Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Books on Birkenau

So, here's an odd research request, but I figured I might as well take a page out of Jay Lake's blogging book and query the collective internet.

I'm currently working on a piece of writing that's set in Birkenau, and I'm wondering if anyone knows of any good books that I should read. I'm particularly looking for accounts from women prisoners, as well as the Sonderkommando. I've found a nice Amazon list through Google, but any other recommended books would be lovely as well. I've pretty much exhausted what's available online already.

11 comments:

michele_lang said...

Are you looking for memoirs of survivors of Birkenau only, or memoirs by women who survived other WWII death camps? If the latter, check out All But My Life, by Gerda Klein. It's a heartbreaking and beautiful book -- I think of her as an Anne Frank who survived.

Jenny Rappaport said...

michele, I'm specifically looking only for memoirs of Birkenau because that's where the story is set. That said, I'm going to definitely look for your book when I hit up the library today.

Kimber An said...

I wouldn't limit myself to only memoirs of Birkenau, if I were you. Experiences were similar and you'll find more women's voices if you throw a wider net. The more perspective you have the better you'll shape your characters. I recommend 'Auschwitz' which was written by a Jewish doctor forced to work there and is very disturbing, but will give you a clear, behind-the-scenes operation of a death camp. 'The Hiding Place' was written by a Christian woman from the Netherlands who got sent to the camps for hiding Jews. Have you read Jane Yolen's young adult fiction on this topic? I haven't but I intend to soon.

Jenny Rappaport said...

kimber an, I have read THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC, and it's a wonderful book.

I've done a significant amount of internet research already, and the experiences of the prisoners differed significantly at the different concentration camps. With Birkenau, for example, from about 1942-1943 onwards, 75% of the people brought there went straight to the gas chambers right off the train, and it's the stories of the other 25% that I need for my story. I can even tell you how the men's barracks and the women's barracks were different, as well as which types of Polish mushrooms are poisonous (it was a fact needed for the story). =)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No suggestions here, as the grandmother-in-law passed through Auschwitz in the late days -- even avoided the dreaded tattoo, it was so late. I try to avoid a lot of Holocaust lit anymore; a lot is too repetitive and the rest just gives me nightmares.

Kimber An said...

I find it amazing that I could stomach books on the holocaust when I was a teenager, but I can't bear it now that I'm 30something. I think a lot of it has to do with becoming a mother since then. I can't even open the newspaper anymore without having nightmares.

McKoala said...

Kimber An, since I had kids I can't even watch ER any more!

Kimber An said...

OH, no way, no ER! I'm kind of bummed with myself because I really want to watch Schindler's List and Private Ryan and some others, but my Heroic Husband (maybe I should just call him HH) said they were quite graphic. Oh, well, with a husband and children, pretty much all I do with the t.v. is dust it.

SJB said...

My daughter visited Auschwitz-Birkenau last year on a guide trip, it prompted her to chose that topic for course work this year for History A level.

Anyway,

This might be too general for you, but the BBC made a superb series a year or two ago called - Auschwitz - The Nazis And The Final Solution. It is available on DVD, and there is a rather more in-depth book to go with it. Both cover the subject of women prisoners, especially interesting were the details about the women that worked in the area called "Canada", where they sorted out the belongings of those that had been sent stright to the gas chambers.

Regards
Sue..

Anonymous said...

Try finding "This way for the gas ladies and gentlemen," by Tadeusz Borowski.

Anonymous said...

I agree on "This Way For the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen" by Tadeusz Borowski. It's a collection of short stories, but it moves really fast, and it's very informative, especially about the Sonderkommando. Borowski's also writes a lot about his fiance, who was in Birkenau. Heartbreaking, but very useful if you need to know what it was all about.