Women in the Holocaust: A Feminist History

ISBN : 9780199608683

Zoe Waxman
192 Pages
135 x 216 mm
Pub date
Feb 2017
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  • Offers a comprehensive study of women's lives during the Holocaust
  • Uses witness testimony to attempt to understand the Holocaust through the eyes of the women themselves
  • Covers women's experiences in the ghettos, in hiding, in the concentration camps, and in the Displaced Persons camps
  • Forces the reader to rethink our relationship to the gendered nature of knowledge

Despite some pioneering work by scholars, historians still find it hard to listen to the voices of women in the Holocaust. Learning more about the women who both survived and did not survive the Nazi genocide — through the testimony of the women themselves — not only increases our understanding of this terrible period in history, but makes us rethink our relationship to the gendered nature of knowledge itself. Women in the Holocaust is about the ways in which socially- and culturally-constructed gender roles were placed under extreme pressure; yet also about the fact that gender continued to operate as an important arbiter of experience. Indeed, paradoxically enough, the extreme conditions of the Holocaust — even of the death camps — may have reinforced the importance of gender.

Whilst Jewish men and women were both 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 in the Holocaust therefore became a matter of life and death.


1: Women in the Ghettos
2: Hiding
3: Concentration Camps
4: After the War

About the author: 

Zoë Waxman, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Zoë Waxman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. She previously taught in the history faculty in Oxford and at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she was fellow in Holocaust Studies. She is the author of Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation (2006), and Anne Frank(2015), as well as numerous articles relating to the Holocaust and genocide. 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.

Shortlisted for the 2018 Longman-History Today Book Prize


"Women in the Holocaust is a powerful book. It is powerful because of the nuanced account of female experiences to which Holocaust research has paid less attention so far. And it is powerful because it places womens voices at the centre. All in all, Waxman has accomplished a detailed and at the same time comprehensible analysis of the social category gender for Holocaust studies. Therefore, the book is suitable for both the already well-informed and the less-informed reader." - Helga Amesberger, European History Quarterly Vol. 48.1

"Highly recommended" - CHOICE

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