Experience and Expression: Women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust

Wayne State University Press
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The many powerful accounts of the Holocaust have given rise to women’s voices, and yet few researchers have analyzed these perspectives to learn what the horrifying events meant for women in particular and how they related to them. In Experience and Expression, the authors take on this challenge, providing the first book-length gendered analysis of women and the Holocaust, a topic that is emerging as a new field of inquiry in its own right. Accessible to readers on many levels, the essays portray the experiences of women of various religious and ethnic backgrounds, and draw from the fields of English, religion, nursing, history, law, comparative literature, philosophy, French, and German. The collection explores an array of fascinating topics: rescue and resistance, the treatment of Roma and Sinti women, the fate of female forced laborers, Holocaust politics, nurses at so-called euthanasia centers, women’s experiences of food and hunger in the camps, the uses and abuses of Anne Frank, and the representations of the Holocaust in art, film, and literature in the postwar era. The introduction provides a thorough overview of the current status of research in the field, and each essay seeks to push the theoretical boundaries that shape our understanding of women’s experience and agency during the Holocaust and of the ways in which they have expressed their memories.
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About the author

Elizabeth Baer is the Raymond and Florence Sponberg Chair of Ethics and a professor of English at Gustavus Adolphus College. Myrna Goldenberg is a professor of English and the director of the NEH-funded Paul Peck Humanities Institute at Montgomery College.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Wayne State University Press
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Published on
Feb 1, 2003
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9780814338865
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Holocaust
History / Jewish
Social Science / Jewish Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The first genocide of the twentieth century, though not well known, was committed by Germans between 1904–1907 in the country we know today as Namibia, where they exterminated thousands of Herero and Nama people and subjected the surviving indigenous men, women, and children to forced labor. The perception of Africans as subhuman—lacking any kind of civilization, history, or meaningful religion—and the resulting justification for the violence against them is what author Elizabeth R. Baer refers to as the “genocidal gaze,” an attitude that was later perpetuated by the Nazis. In The Genocidal Gaze: From German Southwest Africa to the Third Reich, Baer uses the trope of the gaze to trace linkages between the genocide of the Herero and Nama and that of the victims of the Holocaust. Significantly, Baer also considers the African gaze of resistance returned by the indigenous people and their leaders upon the German imperialists. Baer explores the threads of shared ideology in the Herero and Nama genocide and the Holocaust—concepts such as racial hierarchies, lebensraum (living space), rassenschande (racial shame), and endlösung (final solution) that were deployed by German authorities in 1904 and again in the 1930s and 1940s to justify genocide. She also notes the use of shared methodology—concentration camps, death camps, intentional starvation, rape, indiscriminate killing of women and children—in both instances. While previous scholars have made these links between the Herero and Nama genocide and that of the Holocaust, Baer’s book is the first to examine literary texts that demonstrate this connection. Texts under consideration include the archive of Nama revolutionary Hendrik Witbooi; a colonial novel by German Gustav Frenssen (1906), in which the genocidal gaze conveyed an acceptance of racial annihilation; and three post-Holocaust texts—by German Uwe Timm, Ghanaian Ama Ata Aidoo, and installation artist William Kentridge of South Africa—that critique the genocidal gaze. Baer posits that writing and reading about the gaze is an act of mediation, a power dynamic that calls those who commit genocide to account for their crimes and discloses their malignant convictions. Careful reading of texts and attention to the narrative deployment of the genocidal gaze—or the resistance to it—establishes discursive similarities in books written both during colonialism and in the post-Holocaust era. The Genocidal Gaze is an original and challenging discussion of such contemporary issues as colonial practices, the Nazi concentration camp state, European and African race relations, definitions of genocide, and postcolonial theory. Moreover, Baer demonstrates the power of literary and artistic works to condone, or even promote, genocide or to soundly condemn it. Her transnational analysis provides the groundwork for future studies of links between imperialism and genocide, links among genocides, and the devastating impact of the genocidal gaze.
From the moment I got to Auschwitz I was completely detached. I disconnected my heart and intellect in an act of self-defense, despair, and hopelessness." With these words Sara Nomberg-Przytyk begins this painful and compelling account of her experiences while imprisoned for two years in the infamous death camp. Writing twenty years after her liberation, she recreates the events of a dark past which, in her own words, would have driven her mad had she tried to relive it sooner. But while she records unimaginable atrocities, she also richly describes the human compassion that stubbornly survived despite the backdrop of camp depersonalization and imminent extermination.

Commemorative in spirit and artistic in form, Auschwitz convincingly portrays the paradoxes of human nature in extreme circumstances. With consummate understatement Nomberg-Przytyk describes the behavior of concentration camp inmates as she relentlessly and pitilessly examines her own motives and feelings. In this world unmitigated cruelty coexisted with nobility, rapacity with self-sacrifice, indifference with selfless compassion. This book offers a chilling view of the human drama that existed in Auschwitz.

From her portraits of camp personalities, an extraordinary and horrifying profile emerges of Dr. Josef Mengele, whose medical experiments resulted in the slaughter of nearly half a million Jews. Nomberg-Przytyk's job as an attendant in Mengle's hospital allowed her to observe this Angel of Death firsthand and to provide us with the most complete description to date of his monstrous activities.

The original Polish manuscript was discovered by Eli Pfefferkorn in 1980 in the Yad Vashem Archive in Jerusalem. Not knowing the fate of the journal's author, Pfefferkorn spent two years searching and finally located Nomberg-Przytyk in Canada. Subsequent interviews revealed the history of the manuscript, the author's background, and brought the journal into perspective.

When After Virtue first appeared in 1981, it was recognized as a significant and potentially controversial critique of contemporary moral philosophy. Newsweek called it “a stunning new study of ethics by one of the foremost moral philosophers in the English-speaking world.” Since that time, the book has been translated into more than fifteen foreign languages and has sold over one hundred thousand copies. Now, twenty-five years later, the University of Notre Dame Press is pleased to release the third edition of After Virtue, which includes a new prologue “After Virtue after a Quarter of a Century.”

In this classic work, Alasdair MacIntyre examines the historical and conceptual roots of the idea of virtue, diagnoses the reasons for its absence in personal and public life, and offers a tentative proposal for its recovery. While the individual chapters are wide-ranging, once pieced together they comprise a penetrating and focused argument about the price of modernity. In the Third Edition prologue, MacIntyre revisits the central theses of the book and concludes that although he has learned a great deal and has supplemented and refined his theses and arguments in other works, he has “as yet found no reason for abandoning the major contentions” of this book. While he recognizes that his conception of human beings as virtuous or vicious needed not only a metaphysical but also a biological grounding, ultimately he remains “committed to the thesis that it is only from the standpoint of a very different tradition, one whose beliefs and presuppositions were articulated in their classical form by Aristotle, that we can understand both the genesis and the predicament of moral modernity.”

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