Women in Holocaust Literature: Writers & Writings

These women use diaries, memoirs, fiction, and poetry to express their Holocaust experience.

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In contrast to works that focus on the Holocaust and offer realistic detail, some survivors, like Shulamith Hareven, rarely mention the Holocaust explicitly in their novels and stories. Yet the radical losses of the Nazi genocide may be seen to shape their fictional works.

Other fiction writers include Cynthia Ozick (b. 1928), Marcie Hershman (b. 1951), Sheri Szeman, Michal Govrin, Nava Semel (b. 1954), Rebecca Goldstein (b. 1950), Marge Piercy, Norma Rosen, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer (b. 1941), Anne Michaels (b. 1958), Savyon Liebrecht (b. 1948) and Francine Prose (b. 1947). Poets include Kadya Molodowsky, Rivka Miriam (b. 1952), Lily Brett (b. 1946), Alicia Ostriker and Ruth Whitman.

Other Genres

In addition to fiction, the Holocaust finds both direct and indirect poetic expression in the works of such poets as Nelly Sachs, Gertrud Kolmar, Rokhl Korn and Irena Klepfisz (b. 1941).

Increasingly, the Holocaust has found a place in the fiction and poetry of women who were not themselves personally involved. Whether actual descendants of survivors, or simply born into the post-Holocaust world, or born elsewhere, these writers probe the resonances, after-effects, and implications of the German genocide. Either implicitly or explicitly, their works also explore the ways in which their own cultures--for example, Israeli, Jewish American, French, German--negotiate and shape the representation of the past.

Theater is yet another literary venue for representation of the Holocaust. In Lady of the Castle, a play by the Israeli poet Lea Goldberg, a Holocaust survivor struggles with the aftermath of the European destruction. Born in France to Jewish immigrants from Greece, Liliane Atlan and her sister were sent by their parents to the French countryside to elude the genocidal net that killed much of their extended family. Atlan's plays dramatize the Holocaust and grapple with its humanistic implications. Monsieur Fugue ou Le Mal de Terre (Mr. Fugue or Earth Sickness) was inspired by the life and work of Janusz Korczak (1878–1942).

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Sara R. Horowitz is the Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, and a professor of comparative literature in the Division of Humanities. She is the author of Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction, which received the Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Book, co-editor of Encounter with Appelfeld, a collection of essays on Aharon Appelfeld, and co-editor of the journal Kerem. She has published extensively on Holocaust literature, women survivors, Jewish American fiction and pedagogy. Currently, she is completing a book entitled Gender, Genocide and Jewish Memory.