Summary | Part I | Part II | Part III | Footnotes |


An earlier version of this article was delivered as "Remembering the Language of Genocide: Women and the Holocaust," in Session "Genocide Reconsidered: Women's Reflections and Concerns," Congress 2000 (Edmonton, AL: University of Alberta, 27-29 May 2000). Also, parts of this article are contained in Karin Doerr, "Etched In Memory: Holocaust Survivors and the Language of Genocide," in The Bulletin of the Center For Holocaust Studies, vol. 7, no. 2 (University of Vermont: Spring 2003) 5-7. I wish to thank historian, author, and partner in work and life, Gary Evans, for his generous help and continued interest in my work.

1. For the major publications on women and the Holocaust, see Esther Katz and Joan Miriam Ringelheim, Women Surviving: The Holocaust: Conference Proceedings (New York: Institute for Research in History, 1983); Dalia Ofer, and Lenore J. Weitzman, eds. Women in the Holocaust (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1998); Karen Remmler, "Gender Identities and the Remembrance of the Holocaust," in Women in German: Yearbook, 10 (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska, 1995); Carol Rittner and John K. Roth, eds. Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997); Roger A. Ritvo and Diane M. Plotkin, Sisters in Sorrow: Voices of Care in the Holocaust, Foreword by Harry James Cargas (College Station, TX: Texas A&M UP, 1998); see also references marked with * in the bibliographies on the web site Women and the Holocaust, .

2. Marion Kaplan, Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany (New York: Oxford UP, 1998) 7-8.

3. Pascale Rachel Bos, "Women and the Holocaust: Analyzing Gender Difference," in Experience and Expression: Women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust, Elizabeth R. Baer and Myrna Goldenberg, eds. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2003) 32.

4. Interview with E.K. (Montreal, 2 November1998)..

5. See e.g. Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997.

6. John Langshaw Austin, How to Do Things with Words (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975) 5.

7. Cited from Helmut Walser Smith, The Butcher's Tale: Murder and Anti-Semitism in a German Town (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002) 179.

8. Butler, 4.

9. Most of the responses presented here were gleaned from interviews and conversations with Jewish survivors, now residing in Montreal or Toronto, Canada. The focus was on their experiences, reflections, and feelings regarding the German language. In addition to these voices, I have consulted published accounts and scholarly works.

10. Interview with E. K. (Montreal, 2 Nov. 1998)..

11. Judith Tydor Baumel researched exceptional cases of women's resistance in "Women's Agency and Survival Strategies During the Holocaust," in Women's Studies International Forum, Women and Language, Feminist Review, 22:3, 329-47.

12. Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto: The Journal of Emmanuel Ringelbloom, ed. and trans. Jacob Sloan (New York: Schocken Books, 1958) 293-94.

13. See Abraham Sutzkever's Yiddish poem, "Farbrente perl" (28 July 1943), in Poetishe verk, vol. 1, 323, trans. Joshua Waletzky; quoted in David Roskie, Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984) 244-245.

14. Victor Klemperer, LTI: Notizbuch eines Philologen (1957; rpt. Leipzig: Reclam, 1996); Victor Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1933-1941, trans. Martin Chalmers (New York: Random House, 1998).

15. Robert Michael and Karin Doerr, Nazi Deutsch/Nazi German: An English Lexicon of the Language of the Third Reich (Newport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002).

16. Kaplan, 7.

17. ("Der Befehl als illokutiver Akt markiert den Umschlag des sprachlichen Handelns in ummittelbare Gewalt.") See Ehlich, ed., Sprache im Faschismus (Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp, 1989). 24. Quote trans. Karin Doerr

18. See Pace Nilsen, Alleen, Haig Bosmajian, H. Lee Gershuny, and Julia P. Stanley, Sexism and Language (Urbana, III: National Council of Teachers of English, 1977).

19. Interview with Rudolf Vrba in "Genocide," The World at War, Series (Thames TV, 1974).

20. See the illuminating chapter "Shame" in Giorgio Agamben: Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (New York: Zone B, 1999).

21. Lawrence L. Langer, Versions of Survival: The Holocaust and the Human Spirit (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1982) 72.

22. See "Aktion," in Yad Vashem Studies 4 (1960) 57-96.

23. Her account is available as "Olga's Story" in the section Memoirs of Holocaust Survivors in Canada of The Montreal Institute of Genocide Studies (MIGS) at http://migs.concordia.ca

24. Aaron Haas, The Aftermath: Living with the Holocaust (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995) xvii, 191.

25. See Ghost Children: Poems (Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2000) 65.

26. Karin Doerr, "Etched In Memory," 5-7.

27. („Die Türen [at Auschwitz] wurden aufgerissen, und wir standen einem fürchterlichen Inferno gegenüber. Schreien. Hundegebell.... Ein unaufhörliches Gebrüll: „Hinaus, hinaus, alles liegenlassen! Hinaus, hinaus, schneller, ihr Schweinehunde!") Ruth Elias, Die Hoffnung erhielt mich am Leben: Mein Weg von Theresienstadt und Auschwitz nach Israel (Munich: Piper, 1995) 133.

28. Elizabeth Welt Trahan, Walking with Ghosts: A Jewish Childhood in Wartime Vienna. (New York: Peter Land, 1998) 35.

29. ("Ich kann mich nur an das Schreien erinnern und an das ständig ausgesprochene Wort ‚Saujude,' mit dem wir angesprochen wurden.") See Ruth Elias, Die Hoffnung erhielt mich am Leben: Mein Weg von Theresienstadt und Auschwitz nach Israel (Munich: Piper, 1995) 51.

30. A Jump for Life: A Survivor's Journal from Nazi-Occupied Poland (New York: Continuum, 1997) 299.

31. Interviews and conversations with Olga Sher (Montreal, 1996-2002).

32. Butler, 2.

33. Ben-Chanan, Open Letter (Germany: 1995).

34. See Henry Lilienheim, quoting his wife, Lydia, in The Aftermath: A Survivor's Odyssey Through War-Torn Europe (Montreal: DC Books, 1994) 151.

35. Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After, trans. Rosette C. Lamont (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995) 58, 68.

36. See Karin Doerr, "Olga Sher's Decisive Moment," in Fragments, Women and the Holocaust, .

37. The Drowned and the Saved, trans. Raymond Rosenthal (New York: Summit, 1986) 76.

38. See the German translation, Wörter aus der Hölle: Die "lagerszpracha" der Häftlinge von Auschwitz (Krakau: Impuls Verlag, 1998).

39. Isabella Leitner, Saving the Fragments: From Auschwitz to New York (New York: Nal Books, 1985).

40. ("Der Hunger nagte an uns, und bald sahen wir, wie ganz langsam das Fleisch vom Körper schwand, wie die Knochen heraustraten, die Augen einfielen, kurz wie der Mensch zu einem mit Haut überzogenem Skelett wurde. Diese lebenden Skelette hatten einen Sammelnamen: Muselmänner. Ganz apathisch bewegten sie sich von einem Ort zum anderen, mit schlurfenden Füßen, denn sie hatten nicht mehr die Kraft, diese zu heben, keine Gedanken gingen ihnen mehr durch den Kopf.") Ruth Elias, 150.

41. Muriel R. Schulz, "The Semantic Derogation of Woman," in Deborah Cameron, ed. The Feminist Critique of Language: A Reader (New York: Routledge, 1990) 142.

42. Schulz, 142.

43. Marlene Heinemann, Women Prose Writers of the Nazi Holocaust (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI, 1986) 73.

44. See Helen Fein, Accounting For Genocide: National Responses And Jewish Victimization During The Holocaust. (1979; rpt. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984).

45. Filip Müller with Helmut Freitag, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years In The Gas Chambers, ed. and trans. Susanne Flatauer, Forword Yehuda Bauer (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1999) 136.

46. The Journal of Emmanuel Ringelblum, ed. and trans. Jacob Sloan (New York: Schocken B, 1958) 293, 294.

47. Butler, 5.

48. Judy [Weissenberg] Cohen, e-mail (21 Jan 2003).

49. Trudi Birger with Jeffrey M. Green, A Daughter's Gift of Love: A Holocaust Memoir (Philadelphia, Jerusalem: The Jewish Publication Society, 1992) 142.

50. Interviews and conversations with Judy [Weissenberg] Cohen from Toronto, Canada (1998-2002).

51. ("Die Ansprache ‚Sie' verschwand ganz aus dem Wörterbuch der Nazis.") Ruth Elias, 79.

52. Letter to the author (7 May 2003).

53. Paul Celan, "Todesfuge," in Einander verstehen: Ein deutsches literarisches Lesebuch, Marianne und Martin Löschmann (New York: Peter Lang, 1997) 202.

54. See Saul Friedländer, Memory, History, and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993) 93.

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