Digital Workshop: Translation, Mediation, and the Politics of Communication in the European Space, 1945-1960

On November 24th 2022, from 10:15h till 16:15h (all times are CET), our research group is hosting an Online Workshop on the topic of “Translation, Mediation, and the Politics of Communication in the European Space, 1945-1960”. Attendance is free and open to all. To register your participation, please contact Dr. Dana Steglich:


10.15 – 10.30 Welcome

10.30 – 11.15 Anna Axtner-Borsutzky (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München), Beyond Borders through Literature: The Postwar Journal Die Wandlung (1945–1949)

11.15 – 12.00 Chris Knowles (King’s College, London), Agents of Translation: The English origins of Der Spiegel, Germany’s First News Magazine

12.00 – 12.15 Coffee Break

12.15 – 13.00 Stefanie Siess (EHESS Paris/ University of Heidelberg), Mediating Figures and Magazine Culture: Transcultural Communication in the French Zone of Occupation (1945-1955)

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch Break

14.00 – 14.45 Alison E. Martin (JGU Mainz/Germersheim), Changing Tastes: Translation and Temporality in Neue Auslese

14.45 – 15.30 Hilary Footitt (IMLR, London), Translating NATO in the 1950s

15.30 – 15.45 Coffee Break

15.45 – 16.15 Closing Discussion and Remarks by Advisory Board

Anna Axtner-Borsutzky (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München): Beyond Borders through Literature: The Postwar Journal Die Wandlung (1945–1949)

The preface of the postwar journal Die Wandlung draws the readers’ attention to the aim of the journal: it should bring people together after World War II by talking to each other; not only in Germany but also with the “voices all over the world”. In the first volume there is already the English poem East Coker, written by T. S. Eliot, translated by Dolf Sternberger, that shows the editors’ idea to bring different nations together through literature. Not only English, but also French literature, not only fictional, but also factual sources can be found there. The journal reflects the need to rethink a new ‘togetherness of nations’. Some poems and diary notes of Germans emigrated to the United States that mix up English and German words highlight overlaps, the last volumes present a new category which also helps to understand other nations: It is called “from foreign journals” and presents articles and titles from journals in Europe and abroad. The talk will focus on selected articles that were written in English and translated to German for the journal. It will also include the history of their origins, paratexts and markable effects.

Bio: Since October 2022 Anna Axtner-Borsutzky has been working as Assistant Professor at the University of Munich, after she was research associate on a project about Die Wandlung and its contribution to democratization processes in the German postwar era (DFG, Walter-Benjamin-Programme) at the Humboldt-University Berlin. For her PhD at the University of Munich in 2021, she did research on the memoirs of the scholar Walter Müller-Seidel (1918–2010) with a focus on the connection between autobiography and science. Her research interests are journals, intellectual exchange in the postwar era, memoirs and archives as well as letters in the Early Modern Era.


Chris Knowles (King’s College, London): Agents of Translation: The English origins of Der Spiegel, Germany’s First News Magazine

My research as a historian is on the period immediately after the end of the Second World War when Germany was occupied and ruled by the four victorious Allies. In my presentation I will talk about ideas and stories – and in particular about how one story that appeared in Time magazine in the United States and in News Review in Britain was translated, in the sense that the story was rewritten and adapted by the journalists who worked for the German news magazine Diese Woche, the immediate precursor of Der Spiegel. I will suggest that we can call these journalists and the founding editors who set the overall tone, the format and the style of the magazine, the agents of translation, as they interpreted and re-wrote stories that they found in newspapers and other magazines in a way that they believed would appeal to their readers. This of course is what journalists everywhere do all the time. Some of what they write is based on their own or their colleagues’ original research, but much of it is a translation – or interpretation – of stories that appeared elsewhere, adapted to suit the style of the paper they write for, and the hopes, fears and interests of their readers. The story of Diese Woche and Der Spiegel is one of multiple origins, interconnections, and cultural interactions and translations, rather than the one-way transfer of cultural values implied by terms such as the supposed ‘Americanisation’, ‘westernisation’ or ‘democratisation’ of post-war Germany.

Bio: Christopher Knowles studied history as an undergraduate at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge from 1971-74. He worked in electronic publishing and computer software before resuming his academic studies as a postgraduate student at the Centre for Contemporary British History, Institute of Historical Research and King’s College, London. His PhD thesis was awarded the annual prize of the German Historical Institute, London in 2014. He was Archives By-Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge for the Easter term, before returning to King’s in July 2018. He is joint convenor of the Occupation Studies Research Network. His first book Winning the Peace: The British in Occupied Germany, 1945-1948 was published by Bloomsbury Academic in January 2017. His second book Transforming Occupation in the Western Zones of Germany: Politics, Everyday Life and Social Interactions, 1945-1955, a collection of essays by sixteen international scholars, edited jointly with Camilo Erlichman, was published in August 2018.


Stefanie Siess (EHESS Paris/ University of Heidelberg): Mediating Figures and Magazine Culture: Transcultural Communication in the French Zone of Occupation (1945-1955)

After the Second World War, a cultural scene emerged in the French Zone of Occupation in the south-west of Germany. Though quite small and controlled by the occupiers, it soon became a space of cultural mediation that raises questions about networks and cooperation between allied and cultural elites. Writers such as Alfred Döblin or Tami Oelfken, formerly persecuted by the Nazis, became mediating figures, caught between the self-demand to work on re-education and a democratic state and the possibilities of the time. Oelfken began working for Südwestfunk in 1947 and wrote articles for German magazines such as Mode und Heim, but after a controversy in Die Zeit she was ostracised by West German publishers. Döblin founded the paradigmatic post-war magazine Das Goldene Tor and worked as a literary inspector for the French military government, but he also was disappointed by the effectiveness of his work and lack of literary success in the post-war period. By studying these mediator figures, we gain insight into the publishing scene of the French Zone, complemented by French publications, such as the Revue des Forces françaises de l’Est, a bi-monthly magazine published for the French troops in Germany in the 1950s. In my talk, by presenting selected journal articles as source examples, I intend to demonstrate how mediating figures and magazine culture influenced transcultural communication and mediation processes between the French occupiers and the German occupied.

Bio: Stefanie Siess is a PhD candidate in History at Heidelberg University and EHESS Paris. After completing her master’s degree in 2018, she started to work on her dissertation on “Social Representations and Everyday Life in Ego Documents from the French Zone of Occupation (1945-1949/1955)”. This project is a cotutelle as part of the Franco-German PhD-Track between Heidelberg University and EHESS Paris and is funded by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Her research interests include social and cultural representations during wartime and occupation, Franco-German relations and transfers, the history of everyday life, the history of emotions and sensibilities, as well as ego documents as historical sources. Since October 2022, she has been working as research assistant to the Chair of Contemporary History in Heidelberg.


Alison E. Martin (JGU Mainz/Germersheim): Changing Tastes: Translation and Temporality in Neue Auslese

At the end of the Second World War, a limited number of journals appeared in the British occupied zone in Germany. Key among them was Neue Auslese [New Selection] (1945/6-50), a joint Anglo-American effort issued by the US Information Services Division and the British Central Office of Information that was part of the Allied re-education offensive. Ostensibly aimed at acquainting its readers with the “international writing of the time and restoring the exchange of ideas between Germany and other countries”, it presented articles from the British and American press in German translation and initially boasted a readership of half a million. But by the late 1940s it was suffering serious competition both from its sister publication Blick in die Welt [View of the World], a monthly Anglo-German illustrated news-pictorial magazine “keeping the German reader in touch, by both text and pictures, with British, German and world problems”, and from the German edition of Reader’s Digest, Das Beste. As the editors of Neue Auslese struggled to reposition the journal, they were compelled to rethink its content, recognising that “for every ounce of propaganda there must be a pound of general interest”. This paper investigates how Neue Auslese initially used selected texts in translation to steer the “educated German” towards what was considered a “democratic” way of thought, before the preferences of the German readership began to determine what the magazine would include. Thus, for both the journal’s editors and its readers, translation was used to mobilise certain texts, authors, and ideas, but also to define emerging tastes, as a reflection of the fast-paced change that characterised this period.

Bio: Alison E. Martin is Professor of British Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz/Germersheim. She is Co-PI on the DFG-/AHRC-funded project Spaces of Translation, European Magazine Culture 1945-1965 and has worked extensively on translation and Anglo-German cultural exchange from the Enlightenment to the 21st century. She has co-curated with Jutta Ernst, Oliver Scheiding and Sabina Fazli the exhibition Paperworlds – Blätterwelten on independent zines as imaginative spaces and sites of exhibition in today’s society. She has also contributed the section on “Periodicals and Translation Studies” to the Handbuch Zeitschriftenforschung (eds. Scheiding and Fazli, transcript 2022).


Hilary Footitt (IMLR, London): Translating NATO in the 1950s

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in April 1949, and ratified by all members by August of that year. There was however major opposition to NATO in several countries, most notably France and Italy. Faced with this opposition, and with the forceful propaganda of the Soviet Cominform, NATO established an information service in 1950 which aimed to create for popular audiences in NATO countries a positive impression of the organisation. Since interlingual translation of written material like pamphlets was felt to be too costly on the scale required by this, NATO prepared a series of travelling exhibitions which would tour Europe, explaining to popular audiences the origins and purposes of NATO via visual material and a small amount of captioning. The paper will explore this ‘translation’ of NATO between 1951 and 1959 from three perspectives:

– its implications for current discussions of space, materiality and translation

– retranslation as seen in the localising of exhibitions when NATO member governments took more responsibility for the content

– the influence of ongoing political events like the death of Stalin, and the development of the ‘peaceful coexistence’ narrative.

The paper suggests that this NATO travelling exhibition may help us to view the context of translation in Europe in the early Cold War as a pan-European phenomenon which engaged wide audiences. In itself, the NATO travelling exhibition, the paper contends, is a particularly resonant example of Sherry Simon’s contention that, ‘As a posture of inquiry, an attitude of mind, translation sees all knowledge as resulting from movement, encounter, transfer’ (2019:9).

Bio: Hilary Footitt is a Visiting Fellow in the Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London UK. She works on languages and translation in conflict and post conflict situations, and is the co-editor of the Palgrave Macmillan series, ‘Languages at War’. She has been PI for two large AHRC projects, and CI for a Leverhulme major project. At the moment she is writing a monograph on ‘Afghan Interpreters through Western eyes: foreignness and the politics of evacuation.’ She is a founding member of the international ‘History and Translation’ group, and in theoretical terms is interested in the relationship between translation and ethnographic and material history: ‘Challenging the archive, “present”-ing the past: translation history as historical ethnography’ in M. Baker ed. Unsettling Translation. Studies in honour of Theo Hermans, 65-80, Routledge, 2022.

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