This essay explores the acoustic regime of two twentieth-century internment camps: Boven Digoel (1927–43), in the Dutch East Indies, and Terezín or Theresienstadt (1942–45), in the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, today the Czech Republic. Based on archival materials and interviews with survivors, this essay presents a detailed overview of sound, noise, music, and voice, as they were communicated, sent, received, and echoed through the camps. Neither camp was an annihilation camp of the Auschwitz type, and thus the trajectory between past, present, and future was not entirely disrupted: the echoes of the life around the camps were not entirely silenced in the camps; rather, the camps resounded the world. The understanding of both camps in their sharp differences is at issue in the essay—Communist against Jew, Muslim against Judaic and Zionist, Asian against European, and Nazi against colonial. But more important, the essay attempts to address a broader problem of concentrated modernity, in which the two camps become symptoms, products, and models of the world in the era of late capitalism. In the end, the essay, turning on itself, asks a principal (and troubling) question of feasibility of a study of sounds for that purpose.
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Rudolf Mrázek; Thick Whisper and Thin Victory: Concentration Camps’ Contribution to Modern Acoustics. Social Text 1 March 2015; 33 (1 (122)): 1–25. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2831844
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