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Sister in Sorrow

Life Histories of Female Holocaust Survivors from Hungary

Ilana Rosen

Publication Year: 2008

Sister in Sorrow offers a glimpse into the world of Hungarian Holocaust survivors through the stories of fifteen survivors, as told by thirteen women and two spouses presently living in Hungary and Israel. Analyzing the accounts as oral narratives, author Ilana Rosen uses contemporary folklore studies methodologies to explore the histories and the consciousness of the narrators as well as the difficulty for present-day audiences to fully grasp them. Rosen’s research demonstrates not only the extreme personal horrors these women experienced but also the ways they cope with their memories. In four sections, Rosen interprets the life histories according to two major contemporary leading literary approaches: psychoanalysis and phenomenology. This reading encompasses both the life spans of the survivors and specific episodes or personal narratives relating to the women’s identity and history. The psychoanalytic reading examines focal phases in the lives of the women, first in pre-war Europe, then in World War II and the Holocaust, and last as Holocaust survivors living in the shadow of loss and atrocity. The phenomenological examination traces the terms of perception and of the communication between the women and their different present-day non-survivor audiences. An appendix contains the complete life histories of the women, including their unique and affecting remembrances. Although Holocaust memory and narrative have figured at the center of academic, political, and moral debates in recent years, most works look at such stories from a social science perspective and attempt to extend the meaning of individual tales to larger communities. Although Rosen keeps the image of the general group—be it Jews, female Holocaust survivors, Israelis, or Hungarians—in mind throughout this volume, the focus of Sister in Sorrow is the ways the individual women experienced, told, and processed their harrowing experiences. Students of Holocaust studies and women’s studies will be grateful for the specific and personal approach of Sister in Sorrow.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology


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pp. 1-1

Series Page

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pp. 2-2

Title Page

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pp. 3-3


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pp. 4-4


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pp. v-5

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

Sister in Sorrow: A Journey to the Life Histories of Female Holocaust Survivors from Hungary began as a PhD thesis that was written in the 1990s and devoted to the experiences and narratives of both male and female survivors living in Israel and in Hungary. At that time, the idea that Holocaust testimonies, as they were...

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1. Brainstorming about the Life Histories of Women Holocaust Survivors

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pp. 1-22

The beginning of this book is a name: Ilana, my Hebrew name, or Ilona, the Hungarian name of two of my female relatives, one on the side of each of my parents. Both women were murdered in the Holocaust. For some reason, my parents named my sister and two brothers after their own parents and other relatives...

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2. Mother-Daughter Discourse: A Literary-Psychoanalytical Analysis of Five Life Histories

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pp. 23-82

The five life histories to be analyzed in this chapter are unique in the importance they place on life after the Holocaust—that is, on the hardships encountered by these women survivors in rebuilding their lives in the void and emptiness left by the Holocaust. The post-Holocaust period in these narratives is fraught with struggles and di≈culties that are viewed by the narrators as being just as arduous and significant as their experiences during the Holocaust...

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3. The Holocaust Experience of Its Listeners and Readers: A Phenomenological-Hermeneutic Analysis of Ten Life Histories

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pp. 83-126

The life histories that are presented and analyzed in this chapter are divided into two major groups. One (including the life histories of Dora Ashkenazi, Rachel Markowitz, and Ruth Matias) presents a mosaic of languages and cultures, and the second (including the accounts of the Heiman and Bihari couples and those of Berta Wazner, Esther Israel, and Piri Meister) is characterized...

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4. A Journey without a Conclusion

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pp. 127-134

As mentioned in Lawrence Langer’s Holocaust Testimonies, cited in the introduction to this book, narratives about the Holocaust generate not one but many truths.1 Among them is, first and foremost, the truth of the narrators, which often includes their conflicting accounts or viewpoints about how and what to remember and tell. Then there is the truth—or truths—arising...

Appendix: The Life Histories

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pp. 135-222


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pp. 223-232


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pp. 233-250

Term Index

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pp. 251-264

Name Index

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pp. 265-266

Place Index

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pp. 267-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780814338889
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814331293

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology
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OCLC Number: 849944354
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sister in Sorrow

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Jewish women in the Holocaust -- Hungary -- Biography.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary -- Personal narratives.
  • Holocaust survivors -- Hungary -- Biography.
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