Sunday, July 18, 2010

Discovering the Unknown

By Danielle Singer

Between studying the Holocaust in both university and Hebrew day school, I consider myself to be no stranger in the world of Holocaust memory. Nevertheless, during Na’ama Shik’s lecture, earlier this week, on Jewish female experience in Aushwitz-Birkenau, I found myself dumbfounded. I realized I knew very little on the topic of women’s experiences in the Holocaust.

Shik was one of many historians who participated in Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research’s almost two week long workshop “The Persecution and Murder of the Jews: A Grassroots Perspective” that took place from July 5th to the 13th. After sitting through a couple of lectures, Shik’s in particular, hit home.

Only quite recently, give or take a decade, have scholars begun to focus on women and the Holocaust. It was just two years ago that Yad Vashem opened its first exhibit focusing on women and the holocaust, called "Spots of Light" ( It is an obvious fact that Jewish women in the camps were terrorized and tortured and murdered by the Nazis. Yet, the specific differences between men and women’s experiences in the camps are still subjects that have not been significantly studied. Though Jewish women were tortured and killed because of the fact that they were Jews, the women’s day to day experiences in the camps and ghettos were obviously different then the men by virtue of the fact that they were women. Women and the Holocaust is such a crucial facet in Holocaust research. I realized at the end of the lecture that there has been a void in my Holocaust education, which before today overlooked half of the Holocaust’s victims and survivors.

I have been interning at Yad Vashem for six weeks now and though this period has been quite short I have still learnt so much. I have realized that the Holocaust is an infinite vessel of unknown information that historians are constantly discovering. Even though the Holocaust is one of the most documented and researched events in history, there are still many pieces of information waiting to be uncovered. For example, just last year, Yad Vashem put together a research project called “The Untold Stories” ( focuses on the previously unknown fates of the mid-sized and smaller communities that were murdered by Nazis.

One thing that I will take away from this internship is the fact that the study of the Holocaust is vast. There is always so much to learn it is clear my Holocaust education will never be complete.

Shik, a historian from Tel Aviv University and Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies, presented on the last day of the conference, sponsored by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Danielle Singer, a student at Dalhousie University, is interning at Yad Vashem this summer.


  1. Danielle Singer,
    My web site Women and the Holocaust- "A Cyberspace of Their Own" has been on the Internet since 2001 full of wonderfully well researched informative essays and articles by scores of the finest social historians and feminsit scholars who preceded Na'ama Shik by decades and were/are trailblazers in exploring women's roles, their gender-specific problems, horrors and murders due to their child-bearing capacity. And not just in Auschwitz and the other camps. Read about the sexual horrors faced by Jewish women in the Ukraine where 1.2 million Jews murdered by the Einsatzgruppen before Auschwitz-Birkenau existed. There is a wealth of material out there, easy to find. Yad Vashem was rather tardy - 60 years to be exact- with their exhibit on 'The Women'.
    Check out my web site with over 365 books in the bibliography. I am an 82 year old survivor who saw Auschwitz in the raw as a teenger and came to the conclusion decades later that the master narrative of the Holocaust marginalized what Jewish women as WOMEN faced during those perilous 12 years.
    Shana Tova,

  2. Danielle has returned to college, and we will forward your link to her in case she and others who are not so familiar with this particular aspect of the Holocaust would like to know more.

  3. My father gave me a book about World War II when I was 4 years old. I couldn't read book in English at that time, but I have deep interest and curiosity with the photographs. The photographs had stonger impact and much more memorable than thousands of words. I was too young to see the pictures of Hitler, Mussolini, holocaust, concentration camps, dead bodies, burning buildings, SS soldiers with cold eyes and guns in their hands. I could feel the terrible situation at that time in my heart. The memories from the book are lasting until now. Now I'm 30 years old and I still have deep interest on World War II history, especially on holocaust subject. My deep symphaty and prays to millions of victims and survivors. May their spirit rest in peace in heaven. Amien.

    Luciana Saragih