’All Limits Were Exceeded Over There’: The Chronotope of Terror in Modern Warfare and Testimony

  • Kirsten Mahlke
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


Traumatization has become a key term for understanding the collective experience of mass violence in the twentieth century. Scholarship on the representation of experiences of state terror since the Shoah conceives the effects of war against civil populations ex post in terms of psychological pathology (see Felman and Laub, 1992; LaCapra, 1994; Caruth, 1995; Rothberg, 2000). Much of what has been conceptualized with reference to the concept of traumatization, however, applies to the psychopolitical goals of regimes, which manipulate masses by means of terror. In this chapter ‘trauma’ can thus be seen as a politically intended, morbidly useful state of mind of populations. Instead of looking exclusively at the psychopatho- logical effects in the form of trauma, I will focus on the spatio-temporal structure of these manipulations and their correlates on the level of narrative representation in testimonial literature. Psychological warfare continues to shape the individual and social imaginary after the actual cessation of state terror: (1) directly through massive distortions of space-time perception, which are not easily overcome but persist for a long time afterwards and (2) indirectly, through the seemingly incredible narrative representations of space-time in testimonies. The mechanism underlying this manipulation of spatio-temporality which deeply infects both perception and representation is thus followed by a loss of subsequent narrative credibility, a core characteristic of witnesses’ experiences after mass violence.


Concentration Camp Civil Population Spatial Strategy State Terror Modern Warfare 
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© Kirsten Mahlke 2014

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  • Kirsten Mahlke

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