Holocaust

Content type
Collection
Hannah Szenes circa 1940s

A Tradition of Taking Risks

by  Hannah Elbaum

In traditional society, men are seen as the risk takers, while women are supposed to be docile homemakers. When women step up to the plate, it stands out. To me, the women who bravely put aside their fears and take matters into their own hands are the ones who make the difference and are role models for all people.

In the Torah, there is a story of two women, Shifra and Puah, and the risks they took to save the lives of some children in Egypt. These midwives worked for the Israelites and took orders from Pharaoh, who knew the two of them and specifically told them to kill any male children born to Hebrew mothers, but they chose to not listen to him. It’s not clear if these two women were part of the Jewish people or if they were Egyptians. Still, their story takes place for a reason, not just to explain how Moses survived, but also to bring a lesson to future Jews about courage and the impact of the risks they take.

Frieda Piepsch Sondland

A designer of haute couture, Frieda Sondland used her creative skills to survive the Holocaust. Born in Berlin, Germany in 1921, she married Gunther Sondland when she was sixteen and a half years old. When she was seventeen, and pregnant with her first child, Frieda and her parents were forced to leave Germany for South America. Frieda supported herself and her daughter by working as a clothing designer in Montevideo, Uruguay. Eight years later, Gunther joined them. Frieda and Gunther moved to Seattle in 1953 to reunite with Gunther’s family who had emigrated there after the war. In Seattle, Frieda worked in the alterations department for both John Doyle Bishop, and Frederick and Nelson until she and Gunther opened their dry cleaning and alterations business in West Seattle. In 1957, their son, Gordon, was born. Since arriving in the United States, Frieda has become a beloved and active member of Seattle’s Jewish community.

Magda Altman Schaloum

Holocaust survivor Magda Altman Schaloum speaks out on behalf of all Holocaust survivors and their families. Born and raised in Hungary, she endured acts of antisemitism throughout her childhood, and in 1944 and 1945 Magda was sent to several concentration camps. She lost both her parents and her brother. Magda met her husband, Isaac Schaloum, in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany. Isaac was from Salonika, Greece. They emigrated to Seattle in 1950, where Isaac became a tailor and businessman, and they raised three children. Although of Hungarian descent, Magda became an active and beloved member of Seattle’s Sephardic community. She volunteers for many Jewish organizations, including the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center, and continues to bear witness to the horrors of hatred and antisemitism.

Blanche Gordon Narodick

Journalist and international Red Cross volunteer, Blanche Gordon Narodick graduated magna cum laude from the University of Washington and earned a masters degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, launching her career as a journalist, ghost writer, and public relations consultant. Raised in part by her aunt and uncle, she met her husband, Dr. Phillip Narodick, in graduate school and refers to their partnership as a “true love story.” During World War II Blanche worked with the American Red Cross and has continued that affiliation, initiating an international chapter in Seattle, promoting “Holocaust tracing” helping Jewish families locate relatives, and founding a sister chapter in Shanghai, China. For her work, the ARC awarded Blanche the Harriman Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service in 1989.

Ruth Jungster Frankel

Hebrew school teacher Ruth Frankel dedicated her life to Jewish education and the welfare of the Jewish people. Born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1916, she grew up in a close modern Orthodox home, attending Hebrew school from kindergarten until high school. Together with her sister, Lisbeth, Ruth emigrated to the U.S. in June 1938. Despite all their endeavors, Ruth and Lisbeth were unsuccessful in rescuing their parents, who had remained behind and eventually perished in Auschwitz. Ruth's future husband, Joseph Frankel, apprehended during Kristallnacht, spent four months in Buchenwald before reaching England and then immigrating to the U.S. in 1940. After the war, the Frankels and their daughter moved to Seattle where Joseph was instrumental in starting a Religious School at Herzl Ner Tamid, a Conservative synagogue, serving as its principal and cantor. Ruth became active in the synagogue Sisterhood, voluntarily kept all school records, and taught second and third grade for 30 years in Seattle public schools.

Molly Cone

A prolific and well-loved author, Molly Cone has penned numerous children’s and young adults’ books, travel articles, educational materials, and a history of the Jews in Washington State. Born in Tacoma to Latvian emigrants, Molly grew up in a close-knit family steeped in Jewish traditions. Married in 1939 to Gerald Cone, they moved to Seattle where they raised three children and became founding members of Temple Beth Am, a reform synagogue in Northeast Seattle. They are enthusiastic travelers. As a writer, Molly’s narrative often focuses on human communication-how both talking and silence organize the ways we think about the world and each other.

Ruth Nussbaum preserves a Torah on Kristallnacht

November 10, 1938

Ruth Nussbaum preserves a Torah on Kristallnacht.

"A Train in Winter" reveals the strength of women’s friendship

November 13, 2011

There are 230 heroines in Caroline Moorehead’s book "A Train in Winter."

Hebrew Tattoo

To Tattoo Or Not To Tattoo

by  Vanessa Zoltan

I am a grandchild of four Holocaust survivors. I have watched my grandparents’ tattoos cause tears at little league games from a parent who realizes what she is looking at.

Topics: Holocaust
Irena Sendler and Other Individuals, 2005

3,000 Universes

by  Talia bat Pessi

Since its inception, Yad Vashem has been in the forefront of identifying and honoring Righteous Gentiles saved Jews during WWII. Many of these individuals hid Jews in their homes or organized hiding places that allowed Jews to escape the Nazi dragnet. Stories like those of Oskar Schindler (of Schindler's List fame) and Raoul Wallenberg are well known. Others, no less amazing, are only now beginning to come to light.

Topics: Holocaust
Sosúa: Make a Better World

Sosúa: Make a Better World

by  Miriam Cantor-Stone

The young actors learn about each other’s cultures (through a Passover seder, Spanish lessons, and more) while learning about themselves. I am constantly amazed by the power of theatre, even after experiencing it personally throughout my education. Watching Liz Swados and her production team interact with the teens reminded me of all the incredible teachers and directors I had the pleasure of working with in high school and college. Theatre gave me self-confidence and taught me the importance of community, and it’s clear that the teens involved in Sosúa learned the same.  This fascinating movie provides great insight into the magic of theater as well as into a little known aspect of Shoah history.

Topics: Holocaust, Theater

Irena Sendler saves Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto.

October 20, 1943

Irena Sendler Saves Jewish Children from the Warsaw Ghetto

Wendy Drexler

I Write to Pay Attention

by  Wendy Drexler

Flannery O’Connor once said, “How do I know what I mean until I see what I’ve said?

Topics: Holocaust, Poetry
Anne Frank

Justin Bieber's "Belieber" Baloney

by  Jordyn Rozensky

A lot has been made of Justin Bieber’s weekend visit to the Anne Frank House and Museum. The teen sensation is known for making headlines, but it’s not often (or ever) that he makes headlines here at the Jewish Women’s Archive. However, try as we might, we couldn’t ignore the Bieb’s belieber baloney. 

Topics: Holocaust
Aron Lieb and Susan Kushner Resnick

She Saved Him, Too

by  Ellen K. Rothman

Susan Kushner Resnick was recovering from post-partum depression after the birth of her second child when she struck up an unlikely friendship with Aron Lieb, a widowed, childless, elderly Holo

Gerda Lerner at Sarah Lawrence College

Remembering Gerda Lerner: The "Mother" of Women's History

by  Joyce Antler

Gerda Lerner, pioneer in women’s history, remarkable public intellectual, and life-long activist, died this week in Wisconsin at the age of 92. A member of JWA’s Academic Advisory Council, she was enthusiastic about our mission of chronicling and transmitting the history of Jewish women. No historian was more identified with the field of women’s history. Receiving her Ph.D. at the age of 46, she wrote a series of groundbreaking books in which she almost singlehandedly created a conceptual framework for the field.

"You Fascinating You" by Germaine Shames

The Indomitable Jewish Ballerina Who Inspired a Timeless Love Song

by  Germaine Shames

In 1944, at the height of the worst carnage the world has known, a mother in Budapest, Hungary, put her only son, then seven years old, out on the street with a pillow, a last morsel of bread, and the boy’s baptismal certificate. The mother was Jewish, the son Catholic.

Fifty years later the son, Cesare Frustaci—by that time an American citizen with a family of his own—contributed a video-taped oral history to Yale University and then sent the tape to author Germaine Shames. It told the story of his mother, ballerina Margit Wolf, who was banished from the stage by Mussolini only to inspire a timeless love song and then fade from history without a trace.

Topics: Holocaust, Music, Dance
Mona Golabek

Making Family Stories into Art

by  Ellen K. Rothman

This weekend I was lucky enough to see two talented Jewish women make memorable art from their family stories. On Friday night, I went to Club Passim, the legendary folk venue in Harvard Square, to hear one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Lucy Kaplansky. Her set mixed old favorites with songs from her new CD, “Reunion.” The title track tells the story of two family reunions. The first in 1971, when she was 11, began at her grandmother’s bakery and continued at a fancy restaurant. The second “40 years on,” moved her to write “Here we are together/our fathers gone/ just daughters and sons.”

Topics: Holocaust, Music
Ruth Gruber, circa 1944

Happy 101st Birthday to Ruth Gruber: Activist, Rescuer and Chronicler of her People’s Story

by  Deborah Fineblum Raub

More than half a century after the August day in 1944 when Ruth Gruber coaxed reluctant refugees off the bus—told they would be taken to the showers, these concentration camp survivors refused to disembark—I stood on that very spot in upstate New York.

Aviva Kempner

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner was born in Berlin after World War II to an American father and a Polish mother. Her childhood was marked by the experience of her parents during and after the war. Her desire to understand them led her to a career in filmmaking.

Mindy Weisel

The first baby born in the Displaced Persons Camp at Bergen-Belsen right after the war, Mindy Weisel grew up with the responsibility to “be everything” to her parents, who had survived Auschwitz. Today, she is an acclaimed abstract artist, working in paint and glass. She has had international commissions and exhibitions; her pieces are in the permanent collections of the Israel Museum, Vad Yasem, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, among others.

Jewish Partisan Education Project 2012 Youth Writing Contest

What can we learn from Jewish women partisans? Jewish Partisan Education Foundation announces 2012 Youth Writing Contest

by  Leah Berkenwald

Thanks to the success of feature film Defiance (2008), Americans now associate the history of Jewish partisans with the hunky Bielski brothers, played by Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jaime Bell. In the film's depiction of their society hidden deep in the forest women contributed by cooking and gathering food but not so much as leaders or fighters. The real story of female Jewish partisans--in the Bielski encampment and elsewhere--is, of course, much richer.

Yes Virginia, Holocaust deniers still exist and run for Congress

by  Kate Bigam

The significance of meeting a Holocaust survivor while on my way to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, is not lost on me – but that’s what happened to me two weeks ago. While leading a trip in Israel, I made a quick stop off to visit a friend who was in a Jerusalem hospital just down the road from Yad Vashem, and when raindrops started to fall, I decided to hop a cab to meet up with the rest of my group.

Deborah Strobin

After a lifetime of silence, Deborah Strobin shares her story

by  Leah Berkenwald

For most of her life, philanthropist Deborah Strobin kept her past a secret from her friends, her children, and even her husband.

Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women During the Holocaust

The abortion/Holocaust analogy and the reality of abortion during the Holocaust

by  Chanel Dubofsky

A few months ago, a friend of mine told me about a screening of the film "180" at her university.

Subscribe to Holocaust

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

The JWA Podcast

Can We Talk?

listen now

Get JWA in your inbox