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Objects of WarThe Material Culture of Conflict and Displacement$
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Leora Auslander and Tara Zahra

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781501720079

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501720079.001.0001

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The Bricolage of Death

The Bricolage of Death

Jewish Possessions and the Fashioning of the Prisoner Elite in Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1942–1945

(p.189) 7 The Bricolage of Death
Objects of War

Noah Benninga

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on elite prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, where block elders and other elite prisoners appropriated clothing and personal goods stolen from other inmates to instantiate their social status in the camp. Differences among prisoners existed and were integral to the Nazi socio-racial planning and running of the camp. To survive, prisoners had to “make a career,” that is, to achieve success in the terms of the camp. Using survivor accounts, the chapter then explores the ways in which fashion and dress manifested in a social world on the precipice of immediate death. Even though it developed autonomously, prisoner fashion was ultimately one of the tools with which the SS created a “ruling class” of prisoners who acted in their stead. It was the prisoner elite that reflected these negative ideals and values into the depths of the camp, from which the SS tried to keep a healthy distance.

Keywords:   elite prisoners, Nazi concentration camps, social status, prisoner fashion, prisoner elite, Auschwitz, Birkenau

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