WOMEN AND THE HOLOCAUST
So then, to tell my story, here I stand. . . .
You hear me speak. But do you hear me, feel?
The Holocaust was Nazi Germany's planned total destruction of the Jewish people and the actual murder of nearly six million of them. 1 This genocidal campaign--the most systematic, bureaucratic, and unrelenting ever--also destroyed millions of non-Jewish civilians because the Nazis believed their threat to the Third Reich approached, though it could never equal, that posed by Jews. 2 In German this destruction process became known as die Endlösung--the "Final Solution." The Hebrew word Shoah, meaning catastrophe, also is frequently used to name it. One result of the Shoah was that millions of women, the vast majority of them Jewish, perished during its devastation.
Among the women who did not return was a Jewish poet named Gertrud Kolmar. Her words provide the epigraph for this book and the thematic preludes for its various parts as well. 3 Kolmar wanted "to tell my story." Her poems made a brilliant start, but her life ended before she could finish the telling. The wound of this interrupted life stays unhealed, but not only because the exact date of Kolmar's death in Auschwitz, the camp to which she was almost certainly deported from Berlin during the winter of 1943, remains unknown. The disaster that ruined her life has even more to do with the immeasurable loss Nazi Germany inflicted by decreeing that women such as Gertrud Kolmar must be destroyed.