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Experience and Expression

Women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust

Edited by Elizabeth R. Baer and Myrna Goldenberg

Publication Year: 2003

The many powerful accounts of the Holocaust have given rise to women’s voices, and yet few researchers have analyzed these perspectives to learn what the horrifying events meant for women in particular and how they related to them. In Experience and Expression, the authors take on this challenge, providing the first book-length gendered analysis of women and the Holocaust, a topic that is emerging as a new field of inquiry in its own right. Accessible to readers on many levels, the essays portray the experiences of women of various religious and ethnic backgrounds, and draw from the fields of English, religion, nursing, history, law, comparative literature, philosophy, French, and German. The collection explores an array of fascinating topics: rescue and resistance, the treatment of Roma and Sinti women, the fate of female forced laborers, Holocaust politics, nurses at so-called euthanasia centers, women’s experiences of food and hunger in the camps, the uses and abuses of Anne Frank, and the representations of the Holocaust in art, film, and literature in the postwar era. The introduction provides a thorough overview of the current status of research in the field, and each essay seeks to push the theoretical boundaries that shape our understanding of women’s experience and agency during the Holocaust and of the ways in which they have expressed their memories.

Published by: Wayne State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes

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pp. 2-5


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This anthology grew out of a hallway conversation at the 1997 Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches. The conference that year featured two panels on the topic of women and the Holocaust, an amount of attention to the topic that was unprecedented at an American Holocaust conference. ...

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pp. xiii-xxxiv

“If you are sisterless, you do not have the pressure, the absolute responsibility to end the day alive.”1 Isabella Leitner’s eloquent declaration provides a clue for contemporary scholars who undertake a gendered study of the Holocaust. In her provocative memoir, Leitner reveals the consciousness of women ...


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pp. xxxv-xlv

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Part I. Proposing a Theoretical Framework

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pp. 1-4

This opening section of Experience and Expression introduces the reader to the practice of gendered analysis of the Holocaust in two ways: by placing that endeavor in the context of what John Roth aptly calls “Holocaust politics” and then in the context of current theoretical debates.1 ...

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One. Equality, Neutrality, Particularity: Perspectives on Women and the Holocaust

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pp. 5-22

At frequent intervals, especially after a severe typhus epidemic broke out at Auschwitz-Birkenau during the summer of 1942, an Auschwitz truck went to Dessau, Germany. It returned with large quantities of 200-gram, hermetically sealed tin canisters. ...

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Two. Women and the Holocaust: Analyzing Gender Difference

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pp. 23-50

In the past fifteen years, the experiences of women during the Holocaust have been examined extensively. Often these analyses were based on autobiographical accounts written or told by female survivors.3 These pioneering works filled a gap in Holocaust research: ...

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Part II. Women’s Experiences: Gender, the Nazis, and the Holocaust

This section explores the experiences of non-Jewish women who fall into two, mutually exclusive, categories of victim and perpetrator. Roma and Sinti women, popularly and often pejoratively called Gypsy women, were targets in a manner similar but not identical to the German victimization of the Jews. ...

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Three. Hidden Lives: Sinti and Roma Women

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pp. 53-75

The fate of female Sinti and Roma (‘‘Gypsies’’) in the concentration camps and killing fields of the Holocaust has been largely invisible in current historiography about Nazi genocide, despite the increasing availability of a differentiated scholarly literature about them.1 ...

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Four. Involuntary Abortions for Polish Forced Laborers

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pp. 76-94

Much has been published about former inmates of concentration camps and the Second Generation. Much has been published about Nazi doctors and their experiments, but with the exception of some minor local studies, primarily by students and journalists, there is little reliable information about the crimes systematically committed against the foreign forced laborers. ...

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Five. Caring While Killing: Nursing in the “Euthanasia” Centers

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pp. 95-110

This was the testimony of Anna G., a nurse charged with killing 150 patients at Meseritz-Obrawalde, one of the German Third Reich euthanasia centers. This testimony was given at the nurses’ trial held in Munich in 1965. Today Meseritz-Obrawalde remains a functioning psychiatric hospital and is located in Poland. ...

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Six. The Nurses’ Trial at Hadamar and the Ethical Implications of Health Care Values

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pp. 111-126

Studies of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust generally ignore nurses and the nursing profession, or subsume them under studies of medicine. Although scholars have begun looking at day-to-day patient care typically given by nurses,1 most discussions of health care ethics within the context of the Holocaust focus on research experiments ...

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Part III. Gender and Memory: The Uses of Memoirs

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pp. 127-130

In her essay in the first section of this book, Pascale Bos comments upon the past “uses” of Holocaust memoirs by scholars: “In much first-generation research on the Holocaust and gender (as in much research on the Holocaust which does not focus on gender), there is no discussion of how Holocaust narratives (written or spoken) relate to reality. ...

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Seven. Paths of Resistance: French Women Working from the Inside

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pp. 131-160

Scholarship about the French Resistance has paid less attention to the efforts of women than those of men. Why has this been the case? Renée Poznanski attributes some of the neglect to the definition of resistance as a military and political phenomenon.1 Since women were more often involved in the social infrastructure, ...

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Eight. Food Talk: Gendered Responses to Hunger in the Concentration Camps

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pp. 161-179

In this passage, Levi reflects the pattern of traditional Western culture that identifies women with nurturing, caring, and the preparation of food. He singles out food preparation as the natural work of women as they prepared for the terrible experience that lay ahead. He interprets women’s management of their homely duties as an integrity of behavior, ...

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Nine. Ruptured Lives and Shattered Beliefs: A Feminist Analysis of Tikkun Atzmi in Holocaust Literature

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pp. 180-200

Feminist theory has made significant contributions to Holocaust literature since the 1980s. In particular it has fostered a sustained examination of the Shoah’s impact upon Jewish self-understanding. Drawing upon these contributions, e.g., the turn to autobiography, gendered analysis, theological antisemitism, and reading/writing as witness, ...

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Ten. Anne Frank: The Cultivation of the Inspirational Victim

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pp. 201-226

On May 5, 1985, a few hours before his infamous visit with Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the German cemetery at Bitburg,1 US President Ronald Reagan addressed a crowd at the former concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. As he commemorated the thirty thousand victims of Bergen-Belsen, ...

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Part IV. Women’s Expressions: Postwar Reflections in Art, Fiction, and Film

It is virtually a cliché to assert that there is no art possible after Auschwitz. Yet paradoxically, it has also been posited that only art can convey the emotional and psychic impact of Auschwitz. When rooted in history and informed by cultural and personal memory, the imagination can shape a response no less authentic than a literal memoir. ...

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Eleven. Jewish Women in Time: The Challenge of Feminist Artistic Installations about the Holocaust

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pp. 229-259

Not much research has been done regarding feminism and artistic narratives of the Shoah. Certainly, there are many women artists whose work documents the destruction of the Jews and the workings of the Third Reich. Charlotte’s Salomon’s Life or Theatre?, for example, stands not only as a visual memoir of a German-Jewish victim ...

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Twelve. Women in the Holocaust: Representation of Gendered Suffering and Coping Strategies in American Fiction

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pp. 260-277

Not until we read texts written by women do we encounter the depth and breadth of the double curse Jewish women endured as racial pariahs and sexual victims of the Holocaust. Until recently Shoah scholarship and literary analysis of Holocaust narrative have been either gender-neutral or presented in terms of the male master narrative. ...

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Thirteen. The Uses of Memory and Abuses of Fiction: Sexuality in Holocaust Film, Fiction, and Memoir

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pp. 278-298

In narrative accounts of Holocaust testimony, explicit discussions of sexuality and eroticism are almost nonexistent. If the theme does occur in eyewitness accounts, often it is the enforced lack of sexuality that is the object of commentary: “ ‘Spread your legs,’ yelled the blokowa. ...

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pp. 299-304

Elizabeth R. Baer serves as Professor of English at Gustavus Adolphus College, where she holds the Florence and Raymond Sponberg Chair of Ethics. She is the co-editor, with Hester Baer, of the first English edition of The Blessed Abyss: Inmate #6582 in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp for Women, a memoir by Nanda Herbermann ...


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pp. 305-322

Back Cover

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p. 364-364

E-ISBN-13: 9780814338865
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814330630

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 24
Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Jewish women in the Holocaust.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Personal narratives -- History and criticism.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in literature.
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