Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust

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

8
Charlotte Delbo

No one believes she'll return when she's alone.

CHARLOTTE DELBO

What did it take to survive? Ingenuity? Cunning? Defiance? Were the claims of self-interest sounder, more logical, than concern for others? What made the difference between giving up and holding out?

As the preceding selection by Pelagia Lewinska shows, water was essential for survival in Auschwitz. Charlotte Delbo, whose writing has appeared earlier in this book, makes a similar point: There was morning thirst, afternoon thirst, evening thirst, and night thirst--each different, all the same. To drink was to be alive, but thirst was everywhere. Prisoners died from it, not least because any water to be found was likely to be polluted. The thirst that only water can quench was especially acute and agonizing; many Auschwitz memoirs say so. But not all thirst is the kind that water can quench. In None of Us Will Return, Delbo had much to say about thirst of other kinds as well.

After World War II, Delbo declared, "I must not be discussed as a woman writer. I am not a woman in my writing." She even told her friend Cynthia Haft that there was not "a distinctive female experience of the Holocaust," arguing that "the camp system grants complete equality to men and women." Her themes--for example, hunger, fear, nudity, death, memory, courage, and thirst--do transcend gender distinctions. Yet a play she wrote after the Holocaust, Who Will Carry the Word, has an all-woman cast and "Lulu," the poignant vignette reprinted here, has distinctly feminine qualities.

"As soon as you're alone, you think: What good does it do? What for? Why not give up . . . on the spot?" Delbo responds to herself by saying "Surrounded by the others, one

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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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