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< All Fellows and Scholars

Ms. Micaela Procopio

Micaela Procopio
2022 Summer Graduate Student Research Fellow

“Paradox of Power: Secret Abortions as Resistance during the Holocaust”

Professional Background

Micaela Procopio received a Bachelor of Arts in History with two minors in Jewish Studies and Museum Studies from Michigan State University. Ms. Procopio is currently PhD Student in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Gratz College. During her time at Michigan State, Ms. Procopio helped develop and host the annual Yom HaShoah for the State of Michigan and started the annual ‘Survivor Stories’ lecture that brings Holocaust Survivors to share their testimony. While working towards a Master’s Degree in Public History at American University in Washington D.C., she created a three-week cross-curriculum plan on the Holocaust and tested it at the Lab School in D.C. In addition, she has conducted multiple oral testimonies that were used in her Master's thesis, entitled, “In My Own Words: The Italian Sfollati Crisis, 1943-1945.”

During the summer of 2019, Ms. Procopio was an 'Auschwitz Jewish Center Fellow' at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Poland. She has written curriculum for the Washington Congregation of Secular Humanistic Judaism for their Jewish School and currently works as a Holocaust Education Consultant to help schools and non-profits to teach the Holocaust through appropriate pedagogy and resources.

Fellowship Research

Micaela’s research will build upon Gisella Perl's memoir, where she documents the secret abortions she performed while imprisoned at Auschwitz. This project will focus on the “choiceless choices” of pregnant women committing abortions in secret during the Holocaust. The gender-specific targeting of the Nazis represents a secondary research focus in the overall project, which would benefit from researching the USHMM’s enormous repository of Nazi documentation.

Ms. Procopio sees both uses of reproduction as intertwined in understanding reproductive violence as a form of gendered genocide. These two dimensions - the use of abortions and forced sterilizations by the Nazis, and the “choice” of secret abortions by Jewish prisoners - pose a paradox about the nature of power and resistance during the Holocaust. At this early point in the research, Ms. Procopio remains struck by this apparent paradox in Dr. Perl’s memoir. How does her story reflect both sides of the coin, i.e. abortion as an instrument of both genocide and survival? How many other stories like this are out there?

Residency Period: June 1 through August 31, 2022