Reading the Scrolls of Auschwitz

Between February 1945 and October 1980, eight caches of documents were found buried in the grounds around Crematoria II and III of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

They had been written by members of the Sonderkommando, the ‘special squad’ of slave labourers made up almost exclusively of Jewish prisoners. Their task was to dispose of the bodies of people murdered in the gas chambers, knowing that they too would eventually be murdered in turn.

Their writings, sometimes called the ‘Scrolls of Auschwitz,’ are a series of remarkable eyewitness accounts of Nazi genocide. Little read and virtually undiscussed for several decades, they have only recently come to public attention, as they inspired this year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Son of Saul. This session will explain the work undertaken with the Scrolls in the Auschwitz archive, what they tell us about the Sonderkommando specifically, and their importance for our understanding of the Holocaust.

Dominic Williams is the Montague Burton Fellow in Jewish Studies at the University of Leeds. He is the co-author, with Nicholas Chare, of Matters of Testimony: Interpreting the Scrolls of Auschwitz (Berghahn, 2016).

We would love to see you there – please register for a place at

For more information, email Dominic Williams.

Location details

Room 12.19