Presenter Information

Andrea Gapsch, Ohio UniversityFollow

Date

4-30-2020

Description

This historiography researches historians' view of Jewish motherhood during the Holocaust. For several decades, Holocaust research primarily focused on the male experience, as it was seen as normative. It was not until the 1980s that female historians had to argue that Jewish women experienced the Holocaust differently than men. This is because Jewish women were targeted by the Nazis for the ability to bear and raise Jewish children. The Nazis criminalized pregnancy (which led to abortions done by Jewish women and inmate doctors and infanticide), forcibly sterilized Jewish men and women, and caused amenorrhea in the camps by poor nutrition and overworking Jewish women. In response to these attacks, Jewish women used their various homemaking skills to make life more comfortable in the concentration camps. They formed foster families to care for one another, and tried to keep up spirits by sharing recipes, making gifts, and teaching skills to one another. Though historians no longer argue that Jewish women survived better than Jewish men with these particular actions and skills, it is acknowledged that Jewish women had different experiences, because many of them embodied the role of mothers and caretakers. At the same time, historians are also highlighting that women's experiences were not homogenized, as there were Jewish women who were scorned for not upholding gender roles.

Share

COinS
 
Apr 30th, 12:00 AM

Mothering in Concentration Camps: A Historiography of Jewish Motherhood During the Holocaust

This historiography researches historians' view of Jewish motherhood during the Holocaust. For several decades, Holocaust research primarily focused on the male experience, as it was seen as normative. It was not until the 1980s that female historians had to argue that Jewish women experienced the Holocaust differently than men. This is because Jewish women were targeted by the Nazis for the ability to bear and raise Jewish children. The Nazis criminalized pregnancy (which led to abortions done by Jewish women and inmate doctors and infanticide), forcibly sterilized Jewish men and women, and caused amenorrhea in the camps by poor nutrition and overworking Jewish women. In response to these attacks, Jewish women used their various homemaking skills to make life more comfortable in the concentration camps. They formed foster families to care for one another, and tried to keep up spirits by sharing recipes, making gifts, and teaching skills to one another. Though historians no longer argue that Jewish women survived better than Jewish men with these particular actions and skills, it is acknowledged that Jewish women had different experiences, because many of them embodied the role of mothers and caretakers. At the same time, historians are also highlighting that women's experiences were not homogenized, as there were Jewish women who were scorned for not upholding gender roles.