Hunger: Testing Testimonial Limits in the Gray Zone

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Literary descriptions of the multitude of experiences during the Holocaust and World War II face the dilemma of the (non)representability of extreme duress. This article delves into the testimonial remnants of two men in the gray zone of complicity: Eliezer Gruenbaum’s harrowing recollections of starving prisoners in Birkenau, and Konrad Jarausch’s chronicling of his burgeoning despair over his inability to feed Soviet POWs in the winter of 1941. Both men testify to the devastating effects of hunger (due to deliberate starvation policies) from positions that implicate them as complicit observers. This article employs Naomi Mandel’s idea of complicity as the condition for responsibility, Jill Stauffer’s ethical loneliness, and Primo Levi’s gray zone to make interpretive suggestions for understanding their testimonies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number21
JournalHumanities (Switzerland)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Holocaust
  • World War II
  • complicity
  • gray zone
  • hunger
  • witnessing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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