Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Historical Background | Women in the Ghettos | Women Who Organized Rescue Attempts Women as Partisans and Members of the Resistance | Women in the Concentration Camps Faith, Friendship, Art and Education in the Camps and Ghettos
Women in Holocaust Historiography

Women in Holocaust Historiography

The portrayal of women in Holocaust historiography is basically charted by the written documentation from World War II, which by definition is male-oriented. Official German records, as well as Jewish records kept in the ghettos (of Lodz, Warsaw, and elsewhere), were mostly written by men and told from their perspective, and there was of course very little written in the camps or in the forests where the partisans lived. The extreme vulnerability of Jewish women - not just in the camps, ghettos and hiding places where most were confined, but even in the partisan bases, where the rape and sexual abuse of young girls and women were common, is nowhere recorded in the detail that the subject warrants.

There are some very fine diaries written by Jewish girls, like the teenaged Anne Frank, Gertrude Schneider, Sarah Fishkin, Eva Heyman, and by Jewish women, such as Ruth Leimarson- Engelstern, Tova Draenger and Naomi Schatz-Weinkrantz. They are essentially private in nature, telling of the inner lives and family experiences of their writers.

Holocaust historiography by Israelis does portray women as equal comrades among the groups who used physical resistance, but it fails to examine issues and aspects unique to women.

Properly used, oral history could greatly enhance Holocaust historiography in general, and the portrayal of women in particular. However, oral history has been shunned by most established Holocaust historians, and by now, the relatively small number of mature women who survived the Holocaust and witnessed major and minor events of that period have all but died out. Their memories are now beyond retrieval, lsot, and with them their ability to better understand the Holocaust through the eyes of those who represented fifty percent of its victims.

It was Goethe who said, "Perhaps not all important documents are to be found in archives." And yet, for the understanding of women during the Holocaust, it is crucial that as many as possible be recorded and placed in those archives.

© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
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