focus that characterize most technical writing, are taken to extremes and applied to the mass destruction of human beings” (185).  By making use of the ‘Official Style’ Just is able to hide the true meanings and purpose of his memo.  Just also misguides his audience to be unemotionally attached to the contents of his memo and, therefore, unashamed for accepting such a proposal.
Katz expresses to us how using the ‘Official Style’ can heavily impact the way messages are interpreted through texts.  He states “This ‘ethos of expediency’ can be seen in the style of Just’s memo, particularly the euphemisms and metaphors used to denote, objectify, and conceal process and people—‘observations,’ ‘load,’ ‘pieces,’ ‘operating time,’ ‘merchandise,’ ‘packed solid,’ ‘fluid liquid,’ ‘large pieces of dirt’—as well as use of figures in speech such as ellipsis…and litotes” (185).  When making use of the term ‘load’, Katz translates Just’s usage of this term and allows us to understand what the term actually stands for: people.  This is when we come to the realization that Just’s document is, not only ‘Official’, but unethical as well.

Just’s memo was written in the ‘Official Style’ to accomplish the purpose of his job: to improve vans used to exterminate Jews.  Just uses the ‘Official Style’ to mask the true intentions of his memo and to create an emotional disconnect with his readers.  Unlike Just, Katz uses the ‘Official Style’ in his own text to decrypt the meaning behind Just’s memo and to bring to light how the lack of ethics and understanding of a text can heavily impact its reader’s initial interpretations.   Katz and Just are examples of authors who can use the ‘Official Style’ to convey different messages.  The difference between Katz’s and Just’s texts also gives us insight about how the ‘Official Style’ can be used for good or bad intentions.   Although both Katz and Just make use of the ‘Official Style’ within their texts in different ways, both texts are similar in the fact that the ‘Official Style’ limits the accessibility of both their works.

Sapphire S.

No comments:

Post a Comment