Documents on Germany under Occupation, 1945-1954

By Beate Ruhm Von Oppen | Go to book overview

NOTE ON TRANSLATION

THE linguistic revolution which has taken place in the Russian Zone of Germany presents the translator with great difficulties. The very nature of the language--indeed, of language itself--has changed.

There were different kinds of German before, and for most of them one could find a rough English equivalent. There is no English equivalent for this new language.

The Russian influence is noticeable, and natural, in the legislation of the Soviet Military Administration; in its newspaper, the Tägliche Rundschau; in the releases of the German news agency in the Russian Zone which took its material from Tass; in the vast amount of literature translated from the Russian. Basically, however, even that is less a Russian influence than an ideological one. The ideological influence is clear in the documents of the SED and the mass organizations. An awareness of contemporary Russian and Cominform usage is indispensable to an understanding of any document of the Russian Zone and the German Democratic Republic: and the less obvious the influence, the more careful one has to be. For the change has worked in two main ways. New expressions have been coined, or taken over, for new institutions and concepts; and old words have assumed a new meaning.

As regards both I have tried to reproduce the German text faithfully, translating Objektivismus as objectivism, coining conciliationism for VersÖhnlertum, and capitulating before Schlagerkosmopolitismus, leaving it untranslated. Words like demokratisch, wissenschaftlich, Gesellschaftswissenschaft, and Humanismus are translated as 'democratic', 'scientific', 'social science', and 'humanism' (without quotation marks); Arbeiter is translated as 'worker' and Werktätiger as 'working man'. The word Aufbau presented a special difficulty. It is, emphatically, not Wiederaufbau. Sometimes it could be translated as 'building', sometimes as 'construction', but often it seemed impossible to avoid the word 'reconstruction'; and it seemed an unwarrantable irritation of the reader to put 'Aufbau' after it every time.

Otherwise I have preferred the risk of irritating the reader to that of misU+0AD leading him. These documents are not a stylistic exercise. My chief aim has been to convey the meaning and the tone. And the best way of doing that seemed to be to stick as closely as possible to the original wording.

B. R. v. O.

-xi-

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