Research & Teaching

The Holocaust in occupied Ukraine. The Dimensions of the Experience of Jewish Women

Researcher: Lilia Tomchuk

Funding: Jürg Breuninger Doctoral Scholarship

The gender-historical dimension of the Holocaust has been the subject of comparatively few studies to date. A completely unexplored subject is the fate of Jewish women in the Ukraine occupied by the Germans and their accomplices. The dissertation project focuses on individual experiences and the role of Jewish women in various contexts of the Holocaust in the region; furthermore, the question of what consequences the experiences had for the women up to the post-war period will be examined. Despite the fact that all Jews, regardless of their gender, were targeted by the Nazi persecution and murder, the life, death and survival of women and men were nevertheless characterized by specific experiences, perceptions and reactions. The focus of the dissertation project is directed both at the threats and burdens to which Jewish women were exposed and at the structures of female behavior that enabled women, but also their families or entire collectives, to fight against the inhumane conditions in the ghettos and camps as well as against the omnipresent death. The questions will be examined close to the historical source, especially based on oral history testimonies. Memories respectively representations in audio-visual interviews of the Visual History Archive of the USC Shoah Foundation are at the center of attention. The aim of the dissertation project is not to construct a hierarchy of suffering and victims. Rather, the study is intended to contribute to a differentiated understanding of the events of persecution and murder as well as their victims by using gender as a category of analysis.