The Sonic in Jewish War-Time Diaries

Auteur Nikita HOCK
Directeur /trice Prof. Dr. Christian Gerlach
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s)
Résumé de la thèse

My research engages a new layer of information concerning the experience of Jews under persecution in Eastern Europe during World War II. Taking as my source diaries diaries created by Jews under persecution 1939-1942, I examine the appearance, function and connotations of sounds in these ego-documents.


My project is thus situated in the relatively young field of sound history. With few exceptions (music in particular), such an analysis of the sonic dimension has not been applied to research about Jewish persecution and extermination. My aim is to make productive insights from Sound Studies which state that sounds reflect social conditions and shifting interpersonal relations, serve for community-building and that, for the individual, hearing is of an existential, often traumatic character as sound waves permeate the body.


Two key questions lead this approach: (1) In which ways do sounds convey the brutal, emotional, and unmediated character of violence and its spectre in the multifaceted threat environments throughout Europe? (2) Which insights into strategies of resilience and survival in such environments, as well as the subjectivity and emotions involved, can we gain by focussing on voices, noises, and soundscapes?


To answer these questions, I concentrate on both published and yet unaccessed texts written by diarists on both sides of ghetto walls, in bunkers, attics, basements and cellars, and in camps throughout Central and Eastern Europe. For these diarists, the sonic is imbued with strategic significance: Assessing dangerous unseen situations such as searches and controlling one’s own sound production such as cries becomes existentially relevant. As relating to sounds engages prior expectations and imagination, it also provides insights into attitudes and strategies towards occupiers, individual and social relationships to persecutors, other Jews, neighbors and communities. Finally, the diarist’s choices in representing sounds and their placement into the narrative frame of a diary reveals patterns of coping. How do the authors relate these existential sensations to other experiences – including those that are too painful for the cognitive and linguistic apparatus or the strength of emotions under siege?

Statut au début
Délai administratif de soutenance de thèse 2020
URL http://soundscapesoftheshoah.org