Emerging from the shadows? The Auschwitz Sonderkommando and the 'four women' in history and memory

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This essay falls into two parts. First, an analysis of the changing ways in which the Auschwitz Sonderkommando have been discussed, with particular reference to the sources of our knowledge of them, developments in historiography, and the ways in which they have been represented in museums and popular culture. The second part of the essay explores these issues in more depth via a case study focusing on the story of four women – Ala Gertner, Roza Robota, Regina Safirsztajn and Estera Wajcblum – who were hanged in Auschwitz on 5/6 January 1945 for smuggling explosives to the Sonderkommando. This case study facilitates a detailed exploration of the ‘politics of memory’ and gendered memory in relation to the Sonderkommando in general and these four women in particular.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-170
Number of pages34
JournalHolocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014