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Gender Roles during the Holocaust*

Eloise Bishop



Year of study:

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This project researches the part gender roles played in the experiences of Jewish women during the Holocaust. Specifically, this work investigates how gender roles changed and were used to adapt to the circumstances these women found themselves in. Though gender has become an increasingly used lens for understanding the Holocaust, the implications of traditional gender roles on the experiences of women and how these roles were forced to change and adapt is not a point often discussed and is often forced into a dichotomy. This work explores, through use of oral and written testimony, how gender roles took on new meaning and significance as they were both challenged and reinforced by the Nazis.

This research has important implications on how we understand women as experiencers of genocide rather than just witnesses. This is becoming increasingly relevant as evidence of the genocide taking place against the Uyghurs mounts which shows that the genocide is taking place through prevention of births. In other words, women’s bodies are the frontlines of this genocide. It is therefore vital that women’s roles within their communities are understood within the human rights context.

My name is Eloise and I am in my second year as an undergraduate history student at the University of Glasgow. My interest in Holocaust studies began in 2019 when I took part in the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project, later progressing to the role of Regional Ambassador for the Trust. I have held various roles with the third sector and in youth media outlets, including raising awareness of the Uyghur Genocide. My main interest is in women’s experiences of conflict and genocide, using historic examples to better understand contemporary issues which this research seeks to explore.

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