The numbers begin to show a stark and disturbing reality. It can no longer be doubted that being male or female mattered during the Holocaust. Sexism attended antisemitism during the Holocaust, as it attends all forms of racism and, of course, exists even where there is no racism. Antisemitism, racism, and sexism were not separated in the theory of the Nazis or in their practice--nor was sexism absent from the responses of the Jewish community. Sexism, the division of social roles according to biological function, placed women at an extreme disadvantage during the Holocaust. It deprived them of skills that might have enabled more of them to survive. At the same time, the group that was supposed to protect them--men--was not able to do so.
It was the search about numbers of victims by gender that framed the research following the publication of my earlier article in Signs. It also helped to drive the themes for my recently drafted but as yet unpublished book, Double Jeopardy: Women and the Holocaust. So much work on women and the Holocaust remains to be done. What has been researched thus far merely touches the surface of a complex and difficult field of study.
The research for this article was partially supported by a Kent Fellowship, Wesleyan University, and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship. Parts of this article were written for the conference "Communities of Women" sponsored by Signs and the Center for Research on Women at Stanford University, February 1983, and the Sixth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, June 1984. I want to thank the following people for reading versions of this article, for listening, criticizing, and supporting the work: Pamela Armstrong, Marylin Arthur, Mary Felstiner, Joy Johannessen, Sally Hanley, Esther Katz, Eva Fleischner, Susan Cernyak-Spatz, Irene Eber, Nancy McKenzie. I especially want to thank Ti-Grace Atkinson, whose honesty, insight, and friendship helped me to see, to cut through a wall I was up against, and to continue.