Censorship and Self-Censorship in the Letters of Salaspils Camp Prisoners

https://doi.org/10.22364/ms22.02 | pp. 22-30 | PDF

Māra Birzniece
University of Latvia

Abstract. The study of World War II correspondence is relevant to communication science; furthermore, it is an interdisciplinary topic that provides insight into the representation of places of incarceration and related aspects. By studying the letters of people imprisoned in the Salaspils camp, it is possible to establish the depiction of censorship and self-censorship of that time, as well as other categories (for example, relationships, communication, conditions, etc.) from the perspective of the authors of the correspondence. At present, it is possible to observe similarities with the censorship implemented in Russia and the methods of limiting information with the methods how censorship was achieved during World War II and the era of Nazi Germany. The state power strictly controls the information space and restricts freedom of speech. The aim of the work is to analyse the presence of censorship and self-censorship in the correspondence by prisoners of the Salaspils camp. The theoretical part of the paper consists of the study of interpersonal communication with an emphasis on the communication by letters, censorship and self-censorship in the totalitarian regime. The research results have been obtained using qualitative and quantitative content analysis. The censorship stamp appears in 24 of the 123 prisoners’ letters, revealing the presence of censorship and self-censorship. The letters employ the technique of self-censorship suppression and interpretation. In the letters with a stamp, self-censorship appears explicitly, substantiated by providing minimal negative information about the conditions and events in the camp. The letters, which do not have a censorship stamp, expressly contain negative information about the events in the Salaspils camp, such as mortality of children, blood sampling, deportations and interrogations. Comparing the correspondence that has been inspected with the correspondence that does not have a censorship stamp, it was concluded that such letters (without a stamp) were delivered to the addressee by unofficial means, for example, by taking these letters out of the camp territory and handing them over during working hours, making arrangements with the guards or other prisoners.

Keywords: suppression technique, censorship, interpretation technique, content analysis, self-censorship, letters

In: Media and Society, 2022. Proceedings of Scientific Papers = Mediji un sabiedrība, 2022. Rakstu krājums. Riga, University of Latvia, 2023. 173 p.