I had asked whether "Front der Lumpen aufzurollen" is an idiom and whether the correct translation is: "to unravel the solid line"? You asked for more context - here it is:

Max was a refugee from Vienna, in Shanghai during WWII, and was falsely accused of collaborating with the Japanese. In his bitter description to his brother, of the conspiracies against him, Max wrote: "Nur ein grober Fehler der Verleumder ermoeglichte es mir, die Front der Lumpen aufzurollen."

My question is whether the last German words of the sentence have been translated correctly: Only a crass mistake on the part of my slanderers made it possible for me to unravel the solid line of these worthless bastards."

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is missing context. The phrase itself doesn't have any concise meaning in German language. Mar 12, 2019 at 23:14
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    Lumpen are rags and it's a common insult on people of other radical political opinions. It may mean Nazis or Communists, depending on who said it. The picture of eine Front aufrollen is to create a moving counterfront as in rolling up a carpet.
    – Janka
    Mar 12, 2019 at 23:30
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    Would you please edit your post and as the context? If this is an idiom, I guess it's rare or outdated. Therefore, more context would help us to check your translation.
    – Arsak
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:24
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    @Janka, I do not think that Lump generally has a political connotation.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 13, 2019 at 8:03
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    @P. Jellinek, I edited your question: upvotes and accepted answers are our method here to thank people and we see that a question is updated, so it doesn't need to be added to the title.
    – Iris
    Mar 15, 2019 at 7:35

1 Answer 1


Update after more context was added:

Die Front der Lumpen aufrollen

is not a commonly used idiom in the German language. You have to take it apart and analyse its components: see the old part of my answer for this.

Is this translation accurate?

a. Nur ein grober Fehler der Verleumder ermöglichte es mir, die Front der Lumpen aufzurollen.

b. Only a crass mistake on the part of my slanderers made it possible for me to unravel the solid line of these worthless bastards.

Judging from the context you added, I assume a political context (see also Janka’s comment).

The sentence is problematic because the wording in German is unusual / unidiomatic. It seems to me that the image chosen by the writer of the letter does not quite fit what he wanted to express, but I can’t be sure. That makes translating it difficult. I assume, the author wants to express that he uncovered who was behind the conspiracy, but the German expression implies that he also took action in some way, restoring his reputation (or to a similar effect).

As to your translation:
There’s no solid in the German sentence (a front may be solid, but not if used figuratively), and worthless bastards seems too strong. But you can make up your own opinion whether your phrasing fits the intended style.

Old answer:

Without further context, I assume that the situation described in the letter means something like this:

There are two (or more) groups of people. The writer of the letter belongs to one of the groups. His group plans to take some sort of action against the other group. This may be violent or nonviolent.

For an actual translation, more context is needed.


The partial sentence

Front der Lumpen aufzurollen

lacks context. It is thus hard to tell its meaning, but we can analyse the structure:

eine Front aufrollen

is actually a fixed expression: aufrollen is quite often used in combination with Front. In the military sense (or in the sense of violent conflicts of groups), it means

von der Seite her angreifen und zum Weichen bringen (DWDS)

This is to say:

attack an enemy line from the side to cause retreat [or to make a break through].

It is also used figuratively for other situations, such as non-military or nonviolent conflicts.

This expression does not have the same meaning as the verb aufrollen alone, which just means to coil or unfurl sth. or, figuratively, to treat sth. again (discussion, case at court etc.).

Lumpen (sg. Lump) means (Grimm):

gewöhnlich in der bedeutung eines in abgerissener kleidung einhergehenden, daher armseligen, erbärmlichen menschen, zugleich von niedriger gesinnung;

Lumpen are rags, but it is also derogatorily used to denote people of lower class (because they don’t own anything but rags; see Lumpenproletariat on Wikipedia: the underclass devoid of class consciousness). It is also very generically used for people the writer doesn’t like. »Du Lump!« could be translated as »You scoundrel!«


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