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We Wept Without TearsTestimonies of the Jewish Sonderkommando from Auschwitz$
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Gideon Greif

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780300106510

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300106510.001.0001

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The Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau: Portrait and Self-Image

The Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau: Portrait and Self-Image

(p.1) 1 The Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau: Portrait and Self-Image
We Wept Without Tears

Gideon Greif

Yale University Press

This book tells the tragedy of the Sonderkommando, work units of prisoners, composed almost entirely of Jews, who were forced by the Nazis to aid with the disposal of masses of Jews killed in gas chambers in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during the Holocaust. Sonderkommando members did not participate directly in the killing; their primary responsibility was to carry out various tasks related to all phases of the mass extermination enterprise. Those who were unable or unwilling to do their work had only one way of avoiding it: by committing suicide. An event known as the “Sonderkommando uprising” took place on October 7, 1944, at Crematoria I [II] and III [IV] in Birkenau, resulting in the death of 451 Sonderkommando prisoners. The thoughts, emotions, concerns, and sufferings endured by the Sonderkommando prisoners during their work at the extermination facilities are contained in the contemporary materials known as the “secret writings of the Sonderkommando,” which consist of diaries and other historical and literary texts, and written mainly in Yiddish.

Keywords:   prisoners, Sonderkommando, Jews, gas chambers, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Holocaust, mass extermination, Sonderkommando uprising, diaries, concentration camp

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