Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust

By Marlene E. Heinemann | Go to book overview

ories. As Anna Pawełczyńska cryptically states, the main purpose of sexual distinctions in the Nazi persecutions had the function of providing extra opportunities for torturing and killing prisoners. By uncovering some of the torments specific to women, one achieves something unintended but quite valuable: details of a specific experience give form and substance to the general experience because concreteness is more compelling than generality. Particularly with regard to mothers and children, the depiction of ordinary women forced to choose between their children's and their own immediate deaths must be among the most grotesque and painful experiences in Holocaust literature. The theme of amenorrhea shows the extent to which the expectation of genocide must have been present, with the widespread fear of permanent infertility to plague survivors.

Ultimately the feminist significance of women's Holocaust texts is that they are as representative of the general Holocaust experience as men's texts. Like the narratives of men, they represent the specific forms of suffering of one sex, the unique experiences of an individual, and universal aspects of the Holocaust experience.


Notes
1.
Mary Ellman, Thinking About Women ( New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1968), pp. 71-72.
2.
Anna Pawełczyńska, Values and Violence in Auschwitz ( Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979), p. 53.
3.
Cynthia Haft, The Theme of Nazi Concentration Camps in French Literature ( The Hague, Paris: Mouton, 1973), p. 121.
4.
Pawełczyńska, pp. 53-54.
5.
Joan Miriam Ringelheim, "The Unethical and the Unspeakable: Women and the Holocaust," Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual 1, p. 72 (based on conversation with Raul Hilberg).
6.
Vera Laska, Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses ( Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983), p. 7; Nadine Brozan , "Holocaust Women: A Study in Survival," New York Times, March 23, 1983, pp. C-1, 16; Esther Katz and Joan Miriam Ringelheim, Proceedings of the Conference Women Surviving the Holocaust ( New York: The Institute for Research in History, 1983), p. 63.

-35-

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Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Women's Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 11
  • I Female-Centered Themes: Anatomy and Destiny 13
  • Notes 35
  • II Characterization in Holocaust Narratives 39
  • Notes 77
  • III Inmate Relations in Holocaust Narratives 81
  • Notes 113
  • IV Authenticity 117
  • Notes 134
  • Bibliography 137
  • Index 143
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