Sexual Abuse of Jewish Women in Auschwitz-Birkenau

TitleSexual Abuse of Jewish Women in Auschwitz-Birkenau
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsShik, Na’ama
EditorHerzog, Dagmar
Book TitleBrutality and Desire: War and Sexuality in Europe's Twentieth Century
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
CityBasingstoke, UK

Is it possible for us to understand Auschwitz? Can we use our own language to delve into the history of the camp and, in particular, into the sexual exploitation of Jewish women in the camp? Is it appropriate for a historian to try and decipher the reality she wishes to describe? Are the well-established rules and methodologies of historical inquiry sufficient? Can the experiences of these women be recounted by scholars who did not stumble out of their shattered realities, who did not experience the extreme loss, all the more incomprehensible as it involved loss of a sense of self? Is it not preferable to leave the camp behind, to let the wounds heal and the screams be cried out, and to allow death to perish? The object of this article is not to suggest a new interpretation of Nazism or the Holocaust, but to explore a single place and theme within both. It is not, as a matter of course, a comprehensive representation, nor is it beyond contestation. The author attempts to reveal the female experience of sexual exploitation in Auschwitz, from 1942 when the first Jewish women set foot in the camp, until liberation in 1945, as it is depicted in autobiographical literature and testimonies. The work presented here is drawn from writings produced in the immediate aftermath; it can be no more than a referred sound, an echo of an echo.

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