Jewish Youth in the Minsk Ghetto: How Age and Gender Mattered

TitleJewish Youth in the Minsk Ghetto: How Age and Gender Mattered
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsWalke, Anika
JournalKritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History
Date Published2014

War, terror, and pogroms often destroyed familial bonds, putting children and adolescents in the positions of guardians or breadwinners for remaining parents, grandparents, and siblings. Everyday life in the ghetto thus redefined roles that children as well as women and men took on within families. The ways in which these distinct groups were able to fulfill their tasks largely depended on their age; youths over the age of 14 (male) and 16 (female) were considered employable and thus had access to daily food rations, meager as they were, but younger ones had to find other means of subsistence. Based on oral histories and video testimonies, this essay asks how youngsters such as the ten-year-olds Sonia Zalesskaia and Samuil Volk cared for themselves and others and characterizes their decisions and choices in their quest for survival in the Minsk ghetto after they had lost all adult relatives. Furthermore, the lives of Rita Kazhdan and Elena Drapkina (born in 1927 and 1924, respectively) demonstrate how specific notions of gender both enabled survival and increased individuals’ vulnerability to violence in the Minsk ghetto. [Author]

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