Marion A. Kaplan
Racism and persecution as well as survival meant something different for women than men--in practical and psychological terms.
MARION A. KAPLAN
Responding to the history of her Jewish people, Gertrud Kolmar wanted to be "the voice that echoes down the shaft of all eternity." The voice of that Jewish woman in Nazi Germany, though not its poetry, was silenced at Auschwitz. Others, many of them historians, have used their voices of interpretation to carry on the responsibility that Kolmar stressed. One of them is Marion A. Kaplan. In 1984 she made a lasting contribution to the study of women and the Holocaust by co-editing a book entitled When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Previously she published The Jewish Feminist Movement in Germany: The Campaigns of the Jüdischer Frauenbund, 1904-1938, and since 1984 she has written much more in these fields, including the essay reprinted here.
A study of what happened to Jewish women in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1939, the prewar era of the Third Reich, Kaplan's essay is packed with detail. Concentrating on "the increasingly difficult daily lives of Jewish middle-class women," Kaplan sharpens her focus even more by paying particular attention to "housewives and mothers." In addition to forming a large percentage of German Jewry's prewar female population, these women in their twenties, thirties, and forties also wrote the most memoirs. They are crucial sources for a historian with Kaplan's concerns.
Kaplan shows that, even as the Nazi vise tightened around them, German Jewish women continued to manage the responsibilities of employment (especially as