The Power of Language: Communication, Memory, and Greek Jews during the Holocaust Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Buller, Robin
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • Reflecting on his experience in Auschwitz, Primo Levi wrote, “Survival [in a concentration camp] depended on an inmate’s capacity to readily carry out commands.” Familiarity with the language of those in charge was critical and, typically, that language was German. The multilingual Greek Jews of Salonika, whose non-Germanic linguistic background isolated them from the majority of the prisoner population, serve as an excellent case study through which to we can understand the relationship between language and survival during the Holocaust. This study concentrates on two Salonikan Jewish sources: the oral testimony of Eli Benyacar and the written memoir of Léon Perahia. Through close analysis of these two rich accounts, this study demonstrates the centrality of language to everyday concentration camp interactions, collective identity, and prisoner resistance. It introduces the concept of “linguistic power” as a framework for understanding hierarchies and explores the role of language in memory.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Auerbach, Karen
  • Jarausch, Konrad Hugo
  • Bryant, Chad
  • Master of Arts
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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