Book Information

A Jewish Kapo in Auschwitz: History, Memory, and the Politics of Survival

Tuvia Friling

344 pp. 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"

978-1-61168-587-9, Paperback
978-1-61168-576-3, Hardcover
978-1-61168-577-0, Ebook


Antony Polonsky calls A Jewish Kapo "gripping and disturbing" in American Historical Review April 2016

Review in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, April 17, 2016

"Black and White in the Gray Zone: Where Law Ends and the Story Begins," Journal of Modern Jewish Studies (Dec. 2015)

"The Waste and the Redemption," Jerusalem Post 11/2014.

A Jewish Kapo in Auschwitz: History, Memory and the Politics of Survival

Tuvia Friling

The biography of the Communist Jewish kapo whose controversy-ridden story spans Europe and Israel

Eliezer Gruenbaum (1908-1948) was a Polish Jew denounced for serving as a kapo while interned at Auschwitz. He was the communist son of Yitzhak Gruenbaum, the most prominent secular leader of interwar Polish Jewry, who later became the chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Rescue Committee during the Holocaust, and Israel’s first minister of the interior. The denunciation of the son, in light of the father’s high placement in both Polish and Israeli politics and his suspicious death during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, adds intrigue to a controversy that really centers on the question of what constitutes—and how we evaluate—moral behavior in Auschwitz.

Gruenbaum became a symbol exploited by opponents of the movements to which he was linked. Sorting through this Rashomon-like story within the cultural and political contexts in which Gruenbaum operated, Friling illuminates key debates that rent the Jewish community in Europe and Israel from the 1930s to the 1960s.

"An astonishingly excellent work of historical reconstruction and interpretation... [By] combining deep and creative research, conceptual sophistication, and deep humanity, [Friling] offers us what should become a classic, important, and enduring work of history."—Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland

"An important, innovative, and fascinating book."—Shlomo Aronson, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"Leafing through this research, one is persistently gripped by the wealth of perspectives, the enthralling and skillful weaving of the story, and the breathtaking effort to exhaust all sources."—Matityahu Mintz, Tel Aviv University

TUVIA FRILING is professor of modern Jewish history at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

This book was published by Brandeis University Press as part of the Schusterman Series in Israel Studies.