WOMEN IN THE HOLOCAUST

A valuable collection of 21 articles by leading historians, sociologists, writers, literary scholars, and survivors. Ofer (Contemporary Jewish History/Hebrew Univ., Israel) and Weitzman (Sociology and Law/George Mason Univ.) divide their book into four sections: on life before the war, life in the ghettos, resistance and rescue, and labor and concentration camps. Two contributors express reservations about including women as a subcategory of Holocaust studies at all; they are answered by historian Joan Ringelheim’s observation that “Jewish women carried the burdens of sexual victimization, pregnancy, abortion, childbirth, killing of newborn babies in the camps to save the mothers, care of children, and many decisions about separation from children.” A fine piece by German historian Gisela Bock on “Ordinary Women in Nazi Germany” notes that females in the Third Reich performed almost all the political and administrative roles that their male counterparts did, thus countering Claudia Koontz’s hypothesis that they occupied a “separate sphere.” Particularly valuable are several memoirs by survivors about daily conditions and coping mechanisms in labor, concentration and death camps. And in a review of three memoirs by Auschwitz survivors, literary scholar Myrna Goldenberg notes how women formed emotional support networks, known as “camp sisters,” while men tended to be more isolated. This is not the first collection of its kind, but it does bring together a particularly impressive interdisciplinary group from the US, Europe and Israel. It also reveals how much scholarly work remains to be done. It would be useful, for instance, to have some detailed comparative studies of male versus female behavior and to learn more about topics left uncovered here. Still what is included in Ofer’s and Weitzman’s collection is substantial and will help readers appreciate how gender sometimes significantly influenced an individual’s fate during the Holocaust.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-300-07354-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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