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Exploring the Holocaust through a gendered lens, this article examines linguistic aggression against women in Nazi concentration camps. While extensive scholarship connects language to genocide, the imbrication between gender, language and genocide remains an under-researched subject. To further this discussion, I analyze female survivors’ memoirs to explore the processes of semantic deprecation through metaphorization. Relying on cognitive semantics (Lakoff and Johnson 1980), I concentrate on euphemistic and dysphemistic metaphors that construct women’s identities in terms of otherness, by means of zoosemic and reifying conceptualizations, among others. The sources under examination encompass Jewish survivors Liana Millu (2001); Gisella Perl (2019), and Anne-Lise Stern (2004), and non-Jewish resisters Margarete Buber-Neumann (2008); Wanda Półtawska (1989), and Germaine Tillion (1997). Considering the relationship between metaphorical language and perceived stereotypes about women and the feminine, and focusing on specific lexical items, I hope to unravel the nexus between linguistic aggression and patriarchal structures in the concentration camp system. I argue that metaphorization reinforced women’s inferior position and perpetuated gender stereotypes. I suggest that, paradoxically, this violence also triggered empowering processes of linguistic reappropriation, asserting the victims’ agency.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: metaphor ; Holocaust ; gender ; cognitive semantics
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