Chapter 25: Abstract

Gendering the Memories of War and Holocaust in Europe and the United States

Frank Biess (University of California, San Diego, Department of History)

In Oxford Handbook of Gender, War, and the Western World since 1600, ed. by Karen Hagemann et al. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 611-32.


Based on a theoretical discussion of how and why memories are “gendered”, this chapter demonstrates the centrality of gender for changing memories of war and genocide in Europe and North America after 1945. Notwithstanding women’s extensive participation in World War II, patriotic memories centered on the predominantly male figures of the “victor”, the “martyr,” and the “victim.” Linking national reconstruction with the restoration of a hierarchical gender order, these narratives marginalized or erased women’s experiences. The ascendancy of Holocaust memory in the West fundamentally challenged this commemorative regime and elevated the figure of the “survivor.” Second wave feminism not only rendered visible women’s role in World War II; it also promoted the gendering of Holocaust memory. The end of the Cold War enabled the public proliferation of previously private memories with significant gendered implications.


World War II; post-1945; Europe; United States;  Soviet Union; Holocaust; collective memory; selective memory; commemoration; gender.

In Part III: "The Age of the World Wars" of the Oxford Handbook of Gender, War and the Western World since 1600.

To buy an electronic version of this Oxford Handbook chapter click here.

Bibliographic lists: Select Bibliography | Full List

Abstracts: Previous Abstract | Table of Contents | Next Abstract