Memoirs of Auschwitz Survivors: The Burden of Gender

TitleMemoirs of Auschwitz Survivors: The Burden of Gender
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsGoldenberg, Myrna
EditorOfer, Dalia, and Lenore J. Weitzman
Book TitleWomen in the Holocaust
PublisherYale University Press
CityNew Haven, CT

Concentration camp memoirs have forged our consciousness of the Holocaust. The words of Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Paul Celan, Tadeusz Borowski, Abba Kovner, Aharon Appelfeld, Dan Pagis, Arnost Lustig, and Piotr Rawicz, the "chief witnesses," break the silence of the unspeakable and unimaginable. Because these men are exceptional writers and because their testimonies are eloquent and compelling, their memoirs have been regarded as typical of "the" Jewish Holocaust experience. Yet hundreds of memoirs written by women survivors document "different horrors within the same Hell." Although all Jews were designated for extermination, the Nazis treated Jewish men and women differently, and women had different experiences. To represent the Holocaust more fully, we must therefore examine the memoirs of women as well as those of men. The memoirs the author draws on in this chapter emphasize women's strong concern for one another as well as their dependency on one another to withstand the barbarism of the camps; their adaptation of homemaking skills into coping skills; and the effects of their heightened physical vulnerability and fear of rape.

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