Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany
In Between Dignity and Despair, Marion Kaplan describes the everyday struggles of the Jewish people in Germany. From beatings to starvation, Jews suffered everything in between. Kaplan makes two main arguments throughout the book, that one; women played a very large role in the survival of families, and two; non-Jewish German neighbors were oppressors, not just bystanders.
As a whole, the book travels along in chronological order but Kaplan organizes the chapters in such a way where you can almost feel the tension mounting. In each chapter the Nazi’s had taken a new step on the path to Hitler’s “Final Solution”. The book starts with oppression, then moves on to the deportation and forced labor, and ends with Jews hiding from desperate Nazis. The experience was much different for women than men. With Jewish families facing new problems and insurmountable hurdles, women had new responsibilities thrust upon them. Men were prevented from providing for their families and lost all social status. Not because men didn’t care for their children, women were just the only protection. Kaplan explains the gender role reversal, “Yet gender roles dramatically reversed when women, rather than men, interceded for their families with state officials…” The Nuremburg Laws were also a factor in the increased workload for women. The Nuremburg laws restricted middle-class Jewish women’s hiring of household help. Kaplan uses a quote to describe these extra burdens It is the duty…of the Jewish woman to regulate…the household so that everyone is satisfied. She has to give…the head of the household the necessary time…to relax…She has to adjust without being subordinate. This is more necessary than ever, given today’s living arrangements. Then, living together, even with many people in tight circumstances, will bring about that kind of communal feeling that will bring peace to the household. Women also were able to swallow...
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