Monday, September 19, 2016

Fierce Guardians of Memory: Female Historians of the Holocaust

Hello friends. I just published what is probably to date the most personally meaningful piece I've written for Haaretz. It's about the intersection of gender and Holocaust historiography using the occasion of two films, DENIAL and WHO WILL WRITE OUR HISTORY and two historians, Deborah Lipstadt and Rokhl Oyerbakh.

[Rokhl] Oyerbakh and [Deborah] Lipstadt — one a writer and public intellectual of the inter-war, European mold; the other an American born and trained historian — both found themselves at historic turning points. By dint of circumstance, talent and personal force of will, both rose to the task as guardians of memory, speaking, each in her own way, for the murdered. 
The two historians also represent the two fronts of memory work left to postwar Jewry: one facing the outside world, refuting those who would deny the murder of European Jewry; the other facing inward, shaping how Jews would understand what had been destroyed, and how. 
For the Oyneg Shabes members, history was to be “an antidote to a memory of a catastrophe which, however well intentioned, would subsume what had been into what had been destroyed.
read more here

I do hope you'll read the piece. I know it's easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of information washing over us all, and even easier to feel 'Holocaust fatigue.' At the same time, there are still relatively unknown aspects to this history and important discoveries and insights being made all the time, especially by historians using a feminist lens to understand the wartime experience. And, unfortunately, holocaust denial is still with us, indeed, at the highest political levels. It is up to us to maintain vigilance on the historical record.

Now, to close on a happier note, some  exciting, historic news from Warsaw:
The Jewish Historical Institute said it will open an exhibition dedicated to the Ringelblum Archive, which chronicles the history of the Warsaw Ghetto.The entire archive also will be available for free on the internet, the Warsaw institute said Thursday at a news conference while presenting details of the project. Individual documents will be described not only in Polish but also in English, and some also in Hebrew.

(A note on paywalls and such: The future of journalism is uncertain to say the least. I'm proud to be contributing to Haaretz, one of the best internationally oriented papers out there. As I'm sure you've noticed, Haaretz keeps most of its content behind a paywall, because producing quality journalism is freaking expensive and only getting expensiver. You should get a subscription to Haaretz. Seriously. HOWEVER, if you cannot afford a subscription, and you want to read what I've written, go to a social media link to the article, through Twitter or Facebook, and click through there. That will take you to the full article. And if you enjoy what you read, please think about subscribing.)


  1. Very important topic. I hope you'll write more on this when the Oyneg Shabes film is released!

  2. Thank you for this. It is unsettling to see that the factors which lead to this horror seem to be re-asserting themselves in both Europe and the United States.