About the conference
Applying gender analysis to the field of Holocaust Studies has yielded important results. Whereas before the 1990s, most Holocaust scholarship focused almost exclusively on the experiences of male victims, expanding to include women’s experiences has both opened up new areas of inquiry and raised critical questions about established areas. And yet this developing scholarly conversation has limitations as well. As Joan Ringelheim, an early adopter, pointed out in her later work, scholarship about women during the Holocaust easily becomes essentializing; at times even suggesting that women were somehow more capable of facing the Nazi onslaught. More recently Pascale Rachel Bos has argued that many of the perceived differences between the experiences of men and women may have more to do with the way the different genders were taught to express themselves than with actual differences. Even more fundamentally, however, examining the Holocaust and its aftermath through the lens of gender requires breaking up the Jewish or Roma family. While there is no question that the Nazis sought to destroy the Jewish and Roma family, it is equally clear that Jews and Roma continually resisted this effort, sometimes in surprising ways. Thus to divide men and women into separate categories is to privilege gender above what may have been an even more crucial element of their identities. Jews and Roma of all genders and ages, and in all of the contexts of the Holocaust, made decisions about flight, passing, hiding, joining together and separating based on calculations of their own survival, but also based on perceptions of the greater good of their families.