Michaela Wolf veröffentlicht Sammelband über das Dolmetschen in Konzentrationslagern

Interpreting in Nazi Concentration CampsIm Juli 2016 ist ein englischsprachiger Sammelband mit Aufsätzen zum Dolmetschen in Konzentrationslagern erschienen. Herausgeberin ist Ao. Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. phil. Michaela Wolf vom Institut für Theoretische und Angewandte Translationswissenschaft der Universität Graz.

Auf der Website des Bloomsbury-Verlags wird das Buch „Interpreting in Nazi Concentration Camps“ wie folgt beschrieben:

This significant new study is concerned with the role of interpreting in Nazi concentration camps, where prisoners were of 30 to 40 different nationalities. With German as the only official language in the lager, communication was vital to the prisoners‘ survival. While in the last few decades there has been extensive research on the language used by the camp inmates, investigation into the mediating role of interpreters between SS guards and prisoners on the one hand, and among inmates on the other, has been almost nonexistent.


On the basis of Primo Levi’s considerations on communication in the Nazi concentrationary system, this book investigates the ambivalent role of interpreting in the camps. One of the central questions is what the role of interpreting was in the wider context of shaping life in concentration camps. And in what way did the knowledge of languages, and accordingly, certain communication skills, contribute to the survival of concentration camp inmates and of the interpreting person? The main sources under investigation are both archive materials and survivors‘ memoirs and testimonials in various languages.


On a different level, Interpreting in Nazi Concentration Camps also asks in what way the study of communication in concentration camps enhances our understanding of the ambiguous role of interpreting in more general terms. And in what way does the study of interpreting in concentration camps shape an interpreting concept which can help us to better understand the violent nature of interpreting in contexts other than the Holocaust?

Table of contents

  • Introduction: Interpreting in Nazi Concentration Camps: Challenging the “Order of Terror”? (Michaela Wolf, University of Graz, Austria)

The Concentration Camp Universe

  • The Camp Society: Approaches to Social Structure and Ordinary Life in Nazi Concentration Camps (Alexander Prenninger, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Historical Social Research, Austria)
  • Translanguagers and the Concentrationary Universe (David Gramling, University of Arizona, USA)

Language Diversity in the Camps

  • Linguistic Terror in Nazi Concentration Camps: Lucien and Gilbert – Portraits of Two “Interpreters” (Heidi Aschenberg, University of Tübingen, Germany)
  • Lagersprache through the Lens of Primo Levi’s Essay on Translation: “Tradurre ed essere tradotti” (Zaia Alexander, Berlin, Germany)
  • On Translating and Being Translated (Primo Levi)

Interpreting in the Camps

  • “Someone whispered the translation in 100 languages, like a Babel…”: Interpreting in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp (Michaela Wolf, University of Graz, Austria)
  • Interpreters in the Concentration Camp of Majdanek (1941–1944) (Malgorzata Tryuk, University of Warsaw, Poland)
  • “Deaf Holocaust”: Deaf Jews and their “True” Communication in Nazi Concentration Camps (Mark Zaurov, University of Hamburg, Germany)

Translating the Legacy of the Holocaust

  • “L’écrit reste. L’écrit est une trace, tandis que les paroles s’envolent”: On the Hermeneutics of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs (Peter Kuon, University of Salzburg, Austria)
  • The Ambiguous Task of the Interpreter in Lanzmann’s Films Shoah and Sobibor: Between the Director and the Survivors of the Camps and Ghettos (Francine Kaufmann, Bar Ilan University, Israel)
  • The Illusion of “Authenticity”: The Translation of Video Testimonies with Survivors of National Socialist Terror for Use in Educational Work (Sylvia Degen, University of Aberystwyth, Wales)

Limits of Permeability

  • Interpreters in Soviet Prisoner-Of-War Camps: Beyond the “Unsayable”? (Viktor Milosevic, University of Graz, Austria)
  • Interpreting under Pressure: From Collaboration to Resistance (Piotr Kuhiwczak, British Red Cross)


“In this book Michaela Wolf brings together pioneering essays by an outstanding group of scholars conducting pioneering research on interpreting encounters within Nazi Concentration Camps. The contributors offer many insights, from the psychological ramifications upon interpreters practicing under the most horrific of conditions, thru prisoners translating themselves into the German language and culture for pragmatic reasons, to some of the hidden and whispered multilingual communication among inmates necessary for survival. Wide-ranging and innovative, looking at both the interpreting work during the war and its post-war repercussions, this book is a must for all students and scholars of translation and interpreting, as well as those in history, ethics, communication, and Holocaust studies.”
–  Edwin Gentzler, Professor of Translation Studies and Director of Comparative Literature, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA


“Michaela Wolf’s excellent collection of carefully chosen essays adds greatly to our understanding of the always precarious and often ambiguous role of the concentration camp interpreter. The reader is able to gain new insights into the many practical and moral issues involved in interpreting between victims and perpetrators in this multilingual and extremely dangerous world. Anyone with an interest in the Holocaust or in the moral and ethical aspects of interpreting will want to read this book.”
–  Jean Boase-Beier, Emeritus Professor of Literature and Translation, University of East Anglia, UK

Bibliografische Angaben

  • Michaela Wolf (Hg.): Interpreting in Nazi Concentration Camps. Bloomsbury, 2016. 248 Seiten, 29,99 Euro, ISBN: 978-1501313257. Auch in elektronischer Form erhältlich (PDF).

[Text: Richard Schneider. Quelle: bloomsbury.com, Universität Graz. Bild: Bloomsbury.]