Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gender and Genocide / Jewish Holocaust

Women's Role in Holocaust May Exceed Old Notions
By Isabel Kershner
The New York Times, July 17, 2010
"Amid the horrors of the Holocaust, the atrocities perpetrated by a few brutal women have always stood out, like aberrations of nature. There were notorious camp guards like Ilse Koch and Irma Grese. And lesser known killers like Erna Petri, the wife of an SS officer and a mother who was convicted of shooting to death six Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Poland; or Johanna Altvater Zelle, a German secretary accused of child murder in the Volodymyr-Volynskyy ghetto in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. The Nazi killing machine was undoubtedly a male-dominated affair. But according to new research, the participation of German women in the genocide, as perpetrators, accomplices or passive witnesses, was far greater than previously thought. The researcher, Wendy Lower, an American historian now living in Munich, has drawn attention to the number of seemingly ordinary German women who willingly went out to the Nazi-occupied eastern territories as part of the war effort, to areas where genocide was openly occurring. 'Thousands would be a conservative estimate,' Ms. Lower said in an interview in Jerusalem last week.
While most did not bloody their own hands, the acts of those who did seemed all the more perverse because they operated outside the concentration camp system, on their own initiative. Ms. Lower's findings shed new light on the Holocaust from a gender perspective, according to experts, and have further underlined the importance of the role of the lower echelons in the Nazi killing apparatus. ... Ms. Lower, 45, presented her work for the first time at this summer's workshop at Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research. She has been trying to decipher what motivated these women to commit such crimes. 'They challenge so deeply our notion' of what constitutes normal female behavior, she said. But the Nazi system, she added, 'turned everything on its head.' [...]"

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:27 AM

    Saw a very interesting doc on Canadian architect Moshe Safdie last night. He was apparently commissioned to design the new Yad Vashem. M.


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