Saturday, September 23, 2023

What women Holocaust survivors can teach us

When I went to study at the New York Public Library in connection with a short fellowship I'd won, my intention was to study the author whose work I was translating (Edith Bruck). Sure, I planned to look at other analogous works in translation.

But I wasn't expecting to uncover a trove of information about how women's experiences of deportation and imprisonment by the Nazis differed from men's experiences -- and more importantly, differed from the accepted notion of the Lager in the public imagination.

What I mean is: what we know about concentration camps comes largely from the accounts of men, including authors I prize such as Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel.

Their stories are essential, of course, but so, too, are the stories of clandestine pregnancies in the Lager and the fates of so many children which hung on whether their mothers chose to save themselves or accepted dying along with their little ones (since children were typically slated for immediate elimination). 

The only universally known story of the Holocaust not penned by a man is The Diary of Anne Frank. But there is so much more we need to learn -- and as the number of living witnesses dwindles, there's no time to lose.

Please read more at the American Scholar:

And thank you.


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