Life and Death in Verses – A Case Study: The Writings of Lili Kasticher, The Only Woman That Wrote in Auschwitz


This paper focuses on the unique works of a young woman named Lili Kasticher, written at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp from April to November 1944. The possession of a piece of paper or a pencil stub was absolutely forbidden in Bireknau. Anyone caught with such contraband was immediately sentenced to death. Consequently, inmates at Auschwitz produced virtually no written material, with rare exceptions, such as the Sonderkommandos, who documented everyday life at the camp, concealing their records in jars that they buried near the crematoria, in the hope that someone would find them after the war, as indeed occurred. Similarly, the Germans ordered Jewish inmates to write postcards to their relatives, describing the ‘decent’ living conditions prevailing in their ‘new place.’ In Moments of Reprieve, Primo Levi describes a love letter that a gypsy inmate asked him to write, indicating that he risked both their lives to do so in exchange for half a portion of bread. No women are known to have written at Birkenau except for Lili Kasticher, who risked her life by stealing pieces of paper and pencil stubs to write poetry. She encouraged her friends to do the same by offering them a prize – a portion of her daily rations. Lili also wrote a political-social manifesto entitled Rules of Behaviour, intended as a guide to survival for herself and her blockmates. The notes she wrote were concealed on her body until her liberation in spring 1945.

Author Information
Lily Zamir, The David Yellin Academic College of Education, Israel

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2017
Stream: Humanities - History, Historiography

This paper is part of the ECAH2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon