In Germany from 1933 until the deportations of Jews started, German Jews had to be very careful about what they said and wrote.
Not only did the Gestapo open and read mail to and from Jews, but they mingled in public, eavesdropping on everyone’s conversations for hints of complaints, dissent, or worse, from Jews and non-Jews alike.
German Jews had to learn to speak in code. A fellow Jew might be referred to as “a carton of cigarettes;” smuggled food might be called “birthday candles.”
The code words were endless, with the aim being to not give out any information that the Gestapo could use.
When German Jews wrote letters to friends and family outside the country, they had to be especially careful not to criticize the regime or complain about their conditions; such criticism, read by the Gestapo, would lead to arrest and torture.
So instead, their letters described things as the exact opposite what they were, e.g., “The government treats us well; our synagogues are not molested; we can roam the streets freely; our businesses are prospering.” And they would sign the letters, “Moishe Kapoyr.”
“Moishe Kapoyr” is a Yiddish expression that means “opposite.” When referring to a person, it means the person is “contrary,” who does the “opposite” of what should be done in a given situation.
When signed at the bottom of these letters, it was a signal: “Everything I wrote here is exactly the opposite of the truth.”
By writing the opposite of the truth, the Jews of Germany got their message across while avoiding censorship and punishment… until, of course, things got much worse.
It’s a strategy to keep in mind when you post on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter — where, of course, there is no censorship. Moishe Kapoyr.