"The Interpreter of Horrors": The interpreter Wera Kapkajew at the first Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial (1963-65)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The three trials of SS camp personnel, held in Frankfurt am Main in the mid-1960s represent a key moment in the development of public awareness of and attitudes towards the Holocaust in West and East Germany. The presence of several hundred witnesses, many of whom were survivors, from across the world and speaking 11 different languages, brought home the international scale of the genocide and drew attention to the individual quality of the witnesses’ voices as they told their stories.The only interpreter at the trial who attracted public attention for her work and who left a substantial trace in the archive record was the Polish-Russian-German interpreter Wera Kapkajew, who also accompanied the court on its visit to the Auschwitz complex. By contrast with the other interpreters, her work and biography attracted journalistic interest and she was singled out for praise by court personnel and witnesses: in particular, she is praised for conveying the nuances of the witness’ voices, rather than just the content of their testimony.This paper will explore Kapkajew’s contribution to the trial proceeding sand will ask what happens when an interpreter’s work becomes visible in a Holocaust trial.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInterpreting and Society
Early online date19 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jan 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Holocaust testimony
  • trial testimony
  • interpreting
  • West Germany
  • archive
  • genocide trials
  • court interpreting
  • Holocaust
  • testimony
  • war crimes trials
  • Wera Kapkajew


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