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WOMEN IN THE HOLOCAUST by Dalia Ofer

WOMEN IN THE HOLOCAUST

By Dalia Ofer (Editor) , Lenore J. Weitzman (Editor)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-300-07354-2
Publisher: Yale Univ.

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.