Anglo-Jew­ish Women Writ­ing the Holo­caust: Dis­placed Witnesses

Phyl­lis Lassner
  • Review
By – January 9, 2012

Phyl­lis Lass­ner, who teach­es gen­der stud­ies, Jew­ish stud­ies, and writ­ing at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty, exam­ines a lit­tle-known aspect of the Holo­caust through the writ­ings of British Jew­ish women. She con­sid­ers works by Kinder­trans­port chil­dren, women of the Sec­ond Gen­er­a­tion” (chil­dren of sur­vivors born in the UK), and writ­ers who have no per­son­al con­nec­tion to the Holo­caust yet are pro­found­ly affect­ed by World War II. The Kinder­trans­port chil­dren, writ­ers Lore Segal and Karen Ger­shon, depict their anx­i­ety com­ing from sep­a­ra­tion, frag­ment­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tion with their par­ents, and final­ly, silence and loss. They also tell the sto­ry of being sud­den­ly thrust into an alien soci­ety. Chil­dren of sur­vivors, such as Anne Karpf and Lisa Appig­nane­si, write about the sto­ries and mem­o­ries that are an inte­gral part of their lives, but feel that lack of direct expe­ri­ence makes them less authen­tic. Both groups use writ­ing as a way to estab­lish per­son­al space and an iden­ti­ty that is attached to the past but nev­er stops push­ing back against it. The women writ­ers with no con­nec­tion to the Holo­caust — Elaine Fein­stein, Diane Samuels, and Julia Pas­cal — use it as a basis for cre­at­ing fic­tion, using fan­ta­sy and the Goth­ic as well as nar­ra­tive to depict silence and suffering. 

This is a worth­while book for read­ers inter­est­ed in Holo­caust stud­ies, Jew­ish stud­ies, gen­der stud­ies, and writing. 

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

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