In Search of Military Translation Cultures

Translation and Interpreting in World War II in Finland

Translation und das ‘Dritte Reich’ / Translation and the Third Reich, 5-6 December 2014 in Berlin

Couple of weeks ago our project participated in the conference on Translation and the Third Reich in Berlin. Here is a report from this very interesting event written – this time in German – by our PhD student Niina Syrjänen. For conference program and abstracts please refer to http://translation-third-reich.univie.ac.at

“Translation und das Dritte Reich – ein faszinierendes, multidimensionales Thema, das der internationalen Tagung am 5. und 6. Dezember 2014 an der Humboldt-Universität in Berlin ihren Namen gab und das auch Kernthema unseres Projektes ist. Die mutigen Organisatorinnen, Prof. Dr. Larisa Schippel (Universität Wien), Prof. Dr. Dörte Andres (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz) und Dr. Elisabeth Gibbels (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) schafften es, eine imposante Anzahl Forscherinnen und Forscher, die eine breite Auswahl an Beitragstiteln mitbrachten, auf dieser erstmaligen Tagung zu versammeln.

Während der zwei Tage wurde Translation in der nationalsozialistischen Zeit und in den Kriegsjahren unter verschiedenen Aspekten und mithilfe unterschiedlichsten Materials behandelt. Geografisch gesehen erstreckt sich der räumliche Kontext von Belgien in die ehemalige Sowjetunion und von Finnland bis nach Brasilien. Unter anderem erfuhren wir, wie Militärdolmetscher im Dritten Reich und in der Sowjetunion ausgebildet wurden, welche Rollen die Dolmetscher in verschiedenartigen Handlungskontexten spielten und welche Literaturübersetzungen Propagandaminister Goebbels las und warum er das tat.

Interessanterweise ist das Thema (Un)sichtbarkeit des Übersetzers und Dolmetschers in mehreren Beiträgen aufgetaucht. Dies kommt oft allein schon dadurch zum Ausdruck, dass Übersetzer und Dolmetscher betreffende Dokumente schwer zu finden sind. Desto interessanter sind aber die wenigen Archivfunde, die den Schleier der mysteriösen Schicksale von einzelnen Übersetzern und Dolmetschern lüften. Marjolijn Storm (Universität des Saarlandes) stellte das kurze aber geheimnisvolle Leben der jüdischen Übersetzerin Irene Kafka vor und zeigte so, dass die oft scheinbare Unsichtbarkeit nicht unbedingt einer unbedeutenden Rolle gleichzusetzen ist. Der Name der Übersetzerin verschwand plötzlich aus mehreren Werken – wahrscheinlich wegen ihrer „falschen“ Provenienz, aber es ist zu vermuten, dass das nicht die ganze Geschichte ist.

Der unsichtbare Dolmetscher wurde durch die relativ zahlreichen Fotos sichtbar gemacht, was dann in einigen Beiträgen vorgestellt wurde. Als besonders beeindruckend erwiesen sich die von Michaela Wolf (Universität Graz) untersuchten Privatfotografien, auf denen die Kriegsdolmetscher im Mittelpunkt aller Aufmerksamkeit stehen.

Es ist noch zu erwähnen, dass unser Projekt auf der Tagung gut vertreten war. Prof. Pekka Kujamäki beschäftigte sich in seinem Beitrag mit dem Aufgabenbereich des Wehrmachtsdolmetschers in Nordfinnland und Svetlana Probirskaja thematisierte die Stellung der sowjetischen Dolmetscher für Finnisch zwischen Ideologie und Ethnizität. Überdies hatte ich die Möglichkeit, als Zuhörerin an dieser äußerst interessanten Tagung teilzunehmen.

Zusammenfassend kann ich feststellen, dass das Thema Translation in autoritären Systemen und in militärischen Konflikten vielfältige Ansätze für Forschungsaspekte bietet, und dass wir – trotz aller bisherigen Bestrebungen – noch an der Oberfläche kratzen. Tagungen wie diese stärken den Glauben an die Wichtigkeit des eigenen Forschungsthemas und geben der alltäglichen Forschungsarbeit neuen Schwung.” (Niina Syrjänen, University of Eastern Finland)

Workshop 2013

Projektimme järjestää yhdessä Itä-Suomen yliopiston filosofisen tiedekunnan kieliaineiden tohtoriohjelman kanssa työpajan, jossa etsitään kielen- ja kääntämisen tutkimuksen sekä historiantutkimuksen kosketuspintoja. Ohjelma löytyy välilehden WORKSHOP_Dec2013 alta. Työpaja on suomenkielinen.

A few reflections on the workshop (written by Kathy Saranpa)

“The translator’s task has been misunderstood, ridiculed, belittled and ignored, but never is it as crucial or dangerous – at times, both – as in times of war and conflict. In Search of Military Translation Cultures, a multi-phase project headed by Professor Pekka Kujamäki of the University of Eastern Finland, is exploring this task as well as acts of translation and interpreting under duress. It is a topic I had never considered before, coming from a country (the United States) that has not seen domestic war during my lifetime. But the act of comprehending  a message in one language and conveying it in another, though already fraught with conditions that can skew, alter and corrupt the transfer of thought, becomes even more uncertain and suspect under the intense emotional, political and social pressures created in military situations. Already before hearing the first paper, I was made conscious of how military conflict and multi-lingualism is never very far from people’s consciousness here, given Finland’s history.

My thoughts about the workshop on December 13, 2012 are necessarily impressionistic; I was unable to attend all the papers. (This is, sadly, often the flip side of hosting a conference – when you travel to one, you can temporarily leave instruction and other duties behind. This is not the case when you attend a conference at your home institution.) I offer a few reflections on the ones that I did have the privilege to hear.

Franziska Heimburger’s presentation on supplying interpreters to the Allied coalition during World War I brought up issues of allegiance and status that I had never pondered. Whose side are interpreters on? What uniforms or other identifying apparel should they wear? Ms. Heimburger’s lecture bore witness to considerable archival research and years of study, and it made me want to know more about a subject that, to be honest, I had never considered at all.

Michaela Wolf spoke about methodological tools in translation studies and their potential limitations in shaping (what we understand about) military translation cultures. What resonated with me best was her explication of histoire croisée (Werner & Zimmermann), in which multiple perspectives of historical events are interwoven. The relationship of such a method to translation/transnational studies is clearly a fruitful one. Multiple perspectives are de facto and omnipresent in the world of translation and interpretation; I imagine this is amplified in the case in military translation, where historical contexts collide in very real ways.

Pekka Kujamäki himself presented the last paper, which explored the ‘Niila’ case. As I remember it, this was an instance in which a warped translation of an opinion piece in a newspaper served the aims of the Nazi authorities in Rovaniemi, Finland. Kujamäki likened his archival work on this case – fraught as it is with misinformation, miscommunication and mistrust — to putting together the pieces of a jigsaw, and I was reminded of why we conduct research. It’s those ‘detective moments’ in which we work with original material and notice patterns that our hearts begin to race and we realize we are on the threshold of something that should be shared with a broader public because the implications can be so compelling. In a case in which, as Kujamäki expressed it so succinctly, “target text suppresses source text”, this reverse flow of power was laid bare, and it made me consider my usual, nearly subconscious stance when translating – that the source text is stationary, the target text fluid and present in several versions.

Military translation is a topic I had never considered before, but after learning about the project In Search of Military Translation Cultures and hearing some very fine reports on its progress, I will be looking over these scholars’ shoulders as they lay the next pieces of the jigsaw.

Kathy Saranpa

University Lecturer, English and Translation

University of Eastern Finland

Busy project, poor PR :-)

For the last three months, our project has been busy doing everything else than writing blog entries about this “everything else”. We apologize for this silence. Even our workshop in December – indeed a very resourceful event for all participants – remained uncommented, as we went on with the task to sketch military translation and interpreting practice in the II World War in Finland. Later, well, quite recently, I realized that we could use “visiting pens” to comment on the workshop. With the next entry, written by Kathy Saranpa from the University of Eastern Finland, this idea is finally turned into practice. We welcome other visitors as well to send post for this blog and, at the same time, try to pull ourselves together and become more active bloggers.

Workshop news, 2

The program of our workshop is now out!

The workshop is free, but please do not forget to register!

Workshop news

The list of contributions in our workshop in December 2012 is now out under “Workshop_Dec2012”. It is going to be an exciting workshop! Registration starts today.

Conference activities

In April, our project made a “full-front attack” to the City of Vaasa and presented three papers at the 10th Symposium on Translation and Interpreting organized by the Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters and the University of Vaasa (20-21 April 2012). Päivi introduced different war-time translator and interpreter profiles on the Finnish side of the Continuation War (1942-44), whereas Svetlana looked at the roles of Soviet military interpreters as experienced by Finnish prisoners of war held by the Red Army, i.e. a view into to other side of the front. Finally, by using archived records, Pekka looked at the interpreting and translation activities of Finnish army liaison officers in the “Finnish-German Zone” of Northern Finland.

This topic was taken up again a couple of weeks later in Forli at the 1st International Conference on Non-Professional  Interpreting and Translation (NPIT1, 17-19 May 2012). The fascinating and well-organized conference offered a very relevant forum for discussing the mediation practices of Finnish liaison officers working as non-professional interpreters and translators between Finnish civilians and authorities and German troops. As maintained by Brian Harris in his excellent keynote on different areas of non-professional interpreting and translation, research on linguistic mediation in the military and in wars is still very scarce – despite of its undeniable importance, whether we look at it from the point of view of military operations, of journalists reporting of them, or of humanitarian questions in general. Of course, the very interesting projects run e.g. in Great Britain (Languages at War) or by individual researchers like Franziska Heimburger make an important exception. At Forli, however, there were only two papers moving in this specific field: in addition to our above mentioned presentation, Michaela Wolf read an interesting paper on translating and interpreting in Nazi concentration camps.

In July 2012, the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies organized the 4th IATIS Conference at Queen’s University of Belfast (24-27 July 2012). In this conference, Pekka presented a methodological paper on the use of fictional texts in historical research on the mediation practices in WW2. It was a joint paper with Kaisa Koskinen, University of Eastern Finland. Although I very much enjoyed the conference, I must admit that I was rather surprised (= disappointed) to observe that the question of T & I in military conflicts was, again, almost totally absent in the otherwise very attractive and huge programme (there were six parallel sections!). Of course, Hilary Footitt’s keynote on different cultures of language knowledge in crisis zones made an excellent exception in the programme.

Changes in the team

Our project blog has been asleep for several months, apologies for that! Let’s start the updates with information on changes in our team:

Sinikka K. resigned from our team in February 2012. Her post was taken over by Sanna Leskinen, who started in April as a project assistant. Her post graduate research is dealing – roughly speaking – with the cultural and linguistic background of interpreters that were acting as interpreters for Russian in Finland during the war years.

In August 2011, Päivi P. took over a full-time post as a university lecturer for Russian language and translation at the University of Helsinki. In January 2012, Svetlana Probirskaja joined the team as a new  post doc researcher working on the interpreting practices in dealing with Finnish prisoners of war by the Red Army (see Team). However, Svetlana is soon leaving for Helsinki, where, where she starts in September 2012 as a university lecturer for Russian language and translation. This, of course, means that there are going to be further changes in our team to inform you about, soon. Meanwhile, I wish both Päivi and Svetlana all the best in their new challenging tasks. I am happy to know that they both continue their research in our project, though with somewhat different time resources.

Interrogation in War and Conflict

Sinikka and Pekka visited the city of Reading, UK and participated in the workshop “Interrogation in War and Conflict: Between Liberty, Security and Justice”  – a workshop organised by Hillary Ann Footitt and Simona Tobia (from Languages at War) and supported by the Leverhulme Major Research Programme The Liberal Way of War on 29 November 2011. The workshop had three panels: The panel “Military interrogation: the questioning on enemies” contained papers on military interrogation practices in different military conflicts and operations. The second panel on “Forensic interrogation and international justice” focused on questioning practices especially in the context of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The closing panel on “‘HumInt’: interrogation, intelligence and security” compared questioning practices in liberal and totalitarian states with special focus on their psychological consequences on prisoners.

The issue of language (as well as translation and interpreting) was taken up in most of the papers, but was dealt with in more detail in at least three papers: Franziska Heimburger described the methods of French interpreters in obtaining information from German POWs during the First World War. Alice Zago from the Prosecutor’s Office at ICC pointed out the important role of interpreters as part of the team but described his/her task as “translating everything word-by-word” with the apparent function of having translators’ agency under control; the question, how this translation method was checked and to what extent word-by-word translation really guarantees interpreters’ neutrality, remained unanswered. This question of assumed or “perceived neutrality” of interpreters working at the ICTY was taken further by Louise Askew, who discussed translators’ and interpreters’ impartiality in the context of ethics and ethnicity.

 

Project papers in AFinLA Autumn Symposium

In the AFinLA (Association Finlandaise de Linguistique Appliguée) Autumn Symposium 11-12 November 2011, our project presented three section papers. Päivi sketched a portrait of interpreters working in Finnish POW camps, and Sinikka continued the topic with a description of their tasks and working conditions. The section was started by myself with a paper on fictional representations of military interpreters and interpreting in the World War II in Finland. (For paper titles, see “Papers”)