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Free Content Narratives of clothing: Concentration camp dress as a companion to survival

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Common knowledge about Second World War prisoner identification in Nazi concentration camps usually focuses on the registration process and the striped uniforms issued to new inmates. Recent research on concentration camp clothing based on primary sources has revealed lesser known, and even entirely unknown other types of garments, including civilian clothing marked to identify camp prisoners. Dress was a valuable companion on the route towards survival; personal narratives relating to camp attire reveal individual stories hidden in every piece of clothing.

This study presents new material from an ongoing research project on prisoners’ clothing in Second World War concentration camps. Valuable information is gleaned from unpublished evidence documented in personal interviews with former camp prisoners from Central Europe. This article explores the journeys of the garments alongside the persons through the study of former prisoners’ narratives. It combines data collected from oral testimony and archival research using qualitative analysis, and proposes oral history as a valuable tool in documenting personal experience related to the clothing that accompanied concentration camp survivors to the end of the war. The article brings to light significant aspects of the role of attire within the Nazi concentration camp context as an essential key to survival.
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Keywords: Second World War; concentration camp clothing; narrative; oral testimony/oral history; striped uniform; survival

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Aalto University, Finland

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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  • The International Journal of Fashion Studies is a scientific peer-reviewed journal that fosters the worldwide diffusion of Fashion Studies. Fashion Studies is an interdisciplinary field of research that has been producing an extensive repertoire of theories, analyses and enquiries.
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