University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
chgs@umn.edu
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CHGS

  • Women and the Holocaust

    Women and the Holocaust

    Ravensbrück Women's Concentration Camp

    pregnant woman

    Above. "Pregnant Woman." Drawing by Ravensbrück prisoner Helen Ernst. Ravensbrucker Zeichnungen. © (MRG/SBG). (Original in Historisches Museum Schwerin, Germany.)

    Ravensbrück was the only major concentration camp that the Nazis built especially for women. Learning about this unique camp gives us the opportunity to think about how gender (sociopoliticoeconomic) and biological differences between men and women affected women during the Holocaust. Within the universal suffering of all of the victims of the Holocaust, men's and women's experiences were different.

    By focusing on the gender and biological issues specific to women, we can begin to better understand the Holocaust in its entirety. We can explore whether there were positive gender or biologicalrelated positive aspects that enabled women to better cope with the subhuman conditions, and specific gender and biologicalrelated vulnerabilities that women suffered. Positive genderrelated roles included the "women's work" of homemaking and nurturing that better equipped women to care for themselves and one another. On the other hand, genderassociated qualities such as modesty and submissiveness caused some of the women to suffer. Regarding biological differences, pregnancy could be punishable by death or forced abortion. Menstruation was another biological vulnerability for women, as was fear of rape and sexual abuse.

    the mother group

    "The Mother Group." Memorial Sculpture by Fritz Cremer, Courtesy of MGR/SBG.

    women of ravensbrück

    "Women of Ravensbruck." Drawing by Ravensbrück prisoner Helen Ernst. Ravensbrucker Zeichnungen. © (MRG/SBG). (Original in Historisches Museum Schwerin, Germany.)

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