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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2023

David Rousset: The Blind Spot in French Concentration Camp Discourse After 1945

From the book Buchenwald

  • Sonia Combe


Until the turning point of the 1970s and 1980s, Buchenwald was at the centre of French concentration camp discourse. Between 1945 and 1948, more than two hundred books about the camp were published. Buchenwald became a metonym for the world of concentration camps in the same way that Auschwitz later became a metonym for all extermination camps. In 1947, David Rousset, a former prisoner, released Les jours de notre mort [The Days of Our Death], based on an extraordinary collection of witness statements from all of the deportees he could trace in France. It revealed in 750 pages the camp ‘from the inside’. It had never been translated in German nor in English. The author compares Les jours de notre mort with The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as these two works in many respects have contributed to objective knowledge about reality in the camps. Comparing the historiography on KZ camps in France and GDR/ DDR, the issue of the article is to point out that today’s dominant narrative on Buchenwald with the theory of the ‘red capo’ ignored the complexity of the relationships between prisoners in the camp. The influential book Der gesäuberte Antifaschismus by historian Lutz Niethammer (1994) and the exhibition dedicated to GDR’s antifascist version at Buchenwald’s Memorial in Weimar are definitely lacking this important source of Les jours de notre mort.

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