Translation and holocaust testimonies: A matter for holocaust studies or translation studies?

Peter Davies*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Processes of translation are so intimately involved in the formulation, mediation and preservation of knowledge about the Holocaust that drawing attention to translation and its effects might threaten to call into question many of the structuring assumptions of the disciplines that are loosely grouped together under the label Holocaust studies. I will argue here that much of the current discussion of the translation of Holocaust testimonies serves to reaffirm these assumptions, rather than testing or challenging them by opening up new methodological approaches: instead of developing a descriptive methodology that helps us to understand the processes at work in the translation of Holocaust testimonies, scholars employ a range of ideas developed in the theoretical discussion of testimonies — for example, theories of secondary witnessing, textual trauma or generic innovation — that assume the uniqueness of these texts and make proscriptive, critical judgements about translations. Discussion of translation is very often a displaced discussion about something else entirely: the ethics of reading, the status of the Holocaust and the victim, the uniqueness or otherwise of testimonies as texts, or the propriety of particular approaches to understanding the Holocaust.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiterary Translation
Subtitle of host publicationRedrawing the Boundaries
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781137310057
ISBN (Print)9781137310040
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2014


  • translation study
  • German translation
  • target text
  • witness testimony
  • literary translation


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