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Lessons Learned from Gentle Heroism: Women's Holocaust Narratives

Myrna Goldenberg
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 548, The Holocaust: Remembering for the Future (Nov., 1996), pp. 78-93
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1048544
Page Count: 16
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Lessons Learned from Gentle Heroism: Women's Holocaust Narratives
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Abstract

Memoirs written by women survivors of the Holocaust share certain characteristics with those written by men, such as a narrative structure that begins with belonging and then moves to humiliation, isolation, deprivation, and finally annihilation. Men and women survivors both describe gratuitous and deliberate violence by Kapos and SS. However, women's memoirs also share strikingly similar characteristics with each other that differ from men's memoirs and that stem from their experiences as women and as Jews-thus as double victims-in a misogynistic, racist totalitarian society. Women's memoirs yield anecdotes that demonstrate women's resourcefulness in the hells of the ghettos and camps. Thus women's narratives are rich sources of the characteristics of an alternative social structure based on traditional feminine values. The experience of women during the Holocaust shows that traditionally feminist values of cooperating and caring are important conditions for the perpetuation of civilization, irrespective of religious, ethnic, or nationalist identification.

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