The Death of Maurice Halbwachs

In the summer of 1944, inmates of the Buchenwald concentration camp learned of the imminent liberation of Paris by Allied troops. All the more surprised were many of them by the arrival of new inmate transports from the cleared detention facilities near the French capital.

One of the last deportees was the 67-year-old Maurice Halbwachs. The Germans were suspicious of the renowned sociologist: he was a member of the Socialist Party, married to a Jew, and his sons had fought in the Résistance. He and one of his sons were committed to the Little Camp of Buchenwald in August 1944. He suffered from boils and contracted dysentery. He recovered, but in early 1945 the illness flared up again and he landed back in the squalor of the Little Camp.

He was one of more than 6,000 inmates to perish there in the final three months before the liberation. Maurice Halbwachs died on 15 March 1945. His contributions to the sociology of memory are still considered trailblazing today.


(Marvin Keitel)


Reference: Maurice Halbwachs, The Collective Memory, New York 1980.