Introduction: Women Writing the Holocaust

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In tracing the voice of women throughout Holocaust narratives, in attempting tolocate most specifically the voice of the woman witness, I inevitably trace myown discoveries. I began this project with the task of investigating whether andwhy the voices of women have been overlooked and subverted in Holocaust Studies.The topic quickly revealed itself to be many-headed. My research revealedcomplexities both historiographical and emotional; the desires both to articulateand to deny exist simultaneously, if not harmoniously, as regards this stillvery raw episode in history. In order to classify and clarify the tangled threadsof inquiry, I turned to examine several lines of discourse. This paper seeks toascertain what questions accompany the recent explosion of interest in women’srole(s) in the Holocaust, what assumptions those questions make, whether they arereally the important questions to be asking, and whether the celebration of theheretofore ignored female voice accounts to a romanticization of oppression. Italso asks how the dual identities of woman and of Holocaust witness have been andcan be imagined and expressed.

Against this theoretical backdrop to the issue ofwomen and the Holocaust, I will examine in depth three examples of Holocaustmemoirs by women: From Ashes to Life, by survivor Lucille E., the venerableDiary of Anne Frank, and Life? or Theater?, the autobiographical pictorialoperetta of Charlotte Salomon, who died at Auschwitz (and Mary LowenthalFelstiner’s investigation of her work). I do not hope or plan to reach asatisfying conclusion, all loose ends neatly tied up. Such an ambition wouldbelittle the enormous complexity and dreadful scope of the Shoah. Instead, thispaper seeks to put all these different strains of inquiry and different authorsinto dialogue with one another, rotating them between the three general areas offeminism, Holocaust Studies, and the concept of memoir.