Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust

By Carol Rittner; John K. Roth | Go to book overview

7
Pelagia Lewinska

Nothing was accidental, all was consciously accomplished, all to a specific end. At long last I was grasping the true meaning of Auschwitz; it was created for systematically smashing and destroying people.

PELAGIA LEWINSKA

Although the reasons for her arrest by the Germans were unspecified, a Polish woman named Pelagia Lewinska found herself in Cracow Prison in the winter of 1942-- 1943. The prison was badly overcrowded, and so the prisoners suspected that one of three fates would be theirs. Of the first two, release seemed much less likely than death. But the third option--concentration camp--seemed even more menacing than death. That fate, which Lewinska called at first "a vertiginous plunge into unfathomable vagueness," began to be hers on January 23, 1943, the date she got her Crawcow Prison departure notice.

Cracow is not far from Auschwitz, only forty miles or so. But the train trip that took Lewinska and about 160 other women to that place was a journey into the unknown. What was unknown would become known--too soon, too well--and yet, Lewinska reports, it could still take time for a prisoner to figure out what was happening at Auschwitz. Twenty Months at Auschwitz, Lewinska's book about her experience there, uses the detail of life and death in the camp to focus what she calls "the ultimate purpose of Auschwitz." Her observations, after liberation as well as during her captivity, convinced her that Auschwitz existed to smash, destroy, and exterminate people systematically. This purpose meant that, strictly speaking, nothing happened by accident Auschwitz. Everything--the camp's mud, lice, lack of water, and capricious violence--advanced the intended goals of degradation and destruction.

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Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • ALSO BY CAROL RITTNER AND JOHN K. ROTH ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Maps and Photographs ix
  • Preface xi
  • Prologue Women and the Holocaust 1
  • General Suggestions for Further Reading 20
  • Chronology 22
  • Part One Voices of Experience 35
  • Notes 39
  • 1: Ida Fink 40
  • 2: Etty Hillesum 46
  • Notes 57
  • 3: Charlotte Delbo 58
  • 4: Isabella Leitner 65
  • 5: Olga Lengyel 69
  • 6: Livia E. Bitton Jackson 73
  • 7: Pelagia Lewinska 84
  • 8: Charlotte Delbo 99
  • 9: Gisella Perl 104
  • 10: Olga Lengyel 119
  • 11: Anna Heilman and Rose Meth 130
  • Notes 134
  • Notes 141
  • 12: Sara Nomberg-Przytyk 143
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 149
  • Part Two Voices of Interpretation 155
  • Notes 159
  • 13: Gisela Bock 161
  • Notes 179
  • 14: Marion A. Kaplan 187
  • Notes 207
  • 15: Sybil Milton 213
  • Notes 237
  • 16: Vera Laska 250
  • Notes 267
  • 17: Gitta Sereny 270
  • Preface 271
  • 18: Claudia Koonz 287
  • Notes 304
  • 19: Magda Trocmeé 309
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 317
  • Part Three Voices of Reflection 319
  • Notes 323
  • 20: Irena Klepfisz 324
  • 21: Charlotte Delbo 328
  • 22: Ida Fink 332
  • 23: Deborah E. Lipstadt 349
  • 24: Mary Jo Leddy 355
  • 25: Rachel Altman 363
  • Notes 372
  • 26: Joan Ringelheim 373
  • Notes 400
  • Appendices 406
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 419
  • Epilogue - Different Voices 421
  • Notes 426
  • Glossary 427
  • Index 431
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