The Traumatic Discourse of Captivity in the Songs of War Prisoners

Key words
songs of prisoners, Ostarbeiters, motive, World War II
Nastassia A. Hulak
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +375 (17) 222-24-09
17, Rabkorovskaya str., Minsk, 220007, Belarus
PhD in Philology, Associate Professor, Associate Professor of the Department of Directing, Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts
Date of publication

This article analyzes archival materials from post-war expeditions of Belarusian scholars and songs that were sung during WWII by prisoners and Ostarbeiters (“eastern [slave] workers”) of the Third Reich. It considerably refines the definition of the term “prisoner songs” and outlines the socio-historical factors that have contributed to the isolation of this unique part of the wartime folklore heritage. The author demonstrates that the traumatic experience of the bearers of the song tradition in question manifests itself in the songs’ intense emotionality and a characteristic frankness of expression. In artistic terms, prisoners’ songs present realistic pictures of camp life; on the ideological level, the social and personal aspect of captivity serves as the subject of artistic reflection. The article also traces the reception of some of the most common prisoners’ songs in a broad folkloric context. It demonstrates the heterogeneity of their style, due to interaction with plots of peasant folklore, traditional romance-ballad forms, and songs by professional singers.


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For citation

Hulak N. A. The Traumatic Discourse of Captivity in the Songs of War Prisoners. Traditional Culture. 2022. Vol. 23. No. 2. Pp. 60–70. In Belarusian.