© 2019

The Auschwitz Sonderkommando

Testimonies, Histories, Representations

  • Analyses testimonies in a variety of media including art, film, literature and photography, to demonstrate the importance of the Sonderkommando for histories of the Holocaust

  • Compares testimonies produced during the Holocaust with retrospective accounts to trace changing conceptions of the Sonderkommando and their experiences

  • Examines how gender influenced the experiences of the Sonderkommando and the impact this had on the forms taken by their testimonies


Part of the The Holocaust and its Contexts book series (HOLC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vii
  2. Nicholas Chare, Dominic Williams
    Pages 1-24
  3. Nicholas Chare, Dominic Williams
    Pages 25-70
  4. Nicholas Chare, Dominic Williams
    Pages 71-100
  5. Nicholas Chare, Dominic Williams
    Pages 101-128
  6. Nicholas Chare, Dominic Williams
    Pages 129-169
  7. Nicholas Chare, Dominic Williams
    Pages 171-217
  8. Nicholas Chare, Dominic Williams
    Pages 219-247
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 249-278

About this book


This book is the first to bring together analyses of the full range of post-war testimony given by survivors of the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Auschwitz Sonderkommando were slave labourers in the gas chambers and crematoria, forced to process and dispose of the bodies of those who were murdered. They have been central to a number of key topics in post-war debates about the Shoah: collaboration, moral compromise and survival, resistance, representation, and the possibility of bearing witness. Their testimony however has mostly met with a reluctance to engage in depth with it. Moving from testimonies produced within the event, the Scrolls of Auschwitz and the Sonderkommando photographs, to testimonies given at trials and for video archives, and to the paintings of David Olère and the film Shoah by Claude Lanzmann, this book demonstrates the importance of their witnessing in the post-war memory of the Holocaust, and provides vital new insights into the questions of representation, memory, gender, and the Shoah.


Holocaust Shoah Concentration camps Collaborators Jewish studies The Trials of Witnessing David Olère Scrolls of Auschwitz Acts of Deposition Filip Müller

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Université de MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.University of LeedsLeedsUK

About the authors

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

Dominic Williams is the Montague Burton Fellow in Jewish Studies at the University of Leeds, UK. He has published articles in Contemporary Women’s Writing, RACAR and Holocaust Studies. He is co-editor (with Fabio A. Durão) of Modernist Group Dynamics: The Politics and Poetics of Friendship (2008).

Together they have co-authored Matters of Testimony: Interpreting the Scrolls of Auschwitz (2016) and co-edited Representing Auschwitz: At the Margins of Testimony (Palgrave, 2013) and Testimonies of Resistance (2019).

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Auschwitz Sonderkommando
  • Book Subtitle Testimonies, Histories, Representations
  • Authors Nicholas Chare
    Dominic Williams
  • Series Title The Holocaust and its Contexts
  • Series Abbreviated Title The Holocaust and its Contexts
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG, part of Springer Nature 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-11490-9
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-11491-6
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages VII, 278
  • Number of Illustrations 1 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of World War II and the Holocaust
    Modern History
    Memory Studies
    Cultural History
    History of Modern Europe
  • Buy this book on publisher's site