Paul Steinberg

1926 (Berlin) - 1999 (Paris)


"Does one do good out of respect for the image that one has of oneself, and evil in order to express the situation of profound contempt in which one finds oneself?"

Paul Steinberg was born to a Russian-Jewish family in Berlin on 18 October 1926. His mother died during childbirth. In 1933 the family emigrated to Paris where he attended the Claude Bernard grammar school for science and modern languages.

On 23 September 1943 the sixteen-year-old Steinberg was arrested by French policemen on account of his Jewish origins and taken to the French Drancy internment camp, and on 20 October 1943 deported to Auschwitz III (Buna-Monowitz). From January 1944 he worked there in the chemicals detachment, to which Primo Levi was also assigned. At the end of January 1945 he was evacuated to the Little Camp of Buchenwald and survived thanks to the help of Communists.

Following liberation, Paul Steinberg returned to Paris. "After the resurrection", at the age of eighteen, he began his "second life": special baccalauréat examination, from 1946 the study of mathematics, physics and chemistry, later seminars on stage direction and acting classes. At the end of the 1940s he founded a company for international trade with veneer timbers; he travelled frequently through France, Italy and Germany on business.

In the 1960s he wrote a novel in an attempt to banish his memories of the camps, but failed. In 1995 – in the meantime he had dissolved his company – he set to work again on his report of his concentration camp experiences: in 1996 his Chroniques d’ailleurs were published by Edition Ramsay (English: Speak You Also: A Survivor’s Reckoning, 2001).

Paul Steinberg died in Paris in 1999.