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Would answering "Jawohl" to an order or request be associated with Nazi Germany?

What about "Jawohl, mein Kommandant"? Can it be used (jokingly) without people finding it tasteless?

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  • Are you referring to this zeit.de/karriere/beruf/2011-06/arbeitsrecht-urteil-hitlergruss (German only)?
    – Debilski
    Jun 17, 2011 at 16:53
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    Apart from answering Jawohl, you may also hear this word in other cases, like if your favourite football team scores a goal, you may also shout something like „Jawohl! Da is' er drin!“
    – FUZxxl
    Jun 17, 2011 at 17:50
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    @FUZxxl: But then you probably have to say "Jawoll!", haven't you? Jun 17, 2011 at 19:54
  • 2
    Not to be confused with "Das sollte ich ja wohl machen."
    – bot47
    Mar 23, 2012 at 10:35
  • 3
    Does »Hi!« carry Hiroshima connotations?
    – Lumi
    Aug 8, 2014 at 9:17

8 Answers 8

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"Jawohl" is a normal German word, used as a strong affirmative. It doesn't have a specifically Nazi background, but one of its main uses has always been in the military, including the Wehrmacht.

Wiktionary says:

drückt unbedingte Zustimmung aus (expresses unconditional agreement)

Google NGram shows it has been in use during all times since 1800.

I'd say that its use in daily conversation, however, has declined. It has a slightly outdated touch to it in many contexts. Still, this is a valid example:

Wir werden sie finden, und zwar heute noch, jawohl!

The Wiktionary link (below) and the Google Book links in the NGram have more examples of the word's use throughout the ages.

In the military, as far as I know, it is the standard affirmative answer to a superior's command in the German military to this day — it made the transition from the Wehrmacht to today's Bundeswehr. Its closest English-language equivalent in that sense is "Aye!" or "Yessir!". It often gets colloquialized into "Jawoll".

I think the idea of a Nazi connotation has a simple explanation: Most plays, novels, films, and stories that deal with the German military are set in the Third Reich. You will hear "Jawoll!" in every one of them at least once.

Also, the phrase "Jawoll, mein Führer!" is still widely used in a sarcastic way, both in the English-speaking world and in Germany (and probably everywhere else around the globe).

"Jawohl" is always considered more formal than the familiar "Ja", which is for friends and acquaintances.

Related:

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  • 3
    I didn't do military service though - would somebody who did mind confirming that "Jawohl" is still in use in the Bundeswehr? What about Austria and Switzerland?
    – Pekka
    Jun 17, 2011 at 19:55
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    See also this article (in German) about a supermarket manager who was fired when he said "Jawohl, mein Führer" to his boss. Although he won in court and had to be rehired, the court stated that this action could have been grounds for termination in other circumstances. Nov 9, 2011 at 15:06
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    @bitmask I don't think you can draw that conclusion. The peak coincides with a major war that dominated daily life - including literature, periodicals, movies et cetera. Plus, the Nazis were obviously driving a very military-friendly culture that would put even more emphasis to that trend. I would say that's where the peak comes from, and it doesn't make the word a Nazi word
    – Pekka
    Mar 17, 2012 at 11:32
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    @Pekka, yes, it is still used in military service. To be clear: we had to use it! A normal "ja" would have ended in a lot of push-ups.
    – halirutan
    Aug 11, 2012 at 4:01
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    It's interesting to compare the ngrams for uncapitalized "jawohl" (often a tag ending for emphasis, as in the example sentence above) and "Jawohl" (capitalized, expressing strong agreement). The former is fairly flat, with a mild peak around 1945, but the latter peaks very strongly around 1945 after growing steadily from the start of WWI, and has steadily declined since, giving a totally different picture of usage patterns. Aug 30, 2012 at 5:21
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I wouldn't say it carries the "N-word" with it but it definitely has a military connotation to it. It is sometimes used ironically or tongue in cheek, like e.g.:

Kid: "Ich will ein Eis!"
Dad: "Jawohl! Kommt sofort." ;-)

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    Well, I would say that is a little bit too much... but it depends on the situation (and the daddy ;-)
    – vonjd
    Jun 17, 2011 at 14:47
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    +1, was about to write something similar. I had "Jawohl, mein Dauphin" from Jeanne d'Arc in mind, which is also kind of military of course, but definitely not Nazi Germany :) I think that just Jawohl itself does not carry military connotation, it may just feel kind of archaic, and is not limited to joking use. However, for everything you could say, there will be someone to find it tasteless. By the way, NGrams shows usage peaks around 1920 and 1945. Jun 17, 2011 at 15:17
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    I think it has a connotation similar to "wilco" (U.S. military jargon for "I understand and will comply.") Not necessarily agreement ("yes"), but more an acknowledgement combined with recognition that the speaker's agreement is neither necessary nor relevant.
    – Toby
    Jun 17, 2011 at 17:16
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    I would perhaps compare it to something like "Sir, yes sir!"
    – vonjd
    Jun 19, 2011 at 6:30
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    There is no "N-word" in German. Saying it like it is is a German trait. No need for abbreviations or pointless political correctness.
    – ssc
    Dec 19, 2012 at 23:47
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"Jawohl" is the more formal version of "Ja" used very commonly in the Bundeswehr without any connotation. It is also used as shorter version for "zu Befehl" (as you order / at your command) when accepting an order, which is rarely used nowadays.

Some examples in military context can be found here. As Germany has had general conscription for quite a while, it can stil be found in civilian life.

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  • Fact update: Wehrpflicht is no more.
    – Raphael
    Jun 12, 2014 at 5:59
  • I know, still you will find lots of people that "enjoyed" their service in the forces.
    – mbx
    Aug 7, 2014 at 21:41
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    @Raphael Germany is not the only German speaking country. Austria has recently voted to stick to conscription.
    – fNek
    Aug 10, 2014 at 10:07
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"Jawohl!" comes from a military context. It is the equivalent of "Yes, sir!".

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  • And it is likewise supposed to humble you into slavery! Oct 10, 2019 at 23:31
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I live in the south and I have never heard anyone say "Jawohl", except jokingly or to express uncommonly strong affirmation. It is more common in the north east, though (around Berlin).

I would never say "Jawohl, mein Kommandant" to people I don't know well, it feels like a quote from an American movie with fake Nazis.

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  • This 2nd expression is from the American TV show link Hogan's Heroes. The character Sgt Schultz link would say it to his commander.
    – Taterhead
    May 7, 2016 at 21:35
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As an American who lived in Germany (because I come from an Air Force background, but actually attended a small, local German school) I can affirm that saying "jawohl" does not carry any Nazi associations whatsoever. The word is simply a strong affirmative statement, close to when you hear what a friend is saying and say "yeah!" quickly in agreement. It is frequently used by uniformed personnel, but it is certainly not limited to them whatsoever.

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Jawohl is also used by the Polizei.

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We used to speak German in the military back in the days. Now we speak our own Danish language, with some extra military/global words and expressions. To a superior we respond by saying: “Javel Hr. Sergent” which means “Jawohl mein Kommandant”.

Jawohl is still used, in many of the European armys.

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