Gender and the Holocaust

Women’s Holocaust Writing
  • S. Lillian Kremer


Contentious debates on the appropriateness of gender studies of the Shoah have become increasingly acrimonious following the publication in 1998 of Women in the Holocaust, edited by Dalia Ofer and Lenore J. Weitzman.1 Perhaps the most vituperative voice is that of Gabriel Schoenfeld who, in his Commentary review, ‘Auschwitz and the Professors’, accused feminist scholars of disseminating ‘propaganda’. In his litany of academic sins regarding Holocaust study, Schoenfeld characterizes ‘the voguish hybrid known as gender studies’ as committing ‘the worst excesses of all on today’s campuses’.2 Although Schoenfeld condones study of Jewish women’s experience in ghettos and camps such as that commissioned by the ghetto historian Emannuel Ringelblum, he condemns recent feminist scholarship, which he diminishes as ‘intended explicitly to serve the purposes of “consciousness-raising”… a means of validating feminist theory itself.3 Writing as a dissenting voice in the Ofer/Weitzman collection, Lawrence Langer also rejects gendered Holocaust study. He claims that ‘Listening to the voices of women who survived those domains reminds us of the severely diminished role that gendered behavior played during those cruel years.’4 Langer concludes his essay ‘Gendered Suffering?’ with a dismissive declaration on gender:

the ultimate sense of loss unites former victims in a violated world beyond gender … given the unspeakable sorrow with which all victims were burdened, it seems to me that nothing could be crueler or more callous than the attempt to dredge up from this landscape of universal destruction a mythology of comparative endurance that awards favor to one group of individuals over another.5


Jewish Woman Woman Writer Jewish Child Death Camp Warsaw Ghetto 
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    Lawrence Langer, ‘Gendered Suffering?’ in Women in the Holocaust, eds. Dalia Ofer and Leonore J. Weitzman (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1998), p.351.Google Scholar
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    See S. Lillian Kremer, Women’s Holocaust Writing (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999).Google Scholar
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    On the burdens of motherhood see Marlene Heinemann, Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986).Google Scholar
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    See ghetto historians Chaim A. Kaplan, Scroll of Agony: The Warsaw Diary of Chaim A, Kaplan, ed. Abraham I. Katsh (New York: Collier, 1973), pp.327–28Google Scholar
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    Nechama Tec writes, ‘When taking a step into the Christian world the destinies of the Jewish children were influenced by their appearance and the extent to which it conformed to the stereotypical “Jewish Look.” How well we could blend socially into the environment also made a difference.’ Nechama Tec, ‘A Historical Perspective: Tracing the History of the Hidden Child Experience,’ The Hidden Children: The Secret Survivors of the Holocaust, ed. Jane Marks (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1993), pp.285–286.Google Scholar
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    Henry Krystal, ‘Integration and Self-Healing in Psychotraumatic States’, Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Holocaust, eds. Steven A. Luel and Paul Marcus (New York: KTAV, 1984), p.125.Google Scholar
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    Arthur A. Cohen, The Tremendum: A Theological Interpretation of the Holocaust (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1981), p.2.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • S. Lillian Kremer

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