Rachael Binning
UCSB History 133Q
Weekly Questions
February 3, 2004

These questions were written as an assignment for Prof. Marcuse's Hist 133q seminar ("Readings in Holocaust History"), Winter quarter 2004 (course homepage). It is posted here as an example of the kind of questions that go beyond factual issues and provide good starting points for discussion and research

"Eyewitness Auschwitz" by Filip Müller (1979)

  1. What accounts for the inaccuracies in the memoir? How does this affect the way the book is read? Can it still be seen as credible?
  2. What was the role of the Red Cross in the killings at Auschwitz? Were they punished for they punished for their involvement or "passive collaboration" after the war?
  3. In several instances Müller mentioned pious individuals in the camp? How were they able to remain faithful to God in such a time of despair? How did they use religion and God to comfort them?
  4. Why did many of the Jews continue to accept the Nazis’ lies after they were proven wrong again and again? How strong a role does the will to survive play in surviving?
  5. Müller mentions several times that he was able to smoke cigarettes and that to survive he often "organized" the dead victims’ belongings. How much freedom did the Sonderkommando have?
  6. When describing camp and crematorium Müller often uses specific measurements and details. Was he actually able to remember these details from his time in the camp or did he learn about them later? How did other people’s accounts, stories, and information affect his own memory?
  7. Why did the SS men feel so much more guilty killing the Gypsies when they seemed to have no remorse for the Jews? Psychologically, how were they affected by the brutal killings and punishments they were inflicting on the Jews?
  8. The inmates had to resort to animal instincts and sub-human and selfish behavior to survive. How did this behavior affect Muller and other people who survived the war? Did they feel guilty for surviving and for their brutal manner in the camps?
  9. In what way did Muller and the Sonderkommando become numbed to the corpses and death? How did this help them to survive?
  10. Why did the people in the family camp refuse to believe the Sonderkommando when they were told they would be killed? What were the different dynamics and groups within the camp and what effect did they have on people’s trust and interaction with each other?

author: Rachel Binning, prepared for web by H. Marcuse, 2/5/04
back to top, to UCSB Hist 133q homepage, to H. Marcuse homepage