Books by Marion A. Kaplan

HISTORY
Released: April 1, 1998

An exceptional Holocaust study from the vantage point of German Jewish women. German Jews in general have been accused of loving Germany too much and of suffering less than their Eastern European counterparts. Kaplan (History/Queens Coll., CUNY), the award-winning author of The Making of the Jewish Middle Class (not reviewed), doesn't dampen the first charge, but has lots of personal and poignant responses—and statistics—to eradicate the latter. German Jews, she writes, ``expected the worst—they did not expect the unthinkable.'' As far as what German Jews suffered, we see from Kaplan's research that ``women reveal crucial private thoughts and emotions.'' Drawing on their ``stories, memoirs, interviews, letters and diaries,'' and aided by her own eye for the intimate detail, she lets us re-experience how ``Nazi Germany succeeded in enforcing social death on its Jews'' by slowly banning them from all public places. And German Jewish women were a public force; they had smaller families and more education than the average woman, and in the League of Jewish Women Voters they numbered 50,000 for Germany's bourgeois feminist movement. When conditions worsened, ``most [women] adjusted to daily deprivation'' and insult, courageously carrying on family life and tasks with a semblance of normalcy. And women, faced with carrying on in such circumstances, were often less naive than their husbands, who didn't want to risk their livelihoods. The author cites one woman who smuggled the family's valuables in a secret compartment of her desk and only told her husband the night before they arrived in Cuba. Taboos about mistreating women gradually fell, and the Nazis—for whom ``racism and sexism were intertwined''—murdered a disproportionate number of elderly women. Only 1,400 German Jews survived by being hidden by their countrymen, less than one percent of the original population in 1933. This is a major addition to Holocaust studies, as so few works have concentrated on women. Read full book review >