Untold stories of women in the Holocaust

Posted on: 07 February 2018

Gender was a matter of life and death for the victims of the Holocaust, according Oxford historian, Dr Zoë Waxman, who delivered the Annual Holocaust Memorial Lecture in Trinity College Dublin on Tuesday, February 6th, 2018.

Dr Zoë Waxman, Centre for Jewish and Hebrew Studies, University of Oxford, is the author of the recently published book ‘Women in the Holocaust: A Feminist History of the Holocaust’ (2017). In her lecture she discussed how gender operated as a crucial signifier for survival during the Nazi genocide.

“Despite some pioneering work by scholars, historians still find it hard to listen to the voices of women in the Holocaust. In order to increase our understanding of this terrible period of history it essential to learn more about the women who both survived and did not survive the Nazi genocide. Whilst Jewish men and women for no greater reason then being born Jewish were sentenced to death, gender nevertheless operated as a crucial signifier for survival.”

“Pregnant women as well as women accompanied by young children or those deemed incapable of hard labour were sent straight to the gas chambers. The very qualities which made them women were manipulated and exploited by the Nazis as a source of dehumanization. Moreover, women were less likely to survive the camps even if they were not selected for death. Gender therefore became a matter of life and death.”

The Annual Holocaust Memorial Lecture is organised by the Herzog Centre and the Department of History, Trinity College Dublin and Holocaust Education Trust Ireland.

About Dr Zoë Waxman

Dr Zoë Waxman is a historian of the Holocaust. She is the author of Writing the Holocaust: memory, testimony, representation (2006), Anne Frank (2015), and Women in the Holocaust: A Feminist History of the Holocaust (2017), as well as numerous articles relating to the Holocaust and genocide. She teaches in the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University of Oxford. A board member of the British Association of Holocaust Studies, she also sits on the editorial board of Holocaust Studies and the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies. She is a trustee of the Wiener Library and a member of the academic advisory board for the Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust galleries.


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