Antelme was arrested and deported on 1 July 1944. He was at Buchenwald, then Gandersheim. After the end of the war François Mitterrand found Antelme in a terrible state while visiting the Dachau concentration camp and organised his return to Paris; Mitterrand later reported that he had almost not heard Antelme's soft-voiced call to him. Marguerite Duras looked after Antelme and wrote La Douleur about his return. She divorced him soon after he regained his health, but they remained friends.
Antelme later wrote L'Espèce humaine (1947) depicting his experiences in the camps. The book related his experience of detention in concentration camps. Published in 1947, the book was more than just a memoir of the hardships of a concentration camp. It was a reflection on humanity.