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BOOK REVIEWS & PRAISE

BOOKS BY REMEMBER THE WOMEN INSTITUTE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS

2009
BELONGING TOO WELL: PORTRAITS OF IDENTITY IN CYNTHIA OZICK'S FICTION
2008
AND THE RAT LAUGHED
ASSASSINATO DE MULHERES E DIREITOS HUMANOS (MURDER OF WOMEN AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN PORTUGUESE)
WOMEN AND FAMILY IN THE HOLOCAUST
2007
FIORELLO'S SISTER: GEMMA LA GUARDIA GLUCK'S STORY
EVERY DAY LASTS A YEAR:A JEWISH FAMILY'S CORRESPONDENCE FROM POLAND
THE DIARY OF MARY BERG
2004
THE JEWISH WOMEN OF RAVENSBRÜCK CONCENTRATION CAMP
2003
EXPERIENCE AND EXPRESSION
RESILIENCE AND COURAGE
2002
HOLOCAUST LITERATURE: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WRITERS AND THEIR WORK

OTHER BOOKS

2009
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY 2009 NEW BOOKS
SNOW FLOWERS: HUNGARIAN JEWISH WOMEN IN AN AIRPLANE FACTORY, MARKKLEEBERG, GERMANY
WOMEN IN TORAH, WOMEN ON TORAH, WOMEN OF TORAH
2007
MICHELANGELO IN RAVENSBRÜCK
JOHANNA KRAUSE TWICE PERSECUTED: SURVIVING IN NAZI GERMANY AND COMMUNIST EAST GERMANY
JEWISH WOMEN PRISONERS OF RAVENSBRÜCK
2006
LIFE IN SECRETS: VERA ATKINS AND THE MISSING AGENTS OF WWII
AN AMERICAN HEROINE IN THE FRENCH RESISTANCE: THE DIARY AND MEMOIR OF VIRGINIA D'ALBERT-Lake
10 BRITISH PRISONERS-OF-WAR SAVED MY LIFE
2003
DEFYING THE TIDE: AN ACCOUNT OF AUTHENTIC COMPASSION DURING THE HOLOCAUST
2002
GIRL WITH TWO LANDSCAPES: THE WARTIME DIARY OF LENA JEDWAB, 1941–1945


Cover image of Belonging Too Well by Miriam SivanBelonging Too Well: Portraits of Identity in Cynthia Ozick's Fiction
By Miriam Sivan

This new book demonstrate how Cynthia Ozick’s characters attempt to mediate a complex Jewish identity, one that bridges the differences between traditional Judaism and secular American culture.
In Belonging Too Well, Miriam Sivan draws on contemporary literary theory as well as traditional Jewish texts and culture to explore the question of identity in Cynthia Ozick’s fiction. Many critics have pointed to a split in Ozick’s work between Judaic and secular culture and values. Sivan suggests, however, that Ozick never settles for a simple either/or dichotomy between traditional Judaism and secular American culture, but that her protagonists instead fashion new means of living genuinely Jewish lives within the American Diaspora. Often they struggle not with not belonging to either the Old or the New Worlds, but of belonging too well to both. Part of a recent trend toward analyzing Jewish American literature in the context of  a deep encounter with and understanding of Judaism and traditional Jewish texts, Sivan’s study enables readers of Ozick’s fiction to penetrate the complex webs she creates among cultures, time periods, and characters, some quite sober, others fantastic, all unusual.
The book chapters are:
1. Mishkan: The Ungraven Image
2. Golem: The Seeker and the Sought
3. Shekhina: The Whole and Holy Mother
4. Etz HaSadeh: A Reconciliation with Nature
5. Shoah: Words in Spite of Themselves
The book also includes an introduction, afterword, notes, bibliography, and index.
Miriam Sivan, a member of the Advisory Board of Remember the Women Institute,  teaches in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Haifa in Israel.


And the Rat Laughed

And the Rat Laughed
By Nava Semel
Translated from Hebrew by Miriam Schlesinger

ISBN 978-1-876462-65-9
November 2008
Fiction
Hybrid Publishers, Australia

Nava Semel's creative work is famous in Israel, and now her important Holocaust-related novel, And the Rat Laughed, is available to English-language readers. Background about Semel's novel and her short story dealing with sexual abuse during the Holocaust will be included in a forthcoming anthology on that subject, co-edited by Dr. Sonja M. Hedgepeth and Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel, to be published by Brandeis University Press. Nava Semel is a member of the Advisory Board of Remember the Women Institute.
           
And the Rat Laughed
is unique in both subject matter and format. Unlike other Holocaust-related books this novel deals with the act of remembering, including sexual abuse. It resembles a relay race in which the characters transfer memory from one to the other, while traveling on the axis of time.
           
The book begins at the end of 1999, when a survivor grandmother in Tel Aviv shares with her granddaughter her tragic life story as a child hidden in a pit during the Holocaust, with only a rat for company. The next day the granddaughter tells the legend of “Girl and Rat” to her teacher, and in 2009 those who heard it through her classmates establish an internet site with related poems. From then on this memory spreads out throughout the world and becomes a myth. By 2099 anthropologist Lima Energelly discovers it and tries to uncover its mysterious roots. In her research Lima reveals the first man who created this myth, Father Stanislaw, a Catholic priest who saved the little girl and returned her to the Jewish people after the war. This little Jewish girl is the Tel Aviv grandmother, and the story moves from present to future to past.
           
The novel is written in five genres: story, legend, poems, science fiction, and diary, creating a time-frame of 150 years.  And the Rat Laughed received acclaim in Israel for its use of unconventional and original literary devices and became a ground breaker for exploring the act of memory. How do we tell a painful story? Does it change the way we recall it? How will our next recipient recall it in their own individual way? Is art the only way to transfer emotional memory?

The novel was enthusiastically received in Israel and adapted to the stage as a successful opera, composed by Ella Milch-Sheriff and performed by the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv and the Israel Chamber Orchestra.  And the Rat Laughed deals with the influence of this harrowing chapter of history on people's relationship with God, on understanding human nature, on the need to forget in order to survive, and on the need to remember nonetheless. At its heart, it deals with sexual abuse during the Holocaust and the silence that has surrounded this subject.


Fiorello's Sister: Gemma La Guardia Gluck's Story
New Expanded Edition edited by Rochelle G. Saidel
of My Story by Gemma La Guardia Gluck, edited by S. L. Shneiderman, 1961

Syracuse University Press; Expanded Edition (15 Mar 2007)
ISBN-10: 0815608616
ISBN-13: 978-0815608615

REVIEWS
Hadassah Magazine
February 2008 Vol. 89 No. 6

Review by Gloria Goldreich

Gemma and Fiorello La Guardia were the children of an Italian Jewish mother and a bandmaster in the United States Army.

Gemma, who did not practice Judaism, married Herman Gluck, a Hungarian Jew, and made her home in Budapest. When the Nazis swept through Hungary, the Glucks were arrested on the orders of Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler in reprisal against her brother, Fiorella La Guardia, mayor of New York, who was actively anti-Nazi. Separated from her husband, who later died in Mauthausen, Gemma was interned at Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp, as were her daughter and her infant grandson, who were held in a separate barrack.

As a political hostage, she was able to roam the camp and witness the full extent of Nazi brutality—its random cruelty and sadism. She also registered acts of kindness and compassion among the prisoners, some of whom she saw as heroines; they shared their meager rations and ragged bits of clothing and improvised amusements for the children. Throughout her ordeal, she remained strong and optimistic, vowing that if she were to survive she would record her observations.

Miraculously, Gemma did survive. Reunited with her daughter and her grandson, she contacted her brother, then director of United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRAA). La Guardia agreed to help her, but asserted (somewhat self-righteously) in a letter, included in the appendix, that her “case was the same as that of hundreds of thousands of displaced people” and “no exceptions can be made.”

“The Little Flower,” as he was nicknamed, died not long after his sister arrived in New York. He made no provision for her, and she lived in very reduced circumstances until her death in 1962.

Rochelle Saidel, who edited this new edition with care, has given us a portrait of a remarkable woman who persevered through tragic circumstances. Gemma La Guardia Gluck’s story, written the year before she died, is her legacy, fulfilling the promise she made to herself during her dark days at Ravensbrück.

-- Gloria Goldreich
Hadassah Magazine


T
he Jewish Exponent
Pain & Triumph

The journey of a New York mayor's family

January 31, 2008
by Robert Leiter, Literary Editor

When the book Fiorello's Sister appeared in my office, the thought flashed through my mind that, yes, Fiorello La Guardia, the beloved mayor of New York City during the 1930s and '40s, known endearingly to his supporters as the "Little Flower," had had Jewish ancestry somewhere down the line. I assumed that this point was the reason why the book had been sent to me, and that this facet of his life would be at the center of the text. I then put the slim paperback on top of my "to do" pile and didn't question any of my assumptions until I picked the work up again months later to read in earnest.

How wrong I was about the story this brief, but event-filled, memoir has to tell! The fact that the La Guardias had some Jewish blood (the mayor's mother was part of a famed Italian Jewish family) was only the tip of the iceberg, and I was truly startled to discover how much more there was to this heartfelt testimony written by his older sibling, Gemma La Guardia Gluck.

This edition of Fiorello's Sister, published by Syracuse University Press, is, in fact, a reissue of the original, which first appeared in 1961, in a version that had been carefully "edited" by the Yiddish journalist S.L. Shneiderman. This new volume has been repackaged by scholar Rochelle G. Saidel, who tracked down various versions of the work -- both published and in typescript -- before approving publication of this new and expanded text.

A Life Filled With Drama

As Saidel explains in her prefatory remarks, Gemma La Guardia was nowhere near as famous as her brother, Fiorello, but her life was filled with drama.

Writes the scholar, who has done considerable original research on the Holocaust: "Gemma's lifetime spanned from the great wave of immigration to the United States in the 1880s until John F. Kennedy's presidency. By the time she died in New York City in November 1962, she had been a political hostage of the Nazis in Ravensbrück concentration camp and a post-World War II displaced person and refugee. Most of her memoir is a vivid eyewitness account of her ordeal during and immediately after the Holocaust. However, there is much more to Gemma's story. She describes the United States at the end of the 19th century and the various places she lived as her U.S. Army bandleader father changed headquarters."

The La Guardia parents actually set sail for America on their wedding day in 1880 (Achille La Guardia was originally from Foggia near Naples while his bride, Irene Coen, was a native of Trieste). The newlyweds made their first American home in Greenwich Village. Gemma was their oldest child, born in 1881. Fiorello was born a year later, and the baby, Richard, arrived in 1885, after the family had resettled in the American West.

Fiorello La Guardia at his law school graduation, June 1910
Photo courtesy of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives

Gemma's cornet-playing father was a member of the 11th Infantry of the U.S. Army and was first posted at Fort Sully in the Dakota Territory. Gemma may have been just a small child at the time, but she writes that "the wild and woolly West made a vivid impression" upon her. In fact, her mother, left alone in their isolated house when her husband was away on duty, took charge immediately and even became good friends with the Indians who lived nearby.

"They brought all kinds of gifts," writes Gemma, "such as handmade blankets, moccasins, beads, and, in turn, she gave them sugar and other staples. The Indians spoke a Spanish dialect, Mother spoke Italian to them, and in this manner they understood each other very well. Mother always said, 'No one is so well protected here as I am.' And she was right -- the Indians loved her and would never have done her any harm."

The 11th Infantry was then sent to Sackett's Harbor, near Watertown, N.Y., where Gemma and her brothers started elementary school. The standing military procedure was that the regiment was to move every three years, first sent somewhere on the frontier and then to a more settled region. So after New York state, the family wound up in Whipple Barracks near Prescott, Ariz., a period that Gemma describes as "the happiest years of our youth." It was here that she and her siblings attended high school.

The family moved several more times, and there were tense moments after the U.S. battleship Maine was blown up in Havana harbor. The La Guardias had just arrived in St. Louis, and once the country's "war jitters" became intense, the 11th Infantry was ordered to Mobile, Ala., though family members had to remain in Missouri.

Just before the soldiers were to be shipped out to Cuba, Gemma's father became ill after eating contaminated canned meat and was sent back to St. Louis. During the period of his recuperation, his military service came to an end -- the year was 1901 -- and the elder La Guardia then decided to return to Europe with his family, settling in Trieste.

So began the second European phase of the family's history. Fiorello was with them at the time, and Gemma writes about his political ambitions and how his job at the U.S. Consulate in Fiume, which was then part of Hungary, inspired him to return to the United States to continue his education and pursue a career in politics.

Gemma and her mother stayed in Europe after Fiorello's departure in 1906 (their father had died by then), and she eventually married one of her students -- she taught English -- a man named Herman Gluck, a Hungarian Jew, whom she describes as homely but endearingly kind and good-natured.

La Guardia family photograph

(Clockwise, from left) Achille La Guardia, Fiorello La Guardia's father, circa 1895; Irene Coen La Guardia, his mother, circa 1885; and his sister, Gemma La Guardia, circa 1900
Photo courtesy of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives

Gemma, her mother and her new husband then moved to Budapest, where the couple started their family. Yolanda was born in 1911 and Irene in 1918. Yolanda stayed in Budapest, where she married and had a son, while Irene returned to the United States just before the outbreak of World War II. Gemma discusses in detail the splendid life she led in Budapest before the Nazis invaded and changed her family's fortunes irrevocably in the spring of 1944.

Despite all the colorful tales Gemma has to tell about the American West, the real heart of her memoir comes with the Nazi invasion. Eichmann and Himmler ordered her arrest, and she was kept as a political hostage because she was the sister of the famous mayor of New York City.

She was soon deported, along with her husband, to Mauthausen in Austria; then she was sent to the hell of Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp just 50 miles from Berlin.

These are the book's most harrowing -- and perhaps most important -- pages. The memorist gives an unflinching picture of one of the most infamous camps the Nazis ever created. Gemma's special status kept her from having to do slave labor, but she suffered from the starvation diet and the other punishments inflicted on all inmates. Still, many survivors attested to her strength, and how she acted as a model and a guide for many of the women who sought her counsel.

No-Nonsense Philosophy

Not that things improved for her after the war. Gemma was in her 60s when she was sent to Ravensbrück, and continued to suffer in postwar Berlin as a displaced person. It took her two years, despite her special "status" as "Fiorello's sister," to be cleared and sent to America, where she was reunited with her brother.

As it turned out, Fiorello died of cancer in 1947, soon after Gemma's return. She then went to reside in a low-income housing project in Queens, where she remained for the rest of her life, cared for by both her daughters and her grandchildren. (She only learned after the war that her husband had died in Mauthausen.)

Gemma is by no means a polished, professional writer. Those seeking out this special work should not expect a stellar prose style; she was a strong, intelligent woman and her clear, unaffected prose reflects her stance toward life and her simple, no-nonsense philosophy.

After more than a 40 year absence, it's good to have her memoir, filled with both sadness and joy, back in print for a new generation of readers to marvel over.

-- Robert Leiter, Literary Editor
The Jewish Exponent

The Jewish Daily FORWARD
Ravensbrück’s Famous Survivor Memoir
by Jon Kalish
June 26, 2007

Back in the 1980s, a number of Holocaust scholars and “people who should know better” told historian Rochelle Saidel that Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp located about 60 miles north of Berlin, was used for political prisoners and that “there wasn’t a Jewish story there.” Saidel proved them wrong by writing what many consider to be the definitive book on the estimated 20,000 Jewish prisoners that passed through the camp.
Among them was one prisoner, the camp’s most famous survivor, whose story struck a particular chord with Saidel: Gemma La Guardia Gluck, sister of legendary New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Now, with Saidel’s help, Gluck’s memoir — first published in 1961 — is being re-released by Syracuse University Press under the title “Fiorello’s Sister: Gemma La Guardia Gluck’s Story.”

Born in New York to an Italian Jewish mother and a “lapsed Catholic” father, Gluck and her famous brother grew up in the United States. During their childhood, though, they joined their parents on trips back to Trieste, Italy, where their mother’s family had deep Jewish roots. In 1900, with the children grown into young adults, the family moved back to Italy. Fiorello returned to New York to attend law school, after which he ran for a number of elected offices. Gemma stayed in Europe with her mother and taught English in Trieste, where she ended up marrying one of her students and, eventually, getting caught in the maw of World War II.

Gluck was 64 when she was released from Ravensbrück in the spring of 1945. Saidel is 65.

“I think that is part of why I feel a great affinity for her now,” said Saidel in an interview with the Forward. “At my age, I can’t stand for a very long time in a museum and look at a painting without my leg hurting. And then you read that they’re standing there for five hours in an appel,” she said, referring to the concentration camp roll call.

During her eight months in Ravensbrück, Gluck endured a diet of turnips cooked in potato peelings. She promised herself that if she survived, she would tell the world about the camp. So Gluck resolved to observe life in Ravensbrück as best she could. She remembered the stench of the crematory, and prisoners who looked like “walking skeletons.” She remembered the babies who suffocated because they were crammed five or six to a crib, and she remembered the Polish woman housed on the “Rabbit Block” who had limbs amputated by Nazi doctors in “experiments.”

Although the Nazis considered Gluck to be Jewish, she did not think of herself as a Jew — despite the fact that her maternal grandmother was a member of the Luzzattos, a prominent Italian Jewish family active in the Italian unification effort and the rabbinical college in Padua. In her memoir, Gluck mentions a woman in Ravensbrück who begged to take off the yellow patch labeling her as a Jew, arguing that she may have been married to a Jew but she herself was not Jewish. Gluck was angered by the inmate’s plea, declaring in her memoir, “I have been married for thirty-six years to such a good Jewish husband, I am proud to wear their sign.”

In April 1945, Gluck was reunited with her daughter and grandson, who were also imprisoned at Ravensbrück. There, she had lost 44 pounds in less than a year. Her toddler grandson looked so weak, she thought, “Where am I going to bury this baby?”

The three were released in Berlin, just prior to its liberation by the Russians. Gluck writes in her memoir that the Soviets were “violating girls and women of all ages.” A year later, she read a newspaper article that revealed the fate of her husband, Herman, a Hungarian Jew who had perished in the Mauthausen concentration camp.

Despite the fact that she was the sister of a powerful American politician, it would be another year before Gluck, her daughter and grandson made it to New York. They arrived in May 1947, four months before her beloved Fiorello died of cancer. She spent the rest of her life in a low-income public housing project in Queens, built by the LaGuardia Administration. Gluck died in 1962, about a year after her memoir was first published.

-- Jon Kalish is a freelance radio and newspaper journalist based in Manhattan.
www.Forward.com June 26, 2007

The Jewish Week
"Mayor LaGuardia’s Sister"
by Sandee Brawarsky - Jewish Week Book Critic

April 13, 2007

Newly re-released memoir details Gemma LaGuardia Gluck’s experiences at the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

Among New Yorkers for whom the name LaGuardia means more than an airport, many are still surprised to hear that the former mayor had a Jewish mother, and even more are surprised to learn that his sister was interned by the Nazis in a concentration camp.

Her story unfolds in “Fiorello’s Sister: Gemma LaGuardia Gluck’s Story” by Gemma LaGuardia Gluck, edited by Rochelle Saidel (Syracuse University Press). Her life was full of courageous and compassionate acts, but she writes with humility along with a graceful directness.

While Gluck details her time at the Ravensbruck women’s concentration camp with great clarity — she is believed to be the only American-born woman interned by the Nazis — the book is about more than that. Her life spanned the great wave of immigration to the United States in the 1880s to the presidency of John F. Kennedy. She grew up in New York City and the Old West, later led a cosmopolitan life in Budapest and lived her last years in a municipal housing project in Long Island City, Queens, built during her brother’s term as mayor of New York City.

Gluck wrote the memoir soon after she arrived in the United States in 1947; the book was published in 1961, although it has long been out of print. This new edition is expanded to include a new prologue and epilogue, previously unpublished photos, explanatory footnotes and recently discovered letters between Gluck and her brother, written between July 1945 and May 1947. Also included is a copy of a document referring to her arrest by the Nazis, submitted as evidence at the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem.

\\\\

Gluck was born in 1881 in Greenwich Village, the daughter of parents who had emigrated from Italy the previous year. Her mother, Irene Coen LaGuardia, was the daughter of a prominent Italian Jewish family, the Luzattos, and her father, Achile Luigi Carlo LaGuardia, was Catholic but listed no religion on their marriage certificate.

In the U.S., the family moved around a lot, as her father was a bandmaster in the U.S. Army; their first posting was in the Dakota Territory, where Irene LaGuardia befriended and communicated in Italian with the American Indians, who knew a dialect of Spanish. The LaGuardias later lived in upstate New York, Arizona and then Missouri, and the family traveled to Europe during Army furloughs. When Achile LaGuardia finished his service, the family moved back to Italy where they opened a tourist hotel. Gemma studied languages and her brother Fiorello studied the books he brought with him from America, always intending to return there. He was hired by the American consul in Budapest and later as consul for immigration in Fiume (then Hungary, later Italy, now part of Croatia).

After Achile LaGuardia’s death, Fiorello returned to the U.S., first working as a sales clerk and than as an interpreter at Ellis Island while attending college and law school at night. A younger brother also left for America and settled in Trenton, N.J. Gemma taught English in Fiume, married one of her pupils, a Hungarian Jew, and moved to Budapest.

In June 1944, Gemma and her husband Herman Gluck were arrested in an order from Eichmann, undoubtedly an act of retaliation for the anti-Nazi activities of her brother, as S.L Shneiderman explained in the preface to the original edition. Two months earlier, Mayor LaGuardia, who was outspoken in condemning the Nazis and predicting their downfall, led a mass demonstration of Polish Jews on the steps of City Hall commemorating the first anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

The Glucks were taken to the Mauthausen concentration camp where they were separated. Herman Gluck was killed there, although Gemma didn’t learn of his fate until after the war. Moved to Ravensbruck, which is about 50 miles from Berlin, she wasn’t a regular prisoner but a political hostage, held in a special section for prominent families. The niece of Charles de Gaulle was also held in the camp.

By the time the camp was liberated in 1945, more than 132,000 women had been imprisoned there; less than 20,000 survived. Gluck was over 60 when she arrived at the camp. Her work assignment was light, but she still suffered starvation and deprivation. Her job was to supervise one of the dining tables (where she had to divide the meager scraps of food into equal portions), and she chose to make her table international, including 34 women of 12 nationalities and several religions. As is evident by her descriptions, she was looked up to by the other women there, some of whom attended her clandestine English classes. She thought of writing something if she got out, so she made sure to notice details and remember them.

In April 1945, as the Allies were approaching, Gluck was reunited with her daughter and baby grandson — she hadn’t known they were being held in the same camp — and the three were sent to Berlin for a possible hostage exchange. There, they met more hardships, as they were abandoned with no identity papers, no money and no way to document where they had been. She was finally able to get word to the Americans who contacted her brother, who had no idea where they were. He worked to get them on the immigration lists. After two years of struggle, they were able to leave, via Denmark, and come to the United States.

“I think I kind of fell in love with Gemma,” Rochelle Saidel tells The Jewish Week in an interview, discussing how she got involved with this book. Saidel, an author and scholar who divides her time between Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Jerusalem and Sao Paolo, Brazil, is founder and director of the Remember the Women Institute, which is dedicated to research in women’s history. She first discovered the published memoir in 1980, when she was doing research for her book, “The Jewish Women of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.”

Last year, when Saidel was already working on this edition, she discovered a typed manuscript and page proofs of the book in the archives of the Leo Baeck Institute at the Center for Jewish History. No one knows when or why the materials were deposited there, perhaps because of a reference to someone Gluck knew at Ravensbruck who helped Rabbi Baeck. Saidel, who has been in close contact with Gluck’s granddaughter, says that the original handwritten manuscript is lost.

Saidel first visited Ravensbruck in 1980, as a reporter for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, on a press trip to then East Germany, and she insisted on seeing the women’s camp. Although there was no evidence that Jewish women had been interned at the camp, Saidel began questioning and came to learn that there had in fact been 20,000 Jewish women there, between 1939 and 1945.

Saidel, who is 64 — the same age as Gluck when she was in Ravensbruck — explains that she felt a special connection to her subject.

“Gemma was so brave,” Saidel says. “She took care, and had no ego. Fiorello had the ambition — he wanted to make something of himself. She was just doing what she had to do.”

About two years ago, Saidel appeared on a panel with former Mayor Edward I. Koch and others on the subject of Fiorello LaGuardia and immigration. Koch said something to the effect that if it had been his sister who was interned, he would have gotten her out in a week. Mayor LaGuardia did make contacts on his sister’s behalf, but acted according to regulations, without asking for special favors. He urged his sister to have patience, and finally they were able to leave.

Gluck writes, “Because fate gave me such a famous brother, my life has been full of pride and great happiness, but also of suffering and heartbreak. Being a LaGuardia was the reason for my incarceration in Mauthausen and in Ravensbruck, but ultimately the name LaGuardia saved my life and those of my daughter and grandson.”

“Fiorello’s Sister, Gemma’s Brother,” a public conversation with film and radio clips, will be presented at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St., on Tuesday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. The program will feature Matilda Raffa Cuomo; Katherine LaGuardia, a grandchild of the late mayor; Rochelle Saidel and actor Tony LoBianco presenting excerpts from the show “Fiorello.” A reception will follow. Tickets are $20. Call (917) 606-8200 or go to www.primolevicenter.org

Used with permission by Sandee Brawarsky - Jewish Week Book Critic


The Jewish Women of Ravensbruck book coverThe Jewish Women of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp
by Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel
University of Wisconsin Press, April 2004, ISBN 0-299-19860-X, $29.95, 336 pp. with 63 images. Order Form

REVIEWS

HAARETZ
"A LIFELONG DEATH SENTENCE"

Friday November 12, 2004 - Books and Culture Section

Ruth Almog reviews Inge by Inge Joseph Bleier and David E. Gumpert (William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, Michigan, 291 pages, $24) and The Jewish Women of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp by Rochelle G. Saidel (The University of Wisconsin Press, 278 pages, $29.95).
"What do Inge Joseph's autobiographical story and Rochelle G. Saidel's study on the Ravensbruck concentration camp for women have in common? Time and gender. Saidel's book, which is the candidate for an important prize in the United States, brings to light for the first time the stories of the Jewish women who were imprisoned in Ravensbruck. ..." —Ruth Almog. Read the full review.

Women’s Review of Books
Special Issue on Women, War, and Peace – September 2004
"Memory and survival" by Rochelle G. Ruthchild reviews After Such Knowledge: Memory, History, and the Legacy of the Holocaust by Eva Hoffman (New York: Public Affairs, 2004, 301 pp., $25.00 hardcover) and The Jewish Women of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp by Rochelle G. Saidel. Read the full review.

The Judaic Studies Shelf
A review from MBR (Midwest Book Review)

The Jewish Women Of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp by Rochelle G. Saidel (Founder and Director of the Remember the Women Institute in New York and Senior Scientific Research at the Center for the Study of Women and Gender, University of Sao Paulo) is an impressive and seminal contribution to the growing library of Holocaust Studies with its focus upon the fate of Jewish women imprisoned in the infamous Nazi concentration camp of Ravensbruck which was located about 50 miles north of Berlin. Originally designed for 5,000 women, it held six times this number and was the site for the Nazi's methodical program of extermination through slave labor, torture, starvation, shooting, lethal injection, medical experimentation, and gassing. Between 1939 and 1945, some 132, 000 women from twenty- three countries were imprisoned and in addition to the Jews, also included political prisoners, Jehovah's Witnesses, gypsies, prostitutes, lesbians, criminals, and prisoners of war. Only 15,000 women survived by the end of the war (3,000 of them in the camp itself when it was overrun by the Soviet Army on April 30, 1945 -- the rest had been taken to Sweden by the Red Cross, while the remaining women survived a last ditch "death march" by the Nazi's fleeing the advancing Russian troops). Drawing upon interviews and unpublished testimonies from more than sixty survivors in the United States, Israel, Europe, Brazil, and Canada -- as well as documents, oral histories, and historic photography, The Jewish Women Of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp is a memorable and informative compilation of collective and individual portraits of these women and the suffering they endured. Very Highly Recommended.

"Nazi Cruelty To Women," review by Tim Boxer of 15 Minutes Magazine

"ROCHELLE SAIDEL, senior scientific researcher at the Center for the Study of Women and Gender at the University of Sao Paulo, has quite an absorbing book about The Jewish Women of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp (Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press, 336 pages, $20.37) available at Amazon.com.

Fifty miles north of Berlin, Ravensbrück was the only major concentration camp for women where everyday life consisted of murder by slave labor, torture, starvation, lethal injection, medical experimentation, shooting and gassing.

Saidel draws on personal interviews with survivors as well as documents and photos to produce a vivid but horrific study of what women endured at the hands of the Nazi beast." Tim Boxer

"Telling Her Story," review by Eetta Prince-Gibson of The Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2004.
"Gendered aspects of the Holocaust have been a subject of research only since the 1980s. Until then, with the notable exception of Anne Frank's diary and the work of historian Lucy Dawidowicz, men - including venerable figures such as Eli Weisel, Andre Schwatzbard, Primo Levi, and Yehuda Bauer - have been the predominant voices in Holocaust literature. ... " Read the full review

PRAISE

“Thanks to Rochelle Saidel's sensitive interviews and meticulous research, together with the many previously unpublished photographs and haunting drawings by the inmates, this book will increase public recognition of Ravensbrück's victims and survivors….With this, The Jewish Women of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp takes its honorable place in the growing genre of gender study of the Holocaust.”
Eetta Prince-Gibson, The Jerusalem Post

“This book is the outcome of over twenty years of indefatigable research in archives and libraries, and of interviews in several countries with survivors of Ravensbrück. Saidel presents their deeply moving stories against a carefully constructed context of the camp's history....This book is clearly a labor of deep commitment and love.”
Ruth Schwertfeger, author of Women of Theresienstadt and The Wee Wild One

“This is a welcome addition to the Holocaust literature….The histories of these Jewish survivors are very moving….Readers interested in visual historical materials will appreciate the wide range of photographs and illustrations depicting life in this camp. I expect this book to attract a wide audience.”
Nechama Tec, author of Resilience and Courage: Women, Men, and the Holocaust

“The author has graphically reconstructed the workings of everyday life in this camp….Saidel has created a work that is essential to understanding these women’s determination to survive. Her writing is objective and controlled in recounting one of the darkest episodes in history. Without this book, these victims’ voices might be forgotten.”
George Cohen, ForeWord


Murder of Women and Human Rights by Eva Alterman BlayAssassinato de Mulheres e Direitos Humanos (Murder of Women and Human Rights in Portuguese) by Eva Alterman Blay, Editora 34, 2008

How can one explain the fact that, despite the progress in the fight for gender equality, there has been an increase in the number of women murdered in Brazil in the last decades?

Based on accurate research of media, police reports, and criminal processes—along with her theoretical background and solid history of commitment to women’s causes, Dr. Eva Alterman Blay has brought us a work that is by no means a cold survey. On the contrary, it tries to understand the history behind every case, giving body to its characters and examining the relations between victims and aggressors, their families’ environment, the way violence establishes and perpetuates itself even beyond the private sphere, and how it reflects and is nourished by hegemonic ideology.
Furthermore, it examines a series of cases to show that, in spite of the efforts of many of its sectors, Brazilian justice is still far too soft and slow when crimes against women are concerned. It also demonstrates the continuing presence  of old ideological  judicial fallacies--such as “legitimate defense of honor”--which historically has given Brazilian men the right to invalidate women’s right to life.
This book by Dr. Blay, a member of the Advisory Board of Remember the Women Institute, is a valuable reference work for dealing with the problem of violence against women and violence in general, for public policy managers, researchers and anyone interested in taking part in the urgent need to overcome this situation.


cover image of Every Day Lasts a Year

Every Day Lasts A Year:A Jewish Family's Correspondence from Poland
Edited by Christopher Browning, Richard S. Hollander, and Remember the Women Institute Advisory Board Member Nechama Tec
Cambridge University Press, Hardback (ISBN-13: 9780521882743), Published October 2007

Richard Hollander was devastated when his parents were killed in an automobile accident in 1986. While rummaging through their attic, he discovered letters from a family he never knew -- his father’s mother, three sisters, and their husbands and children. The letters, neatly stacked in a briefcase, were written from Krakow, Poland, between 1939 and 1942. They depict day-to-day life under the most extraordinary pain and stress. At the same time, Richard’s father, Joseph Hollander, was fighting the United States government to avoid deportation and death. Richard was astounded to learn that his father saved the lives of many Polish Jews, but -- despite heroic efforts -- could not save his family. For more information see http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521882745

 


NEW EDITION OF MARY BERG'S DIARY PUBLISHED IN SPRING 2007, WITH SUSAN PENTLIN, EDITOR

On her fifteenth birthday, with the German army pouring into Warsaw, Mary Berg began her personal diary. From the siege of Warsaw to the final, brutal suppression of the Ghetto Uprising, she records in vivid detail the plight of the refugees, the life of the “Golden Youth,” the forced conscription, the deportations, and the heroism and resistance at the forefront of the fight against German oppression. Rescued with her family through an Allied prisoner exchange, carefully hidden among her possessions were twelve small notebooks of her diary. Less than a year later, its wartime publication in America played a key role in making the truth known.

Now published for the first time for a worldwide audience, this is a work remarkable for its authenticity, detail, and poignancy. But it is not only as a factual report on the life and death of a people that this diary ranks with the most important documents of the Second World War. Its message is timeless, calling for an end to genocide and hate. This is the personal story of a life-loving young girl’s encounter with unparalleled human suffering, and a uniquely illuminating insight into one of the darkest chapters of history.

With an introduction and helpful endnotes, this is a beautiful edition of a unique book. S.L. Shneiderman, the original editor, was an award-winning journalist, author, editor, and essayist. The book is published by One World Publications in Oxford, U. K. and appeared in the U. K. last fall. The publication date for the United States is April 25, 2007. The book is available through amazon.com.uk and amazon.com.

Professor Susan Pentlin is Emeritus Professor of Modern Languages at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri and the leading expert on this work. She has her PhD from the University of Kansas. She serves on the Board of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education in Overland Park, Kansas and on the Program Committee of the Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust. She is a Commissioner on the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and on the Board of the Missouri Folklore Society. She is a Fulbright Recipient and received a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies.

She has done research on Berg’s diary for the past twenty years, including research at the National Archives, She has worked with the Shneiderman family and the heirs of the original translators to bring the diary back into print. She has published articles about the diary in several encyclopedias and in “Holocaust Victims of Privilege,” in Problems Unique to the Holocaust,” Harry James Cargas, ed. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1999. Currently efforts are continuing to bring the Berg’s Diary to publication in Israel. She is presently researching the Jewish detainees from Warsaw at the Vittel Internment Camp in France, 1941-1944 and writing the memoir of Brucha Kibel, an Auschwitz survivor from Turek, Poland who lives in Kansas City, Missouri.


Hebrew version of Life, Death and Sacrifice by Esther HertzogLife, Death and Sacrifice: Women and Family in the Holocaust, edited by Esther Hertzog, is now available in both English and Hebrew.English version of Life, Death and Sacrifice by Esther HertzogThe English anthology is Life, Death and Sacrifice: Women and Family in the Holocaust (Gefen 2008).
International academics examine the subject of women in the Holocaust from the perspectives of history, sociology, political science, anthropology and gender studies. The articles included are based on papers presented at conferences held in Israel on women and the Holocaust. The book is divided into four sections. Initial articles deal with adaptations of families to horror. Then the issue of “Gendered persecution and sexualized violence” is approached, followed by studies on “Gendered altruism and women’s leadership” and finally “Gender and womanhood in Holocaust representations.”
Dr. Esther Hertzog, as well as a number of contributors to the volume, are members of the Advisory Board of Remember the Women Institute. In the English volume, they include Dr. Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz, writing on “Gender and Family Studies of the Holocaust: the Development of a Historical Discipline,”  Dr. Dalia Ofer, on “Motherhood Under Siege, “ Dr. Eva Fogelman, on “Gender as a Factor in Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust,” and Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel writing on “Jewish Political Prisoners in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp.”

In the poignant cover photograph, three generations of women in one family are pictured: the elegant satisfied grandmother dressed up for the portrait, her young adult daughter, and an infant girl. Both the mother and grandmother perished in 1944. The baby, born in the 1920s, was saved and became the mother of Esther Hertzog, editor of the volume.
The section titles, chapter titles, and authors of this innovative publication are:
Introduction: Studying the Holocaust as a Feminist by Esther Hertzog
Part I: The Adaptations of Jewish Families to Horror
            Judith Tydor Baumel: Gender and Family Studies of the Holocaust: the Development of a Historical Discipline
            Dalia Ofer: Motherhood under Siege
            Irith Dublon-Knebel: “We're all well and hoping to hear the same from you soon...” The Story of a Group of Families
            Lidia Sciama: 1943: The Flight from Home
Judith Buber Agassi: “Camp Families” in Ravensbrück and the Social Organization of Jewish Women Prisoners in a Concentration Camp
Part II: Gendered Persecution and Sexualized Violence
            Barbara Distel: The Persecution and Murder of German and German-Jewish Women between 1933 and 1945
            Herta Nöbauer: “Racialized Gender, Gendered Race and Gendered-Racialized Academia: Female-Jewish Anthropologists in Vienna
            Kirsty Chatwood: (Re)-Interpreting Stories of Sexual Violence: The Multiple Testimonies of Lucille Eichengreen
            Helga Amesberger and Brigette Halbmayr: Nazi Differentiations Mattered: Ideological Intersections of Sexualized Violence during National Socialist Persecution
            Vandana Joshi: Social Base of Racial Othering in Nazi Society: The Racial Community and Women's Agency in Denunciatory Practices
Part III: Gendered Altruism and Women's Leadership
            Annette Dumbach: Sophie Scholl: An Exploration of a Young Woman's Courage in Nazi Germany
            Rochelle G. Saidel: Jewish Political Prisoners in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp
            Eva Fogelman: Gender as a Factor in Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust
Part IV: Gender and Womanhood in Holocaust Representations
            Esther Hertzog: Past and Present in my Mother's Holocaust Memories
            Esther Fuchs: Gender, Identity and Family in the European Holocaust Film: The Jewess as Virgin and Whore

 


Experience and Expression book coverEXPERIENCE AND EXPRESSION: Women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust,
edited by Elizabeth Baer and Myrna Goldenberg. $39.95 cloth / ISBN 0-8143-3062-2
2003, Wayne State University Press

PRAISE

"Experience and Expression is superbly edited and introduced by Elizabeth R. Baer and Myrna Goldenberg, two outstanding scholars and editors. They have achieved the difficult feat of assembling in one collection essays of a very high caliber, each of which is clear, focused, and accessible, and many of which contain new insights and ideas. This is a significant and compelling work that will prove indispensable to everyone who wants to study about women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust."
—Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM, Distinguished Professor of Holocaust & Genocide Studies, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Holocaust Literature book coverHolocaust Literature: An Encyclopedia of Writers and Their Work. 2 Volume Set.
Edited by S. Lillian Kremer. $295.00 cloth / ISBN 0-4159-2985-7
Pub Date: 12/2002, Routledge

PRAISE

"The most authoritative and comprehensive guide available."
–Gale Reference Reviews, Lawrence Looks at Books, July 2003

"This satisfyingly useful and remarkably comprehensive reference source is sure to support research by academics, students ranging from high school through graduate school, and interested general readers.... Highly recommended."
–Library Journal (starred review), April 15, 2003

"A major addition to Holocaust Studies.... Libraries with Holocaust studies courses and others with an interest in this topic should purchase this title, as the number of authors covered and the strong bibliographic component make it an impressive resource for researchers and other serious students. This would also make an excellent purchase for large public libraries."
–Booklist/RBB (starred review), April 2003

"Kremer's excellent reference work.... provide fresh insights.... Kremer's introduction supplies a good overview.... The set's most useful features are its glossary, appendixes, subject indexes, maps, and general index.... Essential. All Holocaust collections."
–Choice, July 2003

Resilience and Courage book cover

Resilience and Courage: Women, Men, and the Holocaust,
Nechama Tec (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 448 pp., cloth $35.00, pbk. $20.00.

REVIEWS

Reviewed by Rochelle G. Saidel in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 19, Number 1, Spring 2005.

See http://hgs.oxfordjournals.org/ for the original of this review.

Nechama Tec’s Resilience and Courage: Women, Men, and the Holocaust, winner of the 2003 National Jewish Book Award in the Holocaust Studies category, is a welcome addition to the small but growing collection of analyses of gender and women’s experiences during the Holocaust. Women’s studies and Holocaust studies both became “legitimate” but unconnected scholarly subjects in the 1960s, but the Holocaust generally continued to be studied from the point of view of men. The special gendered experiences of women during the Holocaust have received less scholarly attention. Now Tec combines the two by comparatively investigating how women and men coped and survived.

The first public event on record that addressed women, gender, and the Holocaust did not take place until March 1983, when Esther Katz and Joan Ringelheim organized the groundbreaking “Conference on Women Surviving the Holocaust” at Stern College in New York. Ten years later, Carol Rittner and John Roth published the anthology Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust (1993).1 Then, for the first time in twenty-nine years, the Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust presented in 1999 a plenary on women and the Holocaust. As co-chairs of this session, Myrna Goldenberg and I featured recent scholarly books on the subject and titled the plenary “Women’s Holocaust History: Books in Print.” The occasion was historic not only because the subject was deemed important enough for a plenary, but also because a core number of books made such a session possible. Since 1999 there have been workshops, plenaries, and panels at the Scholars’ Conference, Lessons and Legacies conferences, educators’ conferences at Yad Vashem, annual meetings of the Association of Holocaust Organizations, and elsewhere.

Drawing on personal narratives as well as archival material, Resilience and Courage addresses the specific gender-related questions that made the female Holocaust experience different from that of the male. It explores how gender affected women’s and men’s ability to struggle against deprivation, terror, and even death, and how being female or male generated benefits and liabilities. Tec’s skillful interview techniques and ability to smoothly interweave narratives and historical background result in a book with both human warmth and contextual accuracy.
An important difference between men and women that the author discusses was women’s homemaking and nurturing skills, which equipped them to form surrogate families, take care of each other, and keep themselves and their living space as clean and hygienic as possible under the circumstances. Tec also discusses women’s difficulty in overcoming inbred modesty and submissiveness, as well as men’s humiliation when they lost their employment and positions as heads of household.

Tec points out that other variables, such as the socioeconomic, political, and national backgrounds of women and men also played a role in survival. In addition, she discusses the impact of biological differences between men and women, such as women’s reproductive systems and their vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse. This material includes testimony from women in the resistance movement about rape and the need for a male protector, as well as narratives about menstruation, pregnancy, and abortion.

After an introductory chapter, “Voices from the Past,” Tec organizes her book according to general circumstances during the Holocaust: “In the Beginning,” “Life in the Ghetto,” “Leaving the Ghetto,” “The Concentration Camps,” “Hiding and Passing in the Forbidden Christian World,” and “Resistance.” Tec discerned from most survivor reports
that during the Holocaust, adult women and men, to a greater extent than the very old and very young, traveled on different roads toward the single destination planned for them by the Germans. Men were seen as humiliated, broken by their inability to provide for their families. The horrendous circumstances they had to face left them depressed and apathetic. Mothers or female relatives were generally viewed with admiration for their selfless aid to their families and others. When husbands and fathers were unable to fulfill their roles, adult women and their teenaged children of both sexes rose to the challenge, aiding their families, friends, and communities. (p. 345)
Differing from most American scientific researchers, Tec has two distinct advantages that helped her gather significant data and interviews for this book. First, she is not only a sociologist, but also a survivor. Born in Lublin in 1931, she survived the war by hiding and passing as a non-Jew. Second, her fluency in Polish, German, Hebrew, and Yiddish enabled her to speak with survivors in the language with which they were most comfortable. Thus, Tec’s writing combines the analytical skills of a trained sociologist with her personal experience of living through the Holocaust.

Tec’s latest book grew out of her other works, especially her research on Defiance: The Bielski Partisans (1993). “I realized through Defiance that women in the forest had a special role and situation,” she has explained at lectures in connection with her book. “So I looked at women in different contexts, and realized that I also had to look at men as well as women.” The result is Resilience and Courage, a comparative analysis of men and women in ghettos, camps, forests, resistance movements, and a variety of other settings.

Notes

1.                   Although some women’s diaries and firsthand accounts had been available in English since the 1950s, the year 1998 produced an unprecedented richness of more analytical publications, and even more began to appear after that. Two out of the three finalists for the 1998 National Jewish Book Award in the Holocaust Studies category were about women and gender: Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany, by Marion A. Kaplan, and Women in the Holocaust, edited by Dalia Ofer and Lenore J. Weitzman. Other important books on women and the Holocaust published in 1998 include Brana Gurewitsch’s Mothers, Sisters, Resisters: Oral Histories of Women Who Survived the Holocaust and Judith Tydor Baumel’s Double Jeopardy: Gender and the Holocaust.

PRAISE

“This book is magnificent proof that a sensitive investigation of gender issues does not lead to trivialization and distortion in the service of some presumed agenda but rather to a much deeper encounter with the lived experience of the victims--both men and women--of this devastating and catastrophic event.”
—Christopher R. Browning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“This book is a remarkable achievement, based on a deep knowledge of the subject, profound sociological analysis, and convincing narrative style.”
—Israel Gutman, professor emeritus, Hebrew University
More reviews on this book at Yale University Press


NEW 2009 BOOKS

Three New Books of Interest– Examining One Survivor's Testimony, Sex and Judaism, and Women in Developing Countries

Three new books in different fields have in common that the integrate the stories of women into history:

Approaching an Auschwitz Survivor edited by Jürgen Matthäus (Oxford University Press, 2009) brings together a group of scholars to individually analyze the testimony of one survivor, Helen Zippi Spitzer Tichauer. This is an unusual approach, which offers the reader an intensive encounter with one articulate survivor with vivid memories. Chapters are by Konrad Kwiet, Nechama Tec, Atina Grossman, and Wendy Lower, as well as  Matthäus. A long appendix presents the 1956 transcribed English translation of a taped interview that David Boder conducted with Tichauer in September 1946 in the Feldafing DP camp in Germany.

The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism edited by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (New York University Press, 2009) includes essays by contemporary scholars and rabbis that survey the challenges that sexuality poses to Jewish belief. Chapters are by Sara Lev, Judith R. Baskin, Bonna Devora Haberman, Aryeh Cohen, Esther Fuchs, Melanie Malka Landau, Naomi Seidman, Haviva Ner-David, Wendy Love Anderson, Elliot N. Dorff, Sara N. S. Meirowitz, Rebecca T. Alpert, Elliot Rose Kukla, Jay Michaelson, Gail Labovitz, Laura Levitt, and Arthur O. Waskow, as well as Ruttenberg.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) chronicles both the oppression of women in third world countries and how some outstanding individual women have been able to overcome it and then help others. It combines an indictment of gender inequality and its consequences with inspiring stories of women's courage and resilience.


RECOMMENDED IN BRIEF

Snow Flowers: Hungarian Jewish Women In An Airplane Factory, Markkleeberg, Germany
By Zahava Szasz Stessel

Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2009
 
Zahava Szasz Stessel's Snow Flowers combines her poignant personal memories with exacting research on the Markkleeberg labor camp, where young Hungarian women slaved for the Nazis. This remarkable eyewitness account about the experiences of the author and her younger sister is a unique contribution to Holocaust history. We need to learn more about all of the relatively unknown small work camps, and this is a meticulously detailed account of one of them, where Hungarian Jewish women were slave laborers.

I was asked to evaluate this book for publication two years ago, and only learned when I was deep into the manuscript that I was not an impartial reader. It was then that I burst into tears, realizing that Zahava Stessel's younger sister Erzsike has been known to me since my childhood. Renamed Hava in Israel, Erzsike is described late in the book as a nurse at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, married to Baruch Ginsburg. The description was confirmed to me when I saw a photo of Hava and Baruch in 1953, looking like younger versions of the couple that I know. My father Joseph Saidel befriended Baruch in the 1950s and they stayed good friends until my father's Alzheimer's disease and then death in 1997. My father visited Baruch and Hava in Haifa on all of his trips to Israel. I have visited them a number of times, and recalled that she said her sister wrote on the Holocaust. However, I did not meet Zahava until later, and I never knew any details of Hava's story. 

This book is well researched, with extensive notes, befitting Dr. Stessel's skills and training as a  librarian. She did excellent bibliographic and field research, and also found surviving camp sisters who shared their stories with her. The question of the thousands of work camps instituted by the Nazis still needs to be explored. In many cases it is now impossible to document small work camps. This is one case where the author has enough personal and research information to do so. Her descriptions of this work camp add a new dimension to what we know about small camps.

This is as much an eyewitness historical account as a memoir, and is an important contribution to understanding some of the unknown details of women's experiences during the Holocaust. A great deal of research went into this accomplishment.  I especially liked the fact that the author included a substantial section on the struggle of survivors to deal with life afterward.

Reviewed by Rochelle G. Saidel


Women in Torah, Women on Torah, Women of Torah
A Review by Guilherme Ary Plonski

The multifaceted landscape of Jewish biblical knowledge has been enriched by the publication, in 5768 (2008), of the 1,350 page The Torah – A Women’s Commentary, edited by T.C. Eskenazy and A.L. Weiss (URJ Press and Women of Reform Judaism).

This is not the first book to incorporate women's commentaries on weekly Torah portions. For example, The Women’s Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions, edited by E. Goldstein, already in its fourth printing (Jewish Lights), offers a devar Torah by a woman rabbi for all of the portions. And the earlier The Five Books of Miriam: A Women's Commentary on the Torah  by Ellen Frankel, which presents a woman's point of view in a more “folksy” manner, has been out since 1996. But the new book edited by Eskenazy and Weiss stands out among books by and on women in the Pentateuch because of two characteristics:

  1. The combination of the Hebrew original text, translation into contemporary English, and an impressive bouquet of comments in one volume; and

  2. The diversity of the components of the mentioned bouquet – classic sources and contemporary creativity, rational and emotional emphasis, prose and poetry, multi-focal (contributions from many of the so-called Jewish streams, located in different parts of the globe).

This volume can and should be used for personal learning, in study groups, and as a companion in the public readings of the weekly parshiot.

All comments are made by women, both rabbis and lay people. However, men are also actively present in this volume, by means of the Hebrew text edition, most of the translation into English, design and cover design, and project management.


Book cover of Michelangelo in RavensbrückMichelangelo in Ravensbrück by Karolina Lanckoronska
Michelangelo in Ravensbrück by Countess Karolina Lanckoronska (2007, Da Capo Books). Watch for a review soon of this memoir by a Polish resistance fighter. This is not a Holocaust book but an important record by a heroic woman of how the Nazi and Soviet occupations affected Polish citizens during World War II. Before Countess Lanckoronska arrives in Ravensbrück, two thirds of her memoir recounts her activities in the Polish underground. (In Gemma La Guardia Gluck's memoir, she mentions the Countess.)

NOTE: Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel reviewed this book at length for Women's Review of Books, November-December 2007 issue. See complete review.


Book cover of Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah HelmLife In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm

Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII (Random House, 2006) documents the story of Vera Atkins, who headed the Special Operations Executive, or SOE, Britain’s secret service created to help build up, organize, and arm the resistance in the Nazi-occupied countries. Throughout the war, Atkins recruited, trained, and mentored the agents for the SOE’s French Section, which sent more than four hundred young men and women into occupied France—at least one hundred of whom never returned and were reported “Missing Presumed Dead” after the war. Several of the women were murdered in Ravensbrück. Twelve of them were among Atkins’s most cherished spies. When the war ended in 1945, she made it her personal mission to find out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines, tracing their final journeys. As we follow Atkins through the devastation of postwar Germany, we learn that she covered her own life in mystery so that even her closest family knew almost nothing of her past. In A Life in Secrets Sarah Helm has stripped away Vera Atkins’s many veils. Drawing on recently released old government files, with access to the Atkins family private papers, Helm vividly reconstructs a complex and extraordinary life.
For more information, see http://www.randomhouse.com/nanatalese/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780385508452.

[NOTE: Sarah Helm, a journalist in London for more than twenty years, was a reporter and feature writer for the Sunday Times before becoming a founding member of the Independent in 1986. I met her in New York City in August 2007 when she interviewed me for her next book, which will be about Ravensbrück. Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel.]

An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia D'Albert-Lake edited by Judy Barrett LitoffAn American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia D'Albert-Lake edited, with an introduction, by Judy Barrett Litoff
Gemma La Guardia Gluck, sister of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York City, was not the only native-born American imprisoned in Ravensbrück women's concentration camp. Another such woman, Virginia D'Albert-Lake married a French aristocrat and joined the resistance with him. She was sent from the camp to the Torgau subcamp, and in February 1945 her mother convinced Secretary of State Cordell Hull to have her transferred to a Red Cross camp at Lake Constance. This book, An American Heroine in the French Resistance (Fordham University Press, 2006), is edited by Judy Barrett Litoff. A professor of History at Bryant College in Rhode Island, she is considered one of the preeminent historians of American women and World War II. For more information on Dr. Litoff and her work, see http://bryant2.bryant.edu/~jlitoff/.

[NOTE: Kay Larson, who also writes about women in the U.S. military, contacted me after she read a review of Fiorello's Sister: Gemma La Guardia Gluck's Story. At our meeting she told me about Judy Barrett Litoff's work, and specifically about this book about Virginia D'Albert-Lake. Before, I knew D'Albert-Lake's name and that she had been an American at the camp, but I knew very little of her story. I was glad to find out that one more piece of the greater Ravensbrück puzzle is now solved and available to readers, and Dr. Litoff and I are now in contact.]

Book cover of Johanna Krause Twice Persecuted: Surviving in Nazi Germany and Communist East GermanyJohanna Krause Twice Persecuted: Surviving in Nazi Germany and Communist East Germany by Carolyn Gammon, and Christiane Hemker
Persecuted as a Jew, both under the Nazis and in post-war East Germany, Johanna Krause (1907 - 2001) courageously fought her way through life with searing humour and indomitable strength of character. Johanna Krause Twice Persecuted (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007) is her story.

Born in Dresden into bitter poverty, Krause received little education and worked mostly in shops and factories. In 1933, when she came to the defense of a Jewish man being beaten by the brownshirts, Krause was jailed for “insulting the Führer.” After a secret wedding in 1935, she was arrested again with her husband, Max Krause, for breaking the law that forbade marriage between a Jew and an “Aryan.” In the years following, Johanna endured many atrocities—a forced abortion while eight months pregnant and subsequent sterilization, her incarceration in numerous prisons and concentration camps, including Ravensbrück, and a death march.

After the war, the Krauses took part enthusiastically in building the new socialist republic of East Germany—until 1958, when Johanna recognized a party official as a man who had tried to rape and kill her during the war. Thinking the communist party would punish the official, Joanna found out whose side the party was on and was subjected to anti-Semitic attacks. Both she and her husband were jailed and their business and belongings confiscated. After her release she lived as a persona non grata in East Germany, having been evicted from the communist party. It was only in the 1990s, after the reunification of Germany, that Johanna saw some justice.

Originally published as Zweimal Verfolgt, the book is the result of collaboration between Johanna Krause, Carolyn Gammon, and Christiane Hemker. Translated by Carolyn Gammon, Johanna Krause Twice Persecuted will be of interest to scholars of Ravensbrück, women's memoirs, World War II history, and the Holocaust. Born and raised in New Brunswick, Canada,Carolyn Gammon moved to Berlin in 1992. Her poetry, prose, and essays have appeared in anthologies in North America and Great Britain, and in translation. Christiane Hemker lived in various German cities before moving to Dresden in 1993. Her field is archaeology, in which she is widely published. Her volunteer work with union and social politics, focusing on women's rights, introduced her to Johanna Krause and her story.

See http://www.wlu.ca/press/Catalog/gammon.shtml. ISBN: 1-55458-006-4 ISBN13: 978-1-55458-006-4. If you are interested in organizing a book presentation of Twice Persecuted please contact the author directly: cgammon@t-online.de

headshot of Carolyn Gammon[NOTE: I met both Johanna Krause and Carolyn Gammon (pictured right) in 1995 at the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Ravensbrück women's concentration camp. Johanna was perhaps the only Jewish survivor who had been living in East Germany after liberation, and attended this reunion. She was the only one I met, and I do not know of any others. Carolyn Gammon escorted Johanna to the reunion and helped me interview her. Her remarkable story is briefly told in my book, The Jewish Women of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Now, in this important new contribution to scholarship about Jewish women in the camp, we can read all of the details about Johanna's lfe as a German Jewish woman—about her courage and her struggles. I am pleased that Carolyn Gammon and Christiane Hemker have brought her story to English language readers. Rochelle G. Saidel]

Book cover of Jewish Women Prisoners of RavensbrückJewish Women Prisoners of Ravensbrück by Judith Buber Agassi
Dr. Judith Buber Agassi's new book, with CD, lists the names of some 16,000 Jewish prisoners and explains the times of arrival of the various waves of prisoners. This thoroughly documented and important contribution to scholarship on the camp, entitled Jewish Women Prisoners of Ravensbrück was published by Oneworld Press in May 2007. Remember the Women Institute cooperated in the publishing of this book and CD.

[NOTE: I first met Judith Buber Agassi in 1995 at the 50th reunion of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Her mother Margarete Buber Neumann, a political prisoner and a great heroine at the camp, wrote an early memoir that includes her experience there. Rochelle G. Saidel]

 

Book cover of 10 British Prisoners-of-War Saved My Life by Sara/Hannah Rigler10 British Prisoners-of-War Saved My Life by Sara/Hannah Rigler
Sara/Hannah Rigler's memoir, 10 British Prisoners-of-War Saved My Life (Jay Street Publishers, 2006), begins with her childhood in Shavel, Lithuania. Following the Soviet occupation, her father, a leather factory owner, was arrested. She then survived the Nazi-imposed ghetto, German death camps and a December 1944 - January 1945 death march. She escaped her German guards and hid in a barn. She was then rescued by Stan Wells, one of 10 British POWs captured at Dunkirk in 1941 and working as forced laborers. He brought her food and clothing and took care of her. As the Soviet liberating army closed in, the British POWs were evacuated. Twenty years later Hannah located one of her rescuers in South Africa, and in 1972, she had a reunion in London with nine of the POWs. Sara/Hannah Rigler was named Sara Matuson at birth. She came to the United States in 1947, became a nurse, and married William “Bill” Rigler. In memory of her sister Hannah, who perished on the death march along with her mother, Sara adopted her sister’s name.

[NOTE: I knew Hannah Rigler years ago, when I was working for New York State Senator Manfred Ohrenstein and she came to Albany on behalf of the Brooklyn Center for Holocaust Studies. I recently met her again through mutual friends, and learned that her remarkable story is now published. Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel]

 

Defying the Tide book coverDefying The Tide: An Account of Authentic Compassion During the Holocaust, by Reha and Al Sokolow with Debra Galant. 180 pages, Hard Cover: $21.95, ISBN: 1-930143-71-0, Devora Publishing

REVIEW

This is a Holocaust book about two women, a Jewish victim of the Holocaust and the German woman who saved her.

The true, first person account of Ruth, a Jewish woman being hunted by the Nazis, and her guardian angel, Maria, a German woman willing to risk her life and the lives of her family to save her. These two characters reveal, in their own words, how the flickering embers of human compassion and menschlichkeit were able to transcend the artificial barriers of race, creed and religion even during the Holocaust.
Includes the reunion of the two women fifty years later in Germany, and describes this media event that was featured in the German and Israeli newspapers, as well as the Jewish media in the United States.

Reha Sokolow is the daughter of Ruth, whose memorable journey is described in Defying the Tide. Reha is a freelance writer and currently teaches English writing to Russian immigrants in Brooklyn. As Associate Director of Education of the Jewish National Fund, Reha wrote and edited Israel-based resources for distribution to over 2500 schools throughout the United States.

Al Sokolow has taught English at the Yeshiva University high schools and currently teaches English literature at Be’er Hagolah high school. Together with his wife, Reha, they have undertaken this labor of love in order to show that even during the Holocaust there were scattered islands of compassion that served as a refuge for the fortunate few.

Girl with Two Landscapes book coverGIRL WITH TWO LANDSCAPES: The Wartime Diary of Lena Jedwab, 1941–1945, by Lena Jedwab Rozenberg. $24.95 cloth 218 pp / ISBN 0-8419-1427-3, 2002, Holmes & Meier.

PRAISE

"An insightful, beautifully written entry into the world of a Jewish teen at a time of ultimate stress."
—Jewish Book World

"Not since The Diary of Anne Frank, has there been such a personalized account by an adolescent girl caught up in the turmoil and terror of World War II. Girl with Two Landscapes is an incredibly important and highly prized addition to Judaic Studies and Holocaust literature."
—Midwest Book Review

"Like Anne Frank, Etty Hillesum and Hannah Senesh, Lena Jedwab kept a diary during World War Two. Unlike them, she survived the Holocaust. Indeed, she was part of the largest group of European Jews to escape: between 1941 and 1945, an estimated 250,000 Eastern European Jews found refuge from the Nazis in the Soviet Union. Her journal is an important contribution to understanding this little-known aspect of Holocaust History. Originally published in Yiddish in 1999, it has been masterfully translated by Solon Beinfeld, with helpful introductions by Irena Klepfisz and Jan Gross."
—Women's Review of Books

More reviews of this book at Holmes & Meier

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The Remember the Women Institute welcomes reviews of books pertaining to women and history for our on-line library. Please contact Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel with your inquiries.

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