- Gender and War in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe
This collection of high-quality essays is designed to explore little-known aspects of the two world wars in Eastern Europe. The contributions have been grouped thematically in three sections devoted to gender roles, gender and occupation, and the gendered commemoration of war. The result is a coherent volume that will be of particular interest to social and cultural historians of modern Europe. In the first section Maureen Healy and Elisa Ablovatski consider the impact of defeat in 1918 on the ways in which gender was understood in Austria and Hungary respectively and how the family was depicted as a key site for the "adaptation" (Umarbeitung) of the demobilised soldier. In the second section Melissa Feinberg establishes how resistance and collaboration in German-occupied Czechoslovakia was expressed in terms of national survival. Gender and power also constituted a contested terrain in Latvia, as Mara Lazda shows in her nicely contextualised essay on the Latvian family during World War II. The final section contains essays by Melissa Bokovoy on the centrality of women to Serbian discourses of suffering and liberation during World War I and by Maria Bucur on Romanian men's and women's autobiographical accounts of both world wars.
Several contributors have already published monographs on their chosen topics—Alon Rachamimov on prisoners of war in World War I, Benjamin Frommer on collaboration in Czechoslovakia during World War II, Katherine Jolluck on Polish women exiled to the Soviet Union in 1939–40 and Lisa Kirschenbaum on the siege of Leningrad. Rachamimov shows how the relationship between Austro-Hungarian prisoners and Red Cross nurses was inflected by social class. In a carefully researched chapter, Frommer suggests that Czech women fraternised with the Germans and denounced fellow citizens; to that extent they were "perpetrators" and not just "victims." Fraternisation invited dreadful retaliation immediately after the end of World War II, to which German and Czech women alike were vulnerable. (In her essay, Mara Lazda stops short of discussing the immediate aftermath of the war in Latvia in terms of settling accounts with collaborators.) Jolluck uses rich material from the Hoover Institution to show how Polish exiles expressed suffering in terms of national martyrdom. Kirschenbaum highlights the devastating impact of the Leningrad siege on the civilian body and the feelings of shame that it evoked among female inhabitants of the city.
All contributors make an attempt to show that there is much more to the gender-war nexus than the marginalisation of women's experience of violence and deprivation. It is particularly rewarding to have some coverage of less familiar national case studies. Although there is no concluding chapter and little attempt is made (Bucur's essay notwithstanding) to compare and contrast the experiences of the two world wars, the volume as a whole is both a good introduction to the range of work that has been undertaken [End Page 1269] in recent years and a useful pointer towards future research.
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