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Women In The Holocaust Essay, Research Paper

Women and the Holocaust

Women Struggle More Horrid Experiences Then Men

The holocaust can be described as one of the darkest eras in human existence, and the greatest crime imposed upon people by people. The holocaust, which was a product of Hitler s Nazi Germany, is an event that people have viewed from different perspectives. The holocaust caused the death of over six million innocent people, the majority of whom were of Jewish descent. Every Jew, regardless of gender, was equally a victim in the Holocaust. Though men suffered similar experiences, women had to suffer the worst for survival. Memoirs written by women survivors share certain characteristics with those written by men. Looking from a woman s point of view, the books Isabella: Fragments of Isabella written by Isabella Leitner in 1994, Night, written by Elie Wiesel in 1960 and MAUS: A Survivor s Tale. II, And Where Here My Troubles Began published in 1991, explains personal testimonies and reflections of the unrelieved gruesome experience. However, Jewish women experienced sexual victimization, rape, hiding of pregnancies, childbirth, abortions, and killing of newborns. Many stories that have been written are told from male survivors of the European Holocaust. But women were also a part of the mistreatment, briefly explained in these books. During this horrific experience of the holocaust, millions of men, women and children suffered slow and painful deaths of starvation and human cruelty. The question remains, is life even worth living for? In these women s cases, yes, because they were being labeled and killed as producers of Jews, not as human beings.

Female survivor Isabella Leitner wrote a book called: Fragments of Isabella. The book explains in diary form the humiliating experiences women had to deal with during this period of time. Since 1939, her father was in the United States trying to get visas for his family. During his absence, his family suffered torture from the beginning of the genocide to the end. Her book began by explaining how her and her family were herded into a ghetto and then finally sent to Auschwitz where her mother was beaten by a sixteen-year-old Gestapo and sent with her baby sister to be gassed. She testifies how the train ride to Aushwitz was only the beginning of humiliation for the Jewish in the holocaust. Isabella talks about the humiliation she felt being a woman and states, I am menstruating and have no way to attend to my hygiene needs (p. 32-33) But the train carts were so overly packed with 75 other devastated passengers, menstruation was least of her worries, because others around her were dying. Not knowing the result of their arrival to Auschwitz, Isabella and her sisters were all shaved, stripped of their clothing and sent to the disinfectant showers. A few years after the holocaust was over, Isabella explains the treatment she and her sisters had suffered to stay alive. Throughout the mistreatment, women had nothing but hope for survival or even hope for death.

Elie Wiesel, a male survivor and the author of Night, briefly explains the experience of women in the Holocaust. He mentions how women were used as sex victims to the enemy and if they were to tell or get pregnant, their life would result in death. But to stay alive these women had no choice but give into the demands of the officers. He also describes in detail his experience of the holocaust as a fifteen-year-old boy terrorized by Nazi SS in Auschewitz and Buchenwald. Elie on the contrary, never stopped thinking about his father who works next to him until the end. He described the holocaust as humiliation, isolation, and deprivation

Art Spiegelman, the son of a holocaust survivor, wrote a novel in comic form to retell his father s story in the holocaust. In MAUS: A Survivor s Tale. I, My Father Bleeds History published in 1986, MAUS: A Survivor s Tale. II, And Here My Troubles Began, Spiegelman describes the struggles of his father s life. Vladek, Art s father, describes the torture he went through to stay alive. Treatment of women was very rarely talked about in Spiegelman s book but Vladek mentioned what his wife went through in the holocaust. In order to stay alive, many women had to decide if they wanted life for themselves or death with their children. In Vladek s case, he talks about the difficult time his wife, Anja, had when they were separated from their first son, Richeiu. Survival, separation and hiding of children, was very difficult for women. As shown below, the frames illustrate the hardship many women had to deal with throughout the holocaust.

(MAUS I, pg. 81)

The holocaust resulted in the death of six million innocent people. Women suffered more horrid experiences then men. But several men had a chance for survival because they had the strength that was needed. The mistreatment left women with nothing but hope for survival or even hope for death, because several women were so weak and helpless. The treatment of women was rarely talked about until women survivors came out with written testimonies explaining the holocaust as Jewish women, the true survivors of the European holocaust.

Works Cited

Leitner, Isabella and Irving A. Leitner. Isabella: From Auschwitz to Freedom. New York: A Anchor/ Double Day, 1994.

Siegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor s Tale. I , My Father Bleeds History. New York: Pantheon

Books, 1986.

Siegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor s Tale. II, And Here My Troubles Began. New York:

Pantheon Books, 1991.

Wiesel, Eli. Night New York: Bantham, 1960.

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