University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


Traditional Holocaust studies have largely overlooked women's unique voices, instead treating the eloquent and moving narratives of such renowned authors as Elie Wiesel and Tadeusz Borowski as definitive sources on "the" Holocaust experience. Recently, scholars have addressed the absence of women's voices in Holocaust studies, arguing that women's experiences, and their reactions to those experiences, were in fact very different from those of men. This topic is a controversial one, and some scholars argue that women's suffering should not be focused upon in the context of an event that sentenced all Jews to death. With such controversy surrounding this issue, the thesis of this paper is that works of imaginative literature and film offer a way to test whether women's experiences should truly be held as distinct from those of men and, if so, what these differences were and whether they caused a profoundly different effect on women survivors. In short, were women "double victims" because of their gender? Following the premise that women authors and directors might prove to be more likely to portray women's unique experiences, this paper compares works of Holocaust literature and film by female authors and directors with a like number of distinctly male voices. This study pays particular attention to portrayals of what could be termed as women's "double victimization, " such as the separation between mother and child, the mother's frequent inability to save her child, and sexual humiliation and rape. Because of the sensitive nature of the types of victimization many women endured, this study determines whether each author or director has portrayed women's double victimization sensitively, or whether it seems that women victims have been exploited for prurient interest. While it seems that women authors and directors might have proven to be more perceptive of women's double victimization, this paper reveals that some male authors and directors have proven remarkably adept at depicting women's experiences effectively, yet sensitively. However, previously overlooked female authors like Charlotte Delbo and Cynthia Ozickcan contribute greatly to a better understanding of women's double victimization, often revealing new insight into Holocaust experiences that have been so widely documented by men. This paper's conclusion supports the arguments of scholars who claim that women's unique experiences during the Holocaust are deserving of more study, while proving that the traditional canon of Holocaust literature and film cannot provide a complete understanding of the complex phenomena of victimization that occurred during the Holocaust. This study will become increasingly important as the literature and film of the Holocaust move farther into the domain of popular culture, challenging audiences and artists alike to develop an understanding of and sensitivity to the double victimization of women.