If you found this page, I assume that you’ve read my historical mystery, The Auschwitz Detective, book 6 of the Adam Lapid series. If you haven’t, then I invite you to grab your copy here.
When I decided to write a murder mystery that takes place in Auschwitz-Birkenau, I knew I wished to paint a realistic picture of what life was like in that hellish camp in the summer of 1944. For that purpose, I embarked upon a long and deep journey of research that not only preceded the writing, but accompanied it.
This journey encompassed a variety of resources. Numerous books, an untold number of written and video testimonies by survivors, and a host of online resources from museums, research institutes, and more.
I would like to share the ones I found most important and useful here.
1. Auschwitz Museum (website here)– The official website of the Auschwitz museum in Poland. You can find endless information here not only on the overall history of the complex of camps that comprised Auschwitz, but also on the daily life of prisoners, and how conditions in Auschwitz changed with time and the shifting winds of war.
2. Yad Vashem (website here) – The national Holocaust museum and research institute in Israel, Yad Vashem collects and makes available information on all aspects of the Holocaust. The information it provides about Auschwitz is extensive and eye-opening. One invaluable and heartbreaking resource is The Auschwitz Album, a collection of photographs taken by a German photographer that shows a selection of Hungarian Jews on the train platform in Birkenau. You can view The Auschwitz Album here.
3. The National Committee of Hungarian Jews for Attending Deportees, DEGOB (website here) – Degob was an organization established in Hungary in 1945 to assist in the repatriation of Hungarian Jewish deportees and to document the experiences of survivors. Since Adam Lapid is an Hungarian Jew and The Auschwitz Detective takes place during the extermination of Hungarian Jewry in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the interviews Degob conducted were particularly useful. For instance, I would not have been able to write about the Kanada Warehouses without reading the testimonies of men and women who toiled there.
4. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (website here) – Similarly to Yad Vashem, the USHMM offers a tremendous amount and range of resources for anyone who wishes to learn more about the Holocaust in general and Auschwitz-Birkenau in particular.
This is but a partial selection of the books I read in preparation for writing The Auschwitz Detective. I recommend each and every one of them.
Note: The links to the books are affiliate links. If you purchase any of these books via these links, Amazon will give me a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Speak You Also by Paul Steinberg
My all-time favorite Auschwitz memoir. Paul Steinberg was a French Jew who was transported to Auschwitz in 1943. He was not imprisoned in Birkenau, but in Auschwitz-III, also known as Monowitz, which was a giant work camp in which thousands of Jews died from hard labor and privation.
While there were differences in conditions between Monowitz and Birkenau, the overall experience was similar. Hunger, cold, fear, cruelty, and a sense of deep loss.
What’s remarkable about Speak You Also, apart from the beautiful writing, is Steinberg’s unflinching self-examination in analyzing why he, and others like him, survived while so many others perished. Not all such qualities are what most people will view as positive.
If you wish to learn more about what helped a person survive Auschwitz, read Speak You Also. It will stay with you forever.
If This is a Man by Primo Levi
Primo Levi’s account of his imprisonment in Auschwitz-Monowitz, during which he actually met Paul Steinberg, is one of the seminal works on the Holocaust, and rightfully so. Levi examines not only himself, but mankind in general, as he details the various characters he met during his time in Auschwitz.
The result is a moving portrayal of mankind, the improbable power of the will to survive, and a reflection of how to maintain one’s humanity in inhuman conditions. If this is a Man is second in my heart only to Speak You Also. Everyone should read it.
Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp edited by Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum
Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp is an academic book that looks at all facets of Auschwitz and its various sub-camps, from its inception, through its gradual growth, to the life of the various prisoner populations in it.
Inside the Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, you will find research papers on the Czech family camp, on women prisoners, on the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, the Gypsy camp, the building of the gas chambers, the hospital, and everything else you can think of.
If you want to get an overall, detailed picture of Auschwitz, and how it became the deadliest Nazi camp, read this book. It’s fascinating.
Auschwitz #34207: The Joe Rubinstein Story
This is the fascinating life story of Joe Rubinstein, who in 1942 was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Rubinstein’s tale of survival is gripping and terrifying. Reading it, I found myself wondering again and again how he had managed to survive all the hardships he encountered.
This is a story of loss and pain, but also of hope. Because after the war, Rubinstein immigrated to America, where he fulfilled his dream of becoming a leading shoe designer.
If you’re looking for a story of perseverance, hope, and resilience, this is the book for you.
Boy 30529: A Memoir
Felix Weinberg was only twelve when Nazi Germany seized control of his native country of Czechoslovakia. Weinberg spent the war in a string of concentration camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau. He lost close family members and only barely survived.
Boy 30529: A Memoir is an emotional tale of what life was like for a Jewish boy thrust into war.
Weinberg’s story, like that of Joe Rubinstein, is a testament to the incredible strength exhibited by many survivors, and their extraordinary ability to rebuild their lives after the Holocaust.
70 Stories of Auschwitz
Leading to the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the USC Shoah Foundation released 70 short videos of Auschwitz survivors, each telling a small piece of their own story.
Here is the first video. From it you can easily navigate to the others.
The Eichmann Trial
In May 1960, agents of the Israeli Mossad captured Adolph Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust. The operation took place in Argentina, where he was living under an assumed identity.
The agents smuggled Eichmann to Israel, where he stood trial. You can watch much of that trial, with English translation, here on Youtube.
Not all the testimonies in this trial deal with Auschwitz-Birkenau. Rather, they give an overview of the Holocaust. If you wish to learn more about that time in history, the Eichmann Trial is an unsurpassed resource.
A Final Word
In spite of the research I conducted in order to write The Auschwitz Detective, I am far from an expert. I am also not a historian. I’m a fiction writer who does his best to set his stories in as realistic and accurate a setting as I can.
I am still learning much about the Holocaust, Auschwitz, and the history of Israel, as I continue to write the Adam Lapid series.
I hope that this short list of resources will help you deepen your knowledge of this horrific time in history.