Women in Holocaust Literature: Engendering Trauma Memory

TitleWomen in Holocaust Literature: Engendering Trauma Memory
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsHorwitz, Sara R.
EditorOfer, Dalia, and Lenore J. Weitzman
Book TitleWomen in the Holocaust
PublisherYale University Press
CityNew Haven, CT

Why examine Shoah narrative from the perspective of gender? One might argue that the Nazi program of genocide was predicated not upon gender but upon "race." At the same time, however, women's testimonies reveal distinctly different patterns of experience and reflection from those of men. In recalling and grappling with memories of personal and collective loss, trauma, and displacement, and in reconstructing a sense of meaning and ethics, women may remember differently from men—or they may remember different things. Missing from male versions of survival are experiences unique to women, such as menarche, menstruation, and pregnancy in the concentration camps; the strategies some women devised to endure and survive; the ways other women met their deaths; the subsequent effect on women survivors in family, friendship, and civic relations; and the way women reconstruct shattered paradigms of meaning in the face of cultural and personal displacement. In addition, examining the ways the atrocity of the Shoah affected women or men, in specific terms—in their roles as mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, daughters, sons, lovers, friends, workers, homemakers—reveals to us something of the trauma they continue to bear. In discussing women in Shoah literature as a fulcrum to understanding the gender implications of trauma, the author explores three areas: the way women are figured in texts by men, the way women's experiences and remembrances are represented in narratives by women, and the significance of gender as a perspective for understanding Shoah literature, generally.

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