Jewish History: World War II
She was the only woman among the early members of the Mosad, which smuggled Jews out of Europe and into Palestine in an attempt to circumvent the aliyah restrictions of the British Mandatory authorities. Late in World War II Aliav-Klüger was among the first representatives of the Yishuv to meet with Holocaust survivors on European soil and come to the aid of the she’erit ha-pletah (surviving remnant). In early 1949 Aliav-Klüger returned to Israel and, like many of her Mosad comrades, joined the Zim national shipping company. In 1974 she was selected as Woman of the Year by the National Council Of Jewish Women in the United States in honor of the release of her book, The Last Escape, describing her activities with the Mosad le-Aliyah Bet between 1938 and 1941 (published originally in English and translated into Hebrew).
Tosia Altman played important roles in the Jewish resistance to the Nazis. Her pale skin and blonde hair allowed her to blend in and serve as a spy, and she was integral to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Women have played an important part in the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) since the organization was first established after World War I.
It is now generally considered that while men and women shared the same fate and their daily existence in the internment and concentration camps was more or less similar, differences between the sexes did exist. Such differences are reflected in the works of art produced in the camps.
The Yishuv regarded the war against Nazi Germany (World War II) as its war. At the behest of the Jewish Agency thirty thousand men volunteered for the British Army between 1939 and 1946. Only when the Council of Women’s Organizations called for the recruitment of women as well, was an agreement reached with the British authorities to enlist women into the forces. The first to join, on January 25, 1942, were a small group of sixty women to be trained as officers and N.C.O.s for the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service). Women for the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) were drafted only on May 25, 1943.
Although modern Austrian art attracted a high proportion of Jewish women, most of them are forgotten today both because of the male ethos of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century life which relegated women to the domestic domain, and because of the Holocaust which robbed many Jewish women artists of their lives and erased their artistic achievements from popular recognition.
Before the outbreak of World War I, over a dozen B’nai B’rith women’s auxiliaries were scattered from San Francisco to New Jersey. They expanded into cultural activities, philanthropy, and community service, such as financial support of orphanages and homes for the elderly. Their announced aims were to perpetuate Jewish culture, enrich their communities, and ensure the religious survival of their sons and daughters. Their unannounced goals included sociability and the first steps toward personal independence.
Born Cilly Edelberg in Latvia in 1899, the dancer who called herself Tatjana Barbakoff lacked formal dance training, yet created a world of her own through her charming personality, exotic stage costumes and lyrical dance expression.
Barbara (Monique Andrée Serf) was a French singer and composer whose melancholy style rose to national significance. Born in Paris in 1930, after World War II Barbara studied music, rising to fame in the 1960s. Her Jewish identity and wartime experience as a child influenced her non-conformist persona as an artist, and through her song lyrics, she advocated for Franco-German reconciliation.
Psychologist Dorothy Walter Baruch championed the health development of children as an educator, author, psychologist, and as a community leader. Her psychodynamic approach to child development focused on the relationship between physical, emotional, and intellectual development and on rechanneling children’s feelings through play and art therapy.
Matilde Bassani Finzi continued her activity in anti-fascist groups and, together with Giorgio Bassani, organized parlor meetings and helped distribute newspapers and newsletters. After Mussolini’s fall on July 25, 1943, Bassani Finzi was released together with all the political prisoners. Immediately upon her release she contacted the Resistance groups, who began to organize in case Germany should invade Italy, which it did on September 8, 1943. After the war she continued to work for the ideals in which she believed: freedom, democracy and equality for women.
On May 18, 1942, two anti-Nazi Communist groups set fire to the anti-Soviet exhibit, Das Sowjetparadies (The Soviet Paradise), which was held in the Lustgarten in Berlin. The larger, leading group of the two, almost entirely Jewish in its composition and led by Herbert Baum, was known as the Baum Gruppe.
Berthe Bénichou-Aboulker was the first woman writer to have her work published in her country of birth, Algeria, whose generous land and mixed population she praised in Pays de flamme (Land of Flame).
Margarete Berent was the first female lawyer to practice in Prussia and the second female lawyer ever licensed in Germany. In 1925 she opened her own law firm in Berlin. Not only was she the first female lawyer and the head of her own law firm, but she was also an ardent feminist and active in promoting opportunities for women.
A prolific literary critic and essayist who wrote fiction, short stories, and novels, Lili Berger worked to educate, instruct, expose, and memorialize. Her works captured the Polish-Jewish experience in the twentieth century, particularly those of other writers and artists.
Elisabeth Bergner, born in Austrian Galicia, was one of the most successful and popular stage and screen actresses in pre-World War II Germany, known for her superior artistic skills and wide variety of roles. During the war, she helped actors escape Germany. She was honored with the Schiller Prize of the City of Mannheim, the Ernst Lubitsch Prize, and the Austrian Cross of Merit for Science and Art.
From 1936 through 1938, while Clementine Bloch was articled to lawyers, she realized that she was interested in criminal law and after passing the bar examination in 1938, she indeed gained a reputation in criminal cases. From 1948 to 1975 she was as a UN librarian at the New York Public Library and in this capacity served as a liaison between the Library and the UN.
Photographer and photojournalist Eva Besnyö was born in Budapest in 1910. In the 1930s Besnyö moved to Berlin, where she quickly became successful with numerous exhibitions and commissions and spent time with politically engaged intellectuals and artists. Following the war, Besnyö was active in the Dolle-Mina feminist movement and was awarded the Dr. Erich Salomon Award for her life’s work.
Meta Pollak Bettman was an untiring volunteer in Jewish and civic causes.
Ilse Bing’s legacy is her photographs. She was an artist who seized the moment and is recognized as a pioneer in the birth of modern photography.
Although she was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity, Blau, being both female and Jewish, had no hope of a professional career.
Since her first film role in Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight literally propelled her into the limelight, Claire Bloom has been one of the most iconic and popular actresses of her generation.
Gertrud Bodenwieser belonged to the first generation of modern dancers in Vienna.
A Zionist activist in Hungary during the Holocaust, Hansi Hartmann was born in 1912 in Budapest and was educated there.