Off the record : remapping Shoah representations from perspectives of ordinary Jewish women / by Marion Gerlind.
Ordinary people---whose lives were more impoverished and constrained than those of middle- or upper-class individuals---have been largely overlooked in historical reconstructions of the Shoah (Holocaust). Few scholars have examined the ways in which gender and class enter into accounts of death and survival.Expanding the definition of "survivor," this study includes those who fled persecution from 1933 onward. Primarily based on oral history interviews and unpublished third-person narratives, I analyze the influence of socioeconomic status on both working- and middle-class women's everyday lives. Extending feminist approaches to the Shoah, I focus mainly on German and Polish Jews growing up in poverty and working with their hands to earn a living. Research in this domain cannot rely exclusively on investigations of male, middle-class, and urban Jews, which are often informed by stereotypes and class biases that predominate in literary representations. My aim is to contribute to an evolving interdisciplinary discourse of class and gender as they bear on this topic.Many ordinary Jewish women in Poland and Germany grew up during the 1920s-30s with a heightened awareness of antisemitism and class oppression. Lack of financial resources and social connections diminished their chances of escape and survival, and so almost all their testimonies are missing. Although the working poor represent the majority of Shoah victims, we know little about their lives, which are "off the record." Listening to voices of women who were able to survive---against overwhelming odds---is essential to a comprehensive assessment of the Shoah. Their oral histories, documented and examined in this dissertation, provide evidence that their experiences differed significantly from those of wealthier women. Along with economic differences I considered variables such as urban versus rural, Western versus Eastern European, age, health, and social networks, affecting whether women perished or survived.By interpreting testimonies at risk of being lost, de-stigmatizing poverty and manual labor, and enlarging the scope of German Studies to include transnational and multidisciplinary explorations of Germany's twentieth-century history, we can add breadth and depth to our understanding of the Shoah.
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