Academic journal article Shofar

Women and the Holocaust: New Perspectives and Challenges

Academic journal article Shofar

Women and the Holocaust: New Perspectives and Challenges

Article excerpt

WOMEN AND THE HOLOCAUST: NEW PERSPECTIVES AND CHALLENGES Edited by Andrea Pető, Louise Hecht, and Karolina Krasuska. Warsaw: Instytut Badán Literackich PAN, 2015. 268 pp.

Women and the Holocaust: New Perspectives and Challenges is the result of an interdisciplinary conference carried out in Warsaw in November 2011. As the organizers of the conference stated, it was their intention that "the 'return' to Europe of the former communist countries shall neither be effected by highlighting differences nor by glossing them over, but by providing a carefully crafted corpus of studies that allows parallels between 'East' and 'West' without dismissing (national) dissimilarities." This is very important. Research on the role played by gender, age, or social background in the experience of camps and ghettos (as opposed to the universal experience of men as the "quintessential" experience of the Holocaust) is now an autonomous, well-established field in Western Europe, Israel, and America, but as the volume demonstrates, while little known to an English-language audience, advances in scholarship are also taking place in Central and East Central Europe.

The volume opens with an article by Leonore J. Weitzman and Dalia Ofer, which, by discussing the authors' sequential theory of women's responses to the Holocaust, provides a convincing theoretical framework for the collection. By demonstrating the multiplicity of femininities appearing in their readings of personal documents, Weitzman and Ofer call for research into the "details of individual experiences." This call finds its embodiment in the following study by Bożena Karwowska, in which she uses the case of what prisoners considered to be luxury objects to discuss an intersection of gender, class, and race in the concentration camps personal documents.

Other papers follow this lead. Among them, in a section on "Filling the Blanks," Eleonore Lappin-Eppel discusses the intersection of age and gender in the previously understudied testimonies of female survivors of the Strasshof transports, which took Hungarian Jews from Hungary to Austria. In further studies, discussing the impact of communist historiography on forming the memory of Holocaust and gender and simultaneously introducing new sources of research, Monika Vrzgulova discusses women's testimonies from the Slovak Oral History Archive, while Hedvig Turai looks at the intersection of erasure of gender issues and Holocaust memories in postwar Hungary. …

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