Word of the Week: Kaderschmiede

Oct 12, 2012

Every Friday, Germany.info and The Week in Germany highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.


A metalsmith at work Enlarge image A metalsmith at work (© picture-alliance/Arco Images GmbH) A "Kaderschmiede" is a place where talented individuals study and hone their craft in a specific field or discipline, such as a famous elite school that produces top brass business, political or military leaders.

This word, which has no plural form and is primarily used as a figure of speech, is based on "Kader" - derived from the French "quadre" or "cadre" - that was originally used in German to describe a specialized military unit or group of military leaders. Today, however, it is more commonly used to describe specifically trained managers in industry or top policymakers who are recruited within specific organizations.

A "Schmiede" meanwhile refers to a smithy, and a "Schmied" is a smith. So a "Kaderschmiede" is a place - usually a top university - that produces powerful elites. Similarly to top universities or academies, the expression "Kader" is also used in the world of sports, and top sports universities and military sports facilities are also often referred to as "Kaderschmieden."

Sometimes the origin of this expression is attributed to the Cold War era eastern bloc (Ostblock) countries, where "Parteikader" (party elites) studied at special Communist Party schools. But there are also many well-documented references to this expression in western literature.

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