Diaries of the Sonderkommandos in Auschwitz: Coping With Fate and Reality
Cohen examines the Yiddish-language diaries of three Auschwitz Sonderkommando men — Zalman Gradowski, Zalman Levental, and Leib Langfus. All three buried their notes near the crematoria prior to their execution. The article comprises sketches of their biographies and Jewish religious background, analyzes the diaries in order to explain how they coped with the realities they faced, how they perceived their own fate, and how their religiosity affected their behavior and relations with other inmates. Their testimonies are particularly important because of on some events they witnessed, such as the liquidation of the “family camp” of Czech Jews on March 8, 1944, the execution of 200 members of the Sonderkommando in September 1944, the execution of transports of women and children, and the numerical data of prisoners gassed in October 1944. All three were involved in underground activities and preparation for the uprising. Also explored are the psychological and moral aspects associated with the accomplishment of their “tasks,” their relations with the victims, their remarks on the Nazis’ sadism, and their reflections on the fate of the Jewish people.