Testimony and Silence: Sexual Violence and the Holocaust

TitleTestimony and Silence: Sexual Violence and the Holocaust
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsWaxman, Zoe
EditorGunne, Sorcha, and Zoe Brigley Thompson
Book TitleFeminism, Literature and Rape Narratives: Violence and Violation

This chapter uses a gendered framework to explore rape and sexual abuse during the Holocaust. This is done through an analysis of published testimonies written by survivors dating from shortly after liberation to those published in recent years. A study of women’s testimonies not only challenges any expectation of a monolithic Holocaust experience, but also shows that women’s memories and the treatment of women’s memories are particularly organized by gendered expectations. Readings of Holocaust testimonies all too often become a means of confirming what people already expect to see. Not only can this prevent people from challenging traditional historical narratives or adding to them by acquiring further information about the diversity of experiences during the Holocaust; but perhaps even more importantly, the women themselves remain imprisoned by memories that they cannot share. The purpose of this discussion is to move towards an understanding of the complex relationship between the experience of sexual violence during the Holocaust and the contingencies of recounting such experiences in a context that insists that rape and sexual abuse do not belong to the history of the Holocaust.[Author]

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