Words of Fear, Fear of Words: Language Memories of Holocaust Survivors

Karin Doerr


This paper explores fear induced by language memories. It examines how certain German words, used during the Nazi period as part of the genocidal vocabulary, have remained etched in the memory of survivors. Thus, a word can conjure up traumatic, life-threatening events that the individuals experienced in the past. I shall use findings from interviews with survivors and from written accounts to demonstrate how the language of the Third Reich, also called Nazi German, has left a lasting impression on these individuals. Even decades after the event, they refer to the connotative meaning of words or phrases rather than to the original meanings.

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