Women in the Holocaust

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Women in the Holocaust



"Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle cars to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they're sending all the Jews....If it's that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they're being gassed." - Anne Frank

The Holocaust can be defined as the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning, sacrifice by fire (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2010). The holocaust occurred when many German Nazi’s believed that many individuals (e.g. mentally and physically challenged, homosexuals), religions (e.g., Judaism, Catholic), and Cultures (e.g. Gypsies, Slovakians) were unworthy of existence. The Nazi’s considered themselves a superior race and were guilty of genocide through horrendous acts of human extermination.

In this paper I will discuss this heartbreaking period, and the dangerous and frightful times women faced. I will also discuss the constant humiliation and torture which went along with experiments. In addition, I will speak about jobs given to them in and outside the camps such as prostitution. My focus will be on things such as rape, sexual harassment, murder from gas chambers, treatment of people, and on issues women faced with their children in these camps. Finally, I will like to say that although women and men both shared frightening events, each gender encountered unique emotions and experiences.

Prior to these concentration camps many women were forced to move into ghettos. For example, a ghetto such as Warsaw was guarded with Polish, German, and Jewish Police. It has been recorded that, “Conditions in the Warsaw Ghetto were so bad that between 1940 and 1942 an estimated 100,000 Jews died of starvation and disease in the Warsaw Ghetto” (Jewish Ghettos, 2004). We know that this is an understatement for not everyone could be recorded. Women within these ghettos were targets of rape and public humiliation by the Gestapo. It was said that, “members of the Gestapo would come to the ghetto- alone or with friends- for entertainment. The entertainment consisted of taking potshots at a child, raping a woman, cutting a beard off an old man, humiliating people in the street, and so on” ( Chapnik, 1998).

Once women began being deported to concentration camps even more disastrous things they faced. First, the Nazi’s would shear women using rusty razor blades. They shaved their whole body and even their pelvic hair. This was done in order to degrade, humiliate, and annihilate a women’s sense of femininity and determination. Also, after entering a concentration camp, being sheared, and experiencing dumbfounding stress, some women ceased menstruating. Women who did menstruate had to deal with blood coming down their legs because they were not provided with the right hygiene articles. Unfortunately, many of these women faced constant shame, critiques, and assaults by the Nazi soldiers. Although, many of these women experienced these down-grading experiences they felt lucky if they got their menstruation for they knew they were still capable of bearing children.

Many women in the concentration camps also faced life changing events such as rape. This injured their self-esteem and injured their physical being. In many of these concentration camps, brothels were set up for soldiers and selected prisoners. These brothels were made for organized rape and were places where women had no control over their bodies. Many women who were thought of as pretty and had strong bodies were inspected for appearance and tried out. Thus, these women were subjugated and raped. To go...
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