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Testimonies of Resistance: Representations of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Sonderkommando

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Testimonies of Resistance

Representations of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Sonderkommando

Edited by Nicholas Chare and Dominic Williams
Foreword by Anne Karpf
Afterword by Victor Jeleniewski Seidler

398 pages, 21 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-341-7 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78920-342-4 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This is yet another outstanding book from Nicholas Chare and Dominic Williams. Each chapter offers an interesting perspective and keen insights into the Sonderkommando, the Scrolls of Auschwitz, and Holocaust representation, and I came away with new appreciation for them all.” • Sarah Cushman, Northwestern University

Testimonies of Resistance is an important volume that addresses a topic that has not been explored in sufficient depth so far, connecting it to crucial debates on the “gray zone,” resistance, and moral action. It is a vital contribution to the field of Holocaust Studies and beyond.” • Svenja Bethke, University of Leicester


The Sonderkommando—the “special squad” of enslaved Jewish laborers who were forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau—comprise one of the most fascinating and troubling topics within Holocaust history. As eyewitnesses to and unwilling abettors of the murder of their fellow Jews, they are the object of fierce condemnation even today. Yet it was a group of these seemingly compromised men who carried out the revolt of October 7, 1944, one of the most celebrated acts of Holocaust resistance. This interdisciplinary collection assembles careful investigations into how the Sonderkommando have been represented—by themselves and by others—both during and after the Holocaust.

Nicholas Chare is Associate Professor in the Department of History of Art and Film Studies at the Université de Montréal.

Dominic Williams is Senior Lecturer in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Northumbria University.

Subject: Genocide History Jewish Studies
Area: Germany Central/Eastern Europe


List of Figures and Tables

Anne Karpf

Note on Transliteration

Introduction: Testimonies of Resistance
Nicholas Chare and Dominic Williams

Part I: Historical and Ethical Questions of Representation

Chapter 1. Knowing Cruelty: The Negation of Death and Burial in SS Violence
Griselda Pollock

Chapter 2. What Makes the Grey Zone Grey? Blurring Factual and Ethical Judgements of the Sonderkommando
Dominic Williams

Part II: Witnessing from the Heart of Hell

Chapter 3. Farewell Letter from the Crematorium: On the Authorship of the First Recorded ‘Sonderkommando-Manuscript’ and the Discovery of the Original Letter
Andreas Kilian

Chapter 4. To Read the Illegible: Techniques of Multispectral Imaging and the Manuscripts of the Jewish Sonderkommando of Auschwitz-Birkenau
Pavel Polian and Aleksandr Nikityaev

Chapter 5. ‘Like a True Greek’: The Last Will and Testimony of Marcel Natzari
K.E. Fleming

Chapter 6. Disinterred Words: The Letters of Herman Strasfogel and Marcel Nadjary
Nicholas Chare, Ersy Contogouris and Dominic Williams

Chapter 7. The Letter of Herman Strasfogel
Translated by Ersy Contogouris

Chapter 8. The Letter of Marcel Nadjary
Translated by Ersy Contogouris

Chapter 9. The Religious Life of Sonderkommando Members inside the Killing Installations in Auschwitz-Birkenau
Gideon Greif

Part III: Retrospective Representations

Chapter 10. Doubly Cursed: The Sonderkommando in the Documents of the International Tracing Service
Dan Stone

Chapter 11. Enduring Witness: David Olère’s Visual Testimony
Carol Zemel

Chapter 12. The Sonderkommando and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum
Dominic Williams and Isabel Wollaston

Chapter 13. Early and Late Testimonies of the Sonderkommando Survivors
Gideon Greif

Chapter 14. From Special Operations Executive to Sonderkommando: Sebastian Faulks and the Anxiety of Invention
Sue Vice

Chapter 15. Out of the Plan, Out of the Plane 2: Stripping, Fourth Letter to Gerhard Richter
Georges Didi-Huberman

Chapter 16. Greeks in the Birkenau Sonderkommando: Representation and Reality
Steven Bowman

Part IV: Cinema and the Sonderkommando

Chapter 17. ‘We Did Something’: Framing Resistance in Cinematic Depictions of the Sonderkommando
Barry Langford

Chapter 18. ‘We Can’t Know What We’re Capable Of ’: Approaching the ‘Grey Zone’ in Holocaust Film
Adam Brown

Chapter 19. The Sonderkommando on Screen
Philippe Mesnard

Afterword: Tracing Topographies of Memory and Mourning
Victor Jeleniewski Seidler


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