Their Daily Bread: Stories of Survival and Suffering from the Nazi and Soviet Labor Camps




Jackson, Kody

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While my friends complain about many of their classes, they harp on history the most, saying that they would rather spend hours in the lab than read even a short history article. How did so many people come to view history as so boring and even painful to learn? In this paper, I seek to remedy this problem by using personal testimony (in the form of memoir) to examine the daily joys and tribulations of those who suffered through the Nazi and Soviet labor camp systems. Beginning with an analysis of the strengths, flaws, and practicality of memoirs as historical sources, this paper then embarks on a journey through the respective camp systems. In separate chapters on the Nazi and Soviet camps, it explores events like the prisoners’ interrogations, back-breaking labor, and death and themes like religious devotion, moral transformation, and the obligation to testify. Next, it discusses Margarete Buber-Neumann, a survivor who lived through both sets of camps, as a bridge between these two atrocities and a way to bring them together into a comparative history. Finally, this paper discusses how survivors remember their experiences and what that means for all of us who wish to understand the Nazi and Soviet camp systems and to use personal testimony to supplement traditional history.



Memoir., The Soviet Union., Germany 1933-1945., Memory., Concentration Camps., Labor Camps., Gulag., Margarete Buber-Neumann (1901-1989).