So I am assuming the following sign is trying to tell us that using the path in question is at your own risk and that your forbidden from using it when there is snow or ice:

Warning Sign from Heeresbauverwaltung Ost

But wouldn’t the text of the sign also allow for the interpretation that it is always forbidden from using the path? Or does deshalb always imply that something only applies in a particular case? In other words would adding in dem Fall have been more explicit, but was rendered unnecessary by deshalb?

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    Zoidberg's thoughts Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 17:38
  • Location of this sign for anyone who wants to visit this marvel: goo.gl/maps/JuwStLqFaMhsZNPGA
    – phk
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 19:22
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    This sign makes no sense. It says that using the path is forbidden because it's not maintained in case of snow and ice. But as written it doesn't say that it's only forbidden in the winter. Taken at face value you would never be allowed to use that path. And then there is of course the common non-sequitor of something being forbidden but also at own risk. But that might be a legal thing (when you injure yourself while doing something forbidden, you might still be able to sue the person who did not tell you you would violate their rules "at own risk").
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 15:11
  • They guy who penned the text just wasn´t very good at writing.
    – Karl
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 11:17
  • Well spotted! Nobel Prize for Literature will no be awarded to this author. Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 10:56

5 Answers 5


But wouldn't the text of the sign also allow for the interpretation that one is always forbidden from using the path?

Yes. It doesn't just allow for that interpretation. That's actually exactly what's written there.

Or does "deshalb" always imply that something only applies in a particular case?

No. Deshalb refers to a reason that was given before. Here it just doesn't make sense, that using the path is (always) forbidden just because in case of snow or glaze it won't be cleaned or sanded.

In other words adding "in dem Fall" would have be more explicit but unnecessary because of the "deshalb"?

No. Adding in dem Fall would at least add some sense to the deshalb part. All together the text would still be nonsense since something is either forbidden or one can use it at one's own risk.

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    There’s also the language independent point that a sign that is supposed to transport a message shouldn’t waste half of its space with an irrelevant reasoning. You want to forbid the use of the way? Just say that. Adding a reason leads precisely to what we see here, confusion about whether it is always forbidden, as the sentences say, or only when there is snow or ice, as the declared reason suggests. Then “and use on your own risk” is just another weakening of the prohibition. Plus “they didn’t build the way, if they really didn’t want it to be used”.
    – Holger
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 9:33

The text on this sign seems quite "lawyer-ish" to me. It basically says, "It's forbidden to use the path, and if you still use it and get hurt, you can't hold us liable". The "deshalb" refers to the first sentence and actually does mean something like "therefore" or "because of that":


This path won't be cleaned or sanded in case it's covered with snow. Therefore, its use is forbidden and is done at one's own peril.

Army Building Administration, East Section

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    That doesn't answer the question. Also I don't think that a lawyer would bother to explicitly explain that you can't hold someone else liable for any harm resulting from you breaking the law. That's not "lawyer-ish". It's just nonsense.
    – Olafant
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 19:29
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    There have been enough cases of land owners being held liable for accidents that happens to trespassers of prohibition signs, barriers, or fences. IIUC, this requires negligience of the owner and the way being in public use (I'm mostly thinking of hiking paths etc. here). Just writing that trespassing happens "auf eigene Gefahr" does not change the actual liabilities in law. But by explicitely forbidding the use from the beginning, you might prevent the way from being considered "public", and then not keeping an unused private way snow-free is not negligience. (IANAL, but so I'd argue). Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 7:58
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    (That is, I don't quite agree that this will hold, but I can see where the thinking comes from.) Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 8:00

The sign -- as written -- makes no sense at all. Either using it is forbidden, or is allowed at own risk. Both are mutually exclusive, and a native speaker I can't imagine any meaning of "deshalb" that would make sense in this context. I would interpret it as meaning you should use the path at own risk, with a lengthy elaboration as to the nature of the risk.

There is no hidden meaning behind "deshalb". Its just an utterly awful sign.

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    @userunknown In that case, "Kein Winterdienst. Betreten verboten. Keine Haftung." would have been a much more clear and concise sign. As it stands, I don't agree with your interpretation. Its an awful sign, period.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 7:28
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    Erfolgt does not mean is allowed. Therefore, there is no contradiction; at worst, there is redundancy. The question is why mentioning liability (auf eigene Gefahr) is relevant when entry is forbidden. As @userunknown has pointed out, a sign that says entry prohibited will not absolutely absolve the responsible party from the duty to ensure safety.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 12:22
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    You wrote allowed at own risk. The sign says nothing about allowing.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 12:42
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    @DavidVogt And that is why the sign is bad, because that is your interpretation, which I have repeatedly stated that I disagree with. Either something is forbidden, or it is an activity I can do at own risk (= it is allowed if I accept the risk). As written, in plain german, the sign simply doesn't have any sensible meaning without further interpretation of what it might mean.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 12:46
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    "auf eigene Gefahr" impliziert nicht "auf eigene Gefahr erlaubt", in diesem Fall impliziert es "widerrechtliches Betreten auf eigene Gefahr" oder etwas in die Richtung.
    – Nobody
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 13:11

The text on the sign consists of two sentences and a signature. Sentence 1 says:

This path will not be cleaned when there is snow and will not be gritted on black ice.

This is an information about the habits of the owners of this path. Knowing this fact is without any consequences for the reader. It is just a neutral information.

Sentence 2 itself also consists of more than one part:

Die Benützung ist verboten.
Use is prohibited.

This is clear: You are not allowed to use this path.

But there also is the word deshalb which means therefore or for this reason:

Die Benützung ist deshalb verboten.
Therefore use is prohibited.

This word just informs you about the reason why this prohibition exists. It does not transform the prohibition itself. This reason is what is said in sentence 1, but in fact it doesn't really matter why it is forbidden to use this path. It still is forbidden. It is forbidden without any exceptions, i.e. for everybody, at any time and under all circumstances, including warm summer weather.

The second part of sentence 2 says:

Use at your own risk.

This means: You can't blame anybody else but yourself if something bad happens to you when you use this path. For example: When you walk there on a warm summer day and from a rotten tree breaks down a branch while you pass under it, hits you and breaks your arm, then it's your fault.

But this second part is superfluous, because using this path is forbidden anyway. It is like if you break in a house to steal something. This also is forbidden. If you stumble over a carpet you didn't see and break your leg you also can't blame the owner of the house.

All in all this sign contains lots of nonsense. But still the intention is clear: If you use this path when there is snow or black ice, you do it at your own risk.

This is a better text:

Dieser Weg wird im Winter nicht geräumt und nicht bestreut. Bei Schneelage und Glatteis erfolgt die Benützung daher auf eigene Gefahr.

This path will not be cleaned or gritted in the winter. Therefore when there is snow or black ice use is at your own risk.


"Use is therefore forbidden and occurs at your own risk." Seems rather clear to me. You must not use this path (in winter), and if you do, don't blame us!

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    No! The usage of the path is always forbidden, not only in the winter. The reason why it is forbidden at any time is the fact, that it won't be cleaned or sanded if it's covered with snow. But still it is also forbidden to use the path if there is no snow. In fact this makes no sense, and presumably was not intended by the authors, but this still is exactly the meaning of the text on the sign. Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 5:16

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