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Germans and Nazis in Films in Translation - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
September 21st, 2002
06:50 pm


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Germans and Nazis in Films in Translation
The other day, I watched (again) Captain Corelli's Mandolin, a movie about a Greek island during World War II. At some point, a character named Mandras says something like: "In this war, it is hard to know whom to trust, but one thing is clear: you can't trust the Germans." Hearing this sentence, I wondered how sentences like these are translated into German by film translators. Do they translate "Germans" or "Nazis"?

Current Mood: lazy
Current Music: David Bowie -- What's Really Happening

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2002 01:08 pm (UTC)

Interesting question; why not ask Maurice

Tszorf (who was at the party where we met; you remember the guy who sang J. Brel's "Amsterdam" when there were just those few of us left, before the Tom Lehrer marathon-medley?). He's a native of Germany (AFAIK) now living in Binyamina, translates DE/HE/EN, has worked in & around films, and generally knows the score, incl. that period.

And while you're at it, ask him which German baddies' voices he's narrated for English-language films requiring "that" accent. Funny, in a creepy sort of way.
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2002 04:05 am (UTC)

Re: Interesting question; why not ask Maurice

I remember Maurice perfectly well, yes; his "Amsterdam" was wondrous!

However, we're not in touch, and I wouldn't want to impose on him. It was just a random thought, not quite worth troubling people for.
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2002 02:23 am (UTC)
I think that Germans don't translate movies with subtitles. They use dubbing.

But it's an interesting question.
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2002 03:57 am (UTC)


Who said anything about subtitles? You need to translate English into German for dubbing, too...
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2002 06:02 am (UTC)

Re: Subtitles?

Hmmm... You got a point there...
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2002 05:36 pm (UTC)

In general it should be "Germans"

Sorry, I don't know this particular movie, so I can give only a general answer.
There are a lot of movies dealing with World War II. In most of them the Germans are the enemy, not the Nazis. Thus, if the original says "Germans" also the the German (dubbed version) correctly says "die Deutschen" (the Germans), not the Nazis. Because it makes a difference whether one was fighting the Germans or just the Nazis. In case of armies they were fighting against our Wehrmacht (army) not just against Nazis.
We are well aware of our reputation in the world - it wouldn't make any sense to change "Germans" euphemistically into "Nazis".
a) nobody would believe that that was authentical here and
b) it would not support our critical approach towards our own history.
We know that until today there are resentments against us in our neighbouring countries - and we know that this is our own fault.

Hope this explanation helps.
[User Picture]
Date:September 23rd, 2002 07:41 am (UTC)

Re: In general it should be "Germans"

Thank you for this response. It is good that "Germans" is translated into "die Deutschen" and not into "Nazis". It is the right thing to do.

However, I am uncomfortable with your statement that "this is our own fault". It is certainly no more your own fault than it is mine, as neither of us was born (i.e. existed) when World War II and the Holocaust took place. But you used the first-person plural voice, referring, presumably, to "the German people". But "the German people" today refers to a mostly different group of individuals then it did during 1939-1945. I content that there is no timeless entity that is "the German people", and that subsequently it cannot be an absolute that WWII and the Holocaust are "the German people"'s fault. The blame must be localized by time at the very least (and, of course, not each and every German who lived during those years is to blame).

German society today does very well to remember the horrors of those years, and the evil committed in their names (and, yes, it will probably remain one of the first associations non-Germans have to the words "German" or "Germany"), but I do not think that the German society should feel guilty. What it ought to feel is some responsibility towards the surviving victims, as the German government in fact does, by paying pensions and damages to individuals who survived the Holocaust.

Likewise, young Israelis today should acknowledge the evil committed by the two generations preceding them towards the Palestinian populace of the land of Israel (i.e. the territory called "Palestine" until 1948), and seek to redress those wrongs. Young Germans cannot bring the dead back to life, nor can they restore a 75-year-old man who had been a successful violinist in Berlin to his status before the war, for obvious reasons; likewise, Israelis cannot resurrect the dead, nor can they reasonably evacuate the many Israeli cities and establishments founded on Palestinian villages and houses whose inhabitants were driven away or killed, but they, too, should seek to redress these wrongs. Regrettably, it seems that a much smaller percentage of Israelis accept this duty as their moral obligation than Germans do theirs. The magnitude is certainly incomparable, but the need for that "critical approach towards our own history" you mentioned is as valid for Israelis as it is for Germans.

Whew. I'll step off the soapbox now...
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