Cultural Studies MA student Tuğba Yavuz participated the workshop “Complexifying Gendered Victimhood During War and Transition: Gender, Vulnerabilities and Agency”, held in Bremen, Germany at University of Bremen on 27February 2019. The title of her talk was “How do the Memoirs of Atrocities Reveal and Transform the Self-Identity of Female Holocaust Survivors?”.
How Do the Memoirs of Atrocities Reveal and Transform the Self-Identity of Female Holocaust Survivors?
Abstract: Some Holocaust scholars insist that considering the Holocaust from a gender-related perspective leads to a comparison among the victims, and to a distraction from the unity of Nazi atrocities against the whole Jewish community. This has also been shared among some of the women survivors. For instance, during a Holocaust conference in 1979, the survivor Helen Fagin responds to the question “What about women?” with such a negation: “I do not want the Holocaust to be made secondary to feminism”. On the other hand, since the Holocaust has a psychological structure that is incomprehensible and ambiguous in which its very victims avert themselves, mostly women perceive their experiences as irrelevant and negligible, under the influence of the representation of the past within the post-Holocaust’s culture of remembrance. This paper seeks to discuss to what extent the literature turns into a practice for women to share their experiences of atrocities during the Second World War and the Holocaust - a practice to abandon the shield of silence through the memoirs. Considering women not only as mediators or translators of the story but also as the agents of history, this paper eventually discusses the survival rather than victimhood. It suggests that writing about the extraordinary pasts both reveals how they built their agency at the concentration camps via the various set of relationships among themselves, and alters how the female survivors share their experiences.