Women's agency and survival strategies during the Holocaust

Judith Tydor Baumel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Since the 1980s, Holocaust scholarship has slowly begun to render Jewish women visible, reclaiming their experiences and illuminating the richness of their voices and cultures during the Nazi cataclysm. While deepening our understanding of women's experiences and generating further interest in a developing field, only recently has it begun to delineate the wider scope of Holocaust gender issues. This article, focusing upon women's agency and survival strategies, particularly those in a communal of network setting, is meant to expand our conceptualization of gendered communal behavior during the Holocaust. Two models of women's agency in acute situations that have long been recognized by gender scholars are the use of these shifts in order to enter the men's world or to create a new and alternative female framework that competes with the existing male one. In addition to exploring how these models functioned during the Holocaust, I will examine two additional options for women's agency during that period: one that resulted from the shifts of priorities stemming from the radical changes of society in acute crisis; another that could only be possible within the compulsory, single-sex frameworks created by the Nazis. A common denominator of all four models is the creation and employment of women's leadership during the Holocaust, a phenomenon whose dynamics I also explore in this essay.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-347
Number of pages19
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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