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Women and the Holocaust:

Courage and Compassion

STUDY GUIDE

Produced by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme in partnership with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education and Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority asdf

United Nations

Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion

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“JEWISH WOMEN PERFORMED TRULY HEROIC DEEDS DURING THE HOLOCAUST. They faced unthinkable peril and upheaval -- traditions upended, spouses sent to the death camps, they themselves torn from their roles as caregivers and pushed into the workforce, there to be humiliated and abused. In the face of danger and atrocity, they bravely joined the resistance, smuggled food into the ghettos and made wrenching sacrifices to keep their children alive. Their courage and compassion continue to inspire us to this day”.

BAN KI-MOON, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL

27 January 2011

Women and the Holocaust:

Courage and Compassion

STUDY GUIDE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks to the following individuals who contributed to this project: Na’ama Shik, Dorit Novak, Stephen D. Smith, Ita Gordon, Irena Steinfeldt, Jonathan Clapsaddle, Liz Elsby, Sheryl Ochayon, Yael G. Weinstock, Inbal Eshed, Olga Yatskev-itch, Melanie Prud’homme, Amanda Kennedy Zolan, Allan Markman, Matias Delfino, Ziad Al-Kadri and Yehudit Inbar.

Editor: Kimberly Mann

© United Nations, 2011

Historical photos provided courtesy of Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’

Remembrance Authority, all rights reserved. For additional educational resources, please see www.yadvashem.org.

Images and testimony of participating survivors provided courtesy of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, all rights reserved. For more information on the Shoah Foundation Institute, please visit www.usc.edu/vhi.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Foreword by Kiyo Akasaka

United Nations Under-Secretary-General

for Communications and Public Information......................................................................... 5

Introduction ........................................................................................................................ 6

Chapter I / Determination..................................................................................................... 9

Chapter II / Leadership ....................................................................................................... 12

Chapter III / Compassion .................................................................................................... 15

Chapter IV / Dedication ...................................................................................................... 18

Chapter V / Courage .......................................................................................................... 21

Chapter VI / Willpower ....................................................................................................... 24

ANNEX

Holocaust Timeline ............................................................................................................ 27

Map of Killing Centres ...................................................................................................... 30

Survivor Testimonies .......................................................................................................... 31

Further Reading ................................................................................................................ 41

Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion

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FOREWORD

THE UNITED NATIONS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC INFORMATION has partnered with two leading institutions of scholarship, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, to produce a study guide and companion DVD with survivor testimony on women and the Holocaust. This educational product aims to help high school students better understand the experiences of Jewish and Roma and Sinti women during this period of upheaval and terror brought upon them by the Nazis and their collaborators.

Each chapter of the study guide highlights different ways in which the lives of these women were changed, often forever. Faced with discrimination, impossible living conditions, and the prospect of death at every turn, these women were determined to meet their families’ needs and protect their children to the best of their ability. As their husbands, sons and fathers were arrested and deported, traditional gender roles changed, placing greater responsibilities upon women in the family and community in the ghettos, and often making the difference between life and death in the camps. Women organized soup kitchens and care for those who needed it and created a support system for each other and those who had come to depend upon them.

They did their best to see that their children received a basic education and observed religious traditions as much as possible. Once homemakers and caregivers, women had to work outside the home and adapt to stay alive in the worst of circumstances — even when their children were killed before their eyes. Many summoned the courage to resist Nazi policies and even join partisan groups.

And, despite being subject to constant humiliation, deprivation and violence, many women went on to rebuild their lives after the Holocaust, a testimony to the human strength to persevere and endure, not just for oneself but for those from whom care is sought and those to whom it is given.

Today, the United Nations honours these brave women. The Organization is working to ensure the protection of the rights of women and girls around the world, and their capacity to contribute to human well-being. The recent establishment of UN Women, a new entity for gender equality and empowerment, reflects this mission.

Some months ago, the Department of Public Information launched a Twitter campaign where con-tributors were asked what message they would have sent Anne Frank, had they been able to reach out to her through this medium as she remained in hiding from the Nazis. The many messages we received reflected solace, courage and hope but, above all, solidarity.

Anne Frank herself put it the most eloquently when she wrote: “It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart”. 1 That is the belief that animates the United Nations, and the women and men whose sacrifices, aspirations and endeavours gave it being.

KIYO AKASAKA

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information ENDNOTES

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, trans. M. Moyaart-Doubleday (Toronto: Bantam,1993).

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