"Women in the Holocaust" by Dalia Ofer

Women in the Holocaust Dalia Ofer, Lenore J. Weitzman

Publication date:
11 Aug 1999
Yale University Press
416 pages: 235 x 156mm


As Jews throughout Europe faced Nazi persecution, Jewish women—wives, daughters, mothers—encountered special problems and had particular vulnerabilities. This is the first book of original scholarship devoted to women in the Holocaust. By examining women’s unique responses, their incredible resourcefulness, their courage, and their suffering, the book enhances our understanding of the experiences of all Jews during the Nazi era.

The introductory essay by Lenore Weitzman and Dalia Ofer stakes out new intellectual territory and shows how questions about gender lead to a richer and more finely nuanced understanding of the Holocaust. Testimonies of Holocaust survivors, written especially for this book, shed light on women’s lives in the ghettos, the Jewish resistance movement, and the concentration camps. The narratives personalize and exemplify many of the larger themes explored in other chapters by Holocaust historians, sociologists, and literary experts. These chapters explore the variety and complexity of gender differences during the Holocaust. The culturally defined prewar roles of Jewish men and women endowed them with different spheres of knowledge, expertise, and skills with which to face the Nazi onslaught. During the war the Nazis imposed different regulations, work requirements, and sanctions on the two sexes. Women had to assume new roles as family protectors during the ghetto period, when men were more vulnerable. In contrast women, and especially mothers, were more vulnerable in the concentration camps. The detailed portraits of women in these chapters show us their individuality, strength, and humanity.

Contributors to this volume:

Gershon Bacon

Yehuda Bauer

Daniel Blatman

Gisela Bock

Ruth Bondy

Liza Chapnik

Ida Fink

Myrna Goldenberg

Sara R. Horowitz

Paula E. Hyman

Marion Kaplan

Felicja Karay

Bronka Klibansk

Lawrence L. Langer

Dalia Ofer

Renée Poznanski

Joan Ringelheim

Nechama Tec

Michal Unger

Lidia Rosenfeld Vago

Lenore J. Weitzman

Finalist for the 1998 National Jewish Book Award given by the Jewish Book Council

"Women and the Holocaust is a pioneering book. A gender-oriented approach to the responses of the victims and to the attitudes of surrounding society should allow for much new research and important insights."?Saul Friedl„nder, UCLA and Tel Aviv University

"A valuable collection of 21 articles by leading historians, sociologists, writers, literary scholars, and survivors. . . . What is included in Ofer's and Weitzman's collection is substantial and will help readers appreciate how gender sometimes significantly influenced an individual's fate during the Holocaust."?Kirkus Reviews

"[The book's] a sophisticated and powerful deepening of our understanding of one of the twentieth century's greatest horrors."?Tikkun

"Men and women responded differently to the horrors of the Holocaust, and this book shows how gender differences played out during the genocide. While recognizing that Nazi policy targeted Jews as Jews, and that gender is only one component of the survivors? total experience, the authors, in bringing together the experience of all Jews with the experience that was particular to women, help to provide a more complete and complex account of what happened."?Tikkun

"Scholars Dalia Ofer and Lenore J. Weitzman have compiled a moving collection that includes personal accounts from Holocaust survivors and essays exploring how the war turned gender roles upside down."?Jennifer Greenstein, Brill's Content

"The book provides an excellent overview of the topic, featuring twenty-one chapters by different contributors, many of whom summarize findings from their own monographs and research projects. Also innovative is the inclusion of the testimony of survivors alongside scholarly analyses. The stories of female resistance fighters are especially unusual and thus important. The chapters containing primary materials could be very useful in undergraduate courses, while graduate students and scholars will find the book valuable for its suggestions for future research as well as its summary of the important work done so far. . . . An important new publication in the field and valuable for students and scholars at all levels."?Patricia Mazon, H-Net Book Review

"The impressive array of documented cases, data, statistics, events, and testimonies illuminates women's tragic experience from a variety of angles, and thus contributes to the study of the Holocaust."?Rachel Feldhay Brenner, Slavic Reviews

"[This book] makes a case for the importance of examining women?s specific experience of the Holocaust?The group of essays on women in the camps is particularly interesting." ?Julia M. Klein, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Ofer and Weitzman are to be both thanked and congratulated for this important work."?Deb¢rah Dwork, Rose Professor of Holocaust History, and director, Center for Holocaust Studies, Clark University

"This remarkable book is a noteworthy addition to the literature of the Holocaust."?Booklist

"Ofer and Weitzman?s goal is to provide a richer and more nuanced understanding of the Holocaust by exploring the role of gender in it. Noticeably devoid of polemic or ideological posturing, the collection offers a variety of viewpoints, methods, and purposes, assuring its value to scholars and general readers."?Choice

"[A] valuable collection [that] makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Holocaust history."?Deborah Lipstadt, Lilith

"This powerful and compelling collection's commitment to superior interdisciplinary scholarship assures that it will become a standard for the study of women in the Holocaust as well as for Holocaust studies as a whole."?Deidre Butler, Journal of Religion and Culture

"This collection is an excellent introduction to a neglected aspect of Holocaust history, and it forces us to appreciate the significance of gender in showing the diversity and poignancy of Jewish experiences. Important for specialists, this work is also accessible to undergraduates."?Shelley Baranowski, Historian

"Women in the Holocaust . . . asks new questions about and enhances scholarly perspective on the Holocaust and should be of interest both to students of the Nazi genocide and to scholars of gender more broadly defined."?Joan B. Wolf, American Journal of Sociology

"The book is pioneering and successful in illuminating how a gender-oriented approach to the Holocaust can deepen our understanding of the experiences and responses of its victims. This is an important work for those interested in gender as well as Holocaust studies."?Lynn Rapaport, Central European History

"Women in the Holocaust provides an essential and comprehensive survey of recent work in this still controversial field."?Judith R. Baskin, Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society

?The cutting edge of Holocaust Studies.??Wall Street Journal

?A major contribution to our understanding.??Times (London)

?The astonishing strengths and resilience of women in these studies seem to rise out.??Forward

"This is an excellent book that shows how the study of gender can deepen our understanding of the Holocaust. The scholarship is serious, and the book consistently instructive."?Michael Berenbaum, President, Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation