“Don’t leave me, pal”: Witnessing Death in Semprun’s Buchenwald Narratives
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Considering the omnipresence of death in the Nazi camps, it is unsurprising that death and dying have become a predominant theme in survivors’ memoirs. “Der Tode… ein Meister aus Deutschland” (Death … a master from Germany)1 takes the center stage in Jorge Semprún’s inquiry into the nature of radical evil as it manifested itself in Buchenwald and, as the protagonist of his narratives is to discover, also in the parallel kingdom of Stalin’s Gulags. What sets Semprún’s reflection apart from a plethora of thanatographic accounts that emerged from the camps is that, for the narrators of his récits, death appears to be an intimate, even serene presence, a companion, a “pal” whom they approach with openness and compassion, rather than with fear and dread.2
KeywordsPolitical Prisoner Gulag System Radical Evil Ethical Meaning Levinasian Ethic
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