Prior to World War II, the lives of most Jews in Europe were circumscribed by their traditional gender roles. Men were responsible for the physical survival of the family, while women were responsible for support and guidance within the family. These basic patterns continued as the Nazi control of Europe began and threatened to extinguish this way of life. Even as women adapted their traditional roles or assumed new roles in response to the drastic circumstances of Nazi rule, these adaptations were still done within the traditional frameworks established before the war. The essays in Women in the Holocaust explore how the experiences of everyday life before the Nazis came to power shaped the responses of women to the onslaught of the Holocaust. While all Jews were targeted by the Nazis, regardless of their sex, the focus in this book on women’s experiences provides a unique perspective in the study of the Holocaust.
As the editors outline in their introduction, “culturally defined gender roles...endowed the two sexes with different skills, knowledge, and expertise” with which to deal with the Nazi persecution. Since men were perceived to be the biggest physical threat to the Nazi take-over, they were anticipated to be in the greatest physical danger. Therefore, rescue efforts in many cases focused on men, while women and children were left behind. This resulted in the disproportionate deportation of women and children and to their disproportionate representation in ghetto populations. Also, women were more likely to stay with their children, and so they were more likely to be sent to gas chambers after deportation to death camps. Though both men and women were ultimately destined for death, the harassment, type of work, and even rules that women were given were often different than those given to men. Rape, pregnancy, abortion, family health, and other gender-specific issues are discussed, as are the experiences in women’s sections of ghettos and camps, including research on and testimony from women survivors of the camp at Ravensbruck. While the essays are predominantly about Jewish women, there are references to non-Jewish women in Nazi society and their roles as camp guards, medical testing assistants, euthanasia assistants, and informants.
The book includes both recent scholarship on these topics as well as personal testimonies from women survivors. The book also addresses the debate in the scholarly community with regard to Women’s Studies and its place in Holocaust Studies. It responds to the criticism that focusing on women’s issues detracts from the Holocaust itself, in which the victims were selected because they were Jewish, not because of their gender. It does this while bringing attention to the fact that most Holocaust research has been, de facto, gender-based because it often overlooked research about women.
Women in the Holocaust includes endnotes for each essay, an index, and biographical details about each of the contributors.
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|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|Introduction: The Role of Gender in the Holocaust
Lenore J. Weitzman and Dalia Ofer
|Part I Before the War||19|
|ONE Gender and the Jewish Family in Modern Europe
Paula E. Hyman
|TWO Keeping Calm and Weathering the Storm: Jewish Women's Responses to Daily Life in Nazi Germany, 1933-1939
|THREE The Missing 52 Percent: Research on Jewish Women in Interwar Poland and Its Implications for Holocaust Studies
|FOUR Women in the Jewish Labor Bund in Interwar Poland
|FIVE Ordinary Women in Nazi Germany: Perpetrators, Victims, Followers, and Bystanders
|Part II Life in the Ghettos||101|
|SIX The Grodno Ghetto and Its Underground: A Personal Narrative
|SEVEN The Key Game
|EIGHT The Status and Plight of Women in the Lodz Ghetto
|NINE Gender Issues in Diaries and Testimonies of the Ghetto: The Case of Warsaw
|Part III Resistance and Rescue||169|
|TEN In the Ghetto and in the Resistance: A Personal Narrative
|ELEVEN Living on the Aryan Side in Poland: Gender, Passing, and the Nature of Resistance
Lenore J. Weitzman
|TWELVE Women among the Forest Partisans
|THIRTEEN Women in the French-Jewish Underground: Shield-Bearers of the Resistance?
|FOURTEEN Gisi Fleischmann
|Part IV Labor Camps and Concentration Camps||265|
|FIFTEEN One Year in the Black Hole of Our Planet Earth: A Personal Narrative
Lidia Rosenfeld Vago
|SIXTEEN Women in the Forced-Labor Camps
|SEVENTEEN Women in Theresienstadt and the Family Camp in Birkenau
|EIGHTEEN Memoirs of Auschwitz Survivors: The Burden of Gender
|NINETEEN The Split between Gender and the Holocaust
|TWENTY Gendered Suffering? Women in Holocaust Testimonies
Lawrence L. Langer
|TWENTY-ONE Women in Holocaust Literature: Engendering Trauma Memory
Sara R. Horowitz
|List of Contributors||379|