Aurélia Kalisky (ed./eds.)
Translated from Yiddish by Almut Seiffert and Miriam Trinh. Introduction and epilogue by Aurélia Kalisky

Salmen Gradowski: Die Zertrennung
Aufzeichnungen eines Mitglieds des Sonderkommandos
[Records of a Member of the Sonderkommando]

Jüdischer Verlag im Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin 2019, 354 pages
ISBN 978-3-633-54280-2

Salmen Gradowski was member of the “Sonderkommando” of Auschwitz—a group of (not only) Jewish inmates who were charged with accompanying the victims to the gas chambers and, after the gassing, burning their bodies. Some of them wrote down the crimes in minute detail and buried their testaments on the site of the camp. The first, incomplete part of Gradowski’s record, hidden in a bottle, was found on the site of the extermination camp Birkenau in 1945 by Red Army soldiers and was published for the first time in Warsaw in 1969. The second part—hidden in a tin can—was found by a Pole and sold to Chaim Wollnerman, who lived in Auschwitz and emigrated to Palestine in 1947 where he published the testament privately in 1977. Here, Gradowski’s collected texts have for the first time been translated into German and published.

Gradowski’s writings are of a nearly unbearable meticulousness and linguistic power. In the midst of the catastrophe that he is living through, conscious that he can only appeal to God and to posterity, he tries reading the collective experience of the Holocaust as a rupture in the history of humankind. In order to give voice to the irreconcilable grief, he draws on the liturgical repertoire of lamentations or apocalyptic writings but also on modern Yiddish poetry. The unification of literary document and historical testament makes Gradowski’s records exceptional.

In German.

Media Response

13 Apr 2021
Salmen Gradowski: Die Zertrennung

Review by Stephan Lehnstaedt, in: Journal of East Central European Studies 70.1 (2021), 124–125

25 Jun 2020
“Der letzte Trost dahin.” Mitglieder der “Sonderkommandos” von Auschwitz haben erschütternde Dokumente hinterlassen

Collected reviews by Roland Kaufhold, in: Jüdische Allgemeine, 29 Jun 2020, also published in: haGalil. Jüdisches Leben online

31 Mar 2020
Salmen Gradowski: Die Zertrennung

Review by Werner Renz, in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 3 (2020), 269–271

24 Jan 2020
Niemals sollte die Welt dies erfahren. Zwei Editionen präsentieren Zeugnisse von Mitgliedern des Sonderkommandos Auschwitz

Review by Marie Luise Knott, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 Jan 2020

23 Nov 2019
Er schrieb, als die Krematorien noch brannten. Salmen Gradowski: »Die Zertrennung«

Radio review by Fabian Wolff, in: Deutschlandfunk Kultur, program Buchkritik, 23 Nov 2019