World War II

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Lise Meitner

The dramatic splitting of the atom—“nuclear fission”—was a discovery which changed our world. Yet few know that it was a woman physicist who discovered the power of nuclear energy just after her dramatic escape from Nazi Germany.

Zivia Lubetkin

Zivia Lubetkin was born on November 9, 1914 to a well-to-do, traditional Jewish family in the town of Beten in eastern Poland, where in 1880 her father, Ya’akov-Yizhak, who ran a small business, had also been born. Her mother, Hayyah (née Zilberman), was born in 1882 in Useten. During the Holocaust Zivia’s parents went into hiding but were discovered in 1942 and shot on the spot.

Deborah Lipstadt

“Unzere Devora,” our Deborah, “you do not know what you did for us,” murmured a Holocaust survivor before Yom ha-Sho’ah observances in the U.S. Capitol in April 2000. The comment stunned Deborah E. Lipstadt. An historian of American Jews, she had not sought the grueling libel trial that transformed her into a public personality. But she proved in a British court the historical truth of Hitler’s genocidal murder of six million European Jews during World War II to justify her characterization of David Irving as a Holocaust denier.

Rivka Kuper Liebeskind

Rivka Spiner, nicknamed Vuschka, was born on June 15, 1920 in Rzeszów, Poland, to a middle-class religious Zionist family. Her father, Hayyim Spiner (1890–1943), was active in Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi, as was her mother, Hadassah (1890–1943). She also had a younger brother, Menahem (1923–1943).

Batia Lichansky

Through portrait sculptures, reliefs and memorials sculpted in stone, wood and bronze, the work of Batia Lichansky, Israel’s first woman sculptor, expresses the pioneer Zionist spirit during the formative years of the State of Israel and its struggle for existence.

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Born in Turin on April 22, 1909, Rita Levi-Montalcini was the daughter of Adamo Levi, an electrical engineer and mathematician, and Adele Montalcini, a painter. Her parents had four children—the eldest, Gino (b. 1902), who later became a well-known architect; Anna (b. 1904); and finally Rita and her twin sister Paola Levi-Montalcini, who became a well-known artist.

Paola Levi-Montalcini

Twin sister of Rita Levi-Montalcini, the 1986 Nobel Prize winner for physiology, and the sister of architect Gino (b. 1902), Levi-Montalcini trained as a painter in Turin (1928–1929) in the atelier of Felice Casorati (1883–1963), where the Jewish Giorgina Lattes was also among the pupils. These were the years during which a number of artists who had attended Casorati’s atelier started the so-called “Group of Six,” which drew inspiration from French Impressionism and opposed the “retour à l’ordre” promoted by the Novecento Italiano movement, initially supported by Mussolini. However, Levi-Montalcini shaped her own direction, her indebtedness to Casorati consisting of a moral engagement rather than a style. In fact, as she recalled in an interview of March 1991, she derived from him only “the geometrical structure and the architecture of figures.”

Hilde Levi

Hilde Levi was an exceptional woman physicist who worked first in Germany and later in her new home country, Denmark, where she became a prominent researcher. She belonged to the second generation of women scientists in Germany, who were able to participate on a relatively equal basis in scientific institutions and in academia.

Blume Lempel

Blume Lempel was a master of stream-of-consciousness, flashback, free association and eroticism—all rare in Yiddish literature. Her modern short-story style was appropriate to her themes, which were often daring: incest—Oedipus in Brooklyn (1981), rape—Aleyn in Eynem (Alone Together, 1989) and the ambivalent attraction of one woman to another (Correspondents, 1992).

Judith Leiber

“Hitler put me in the handbag business,” Judith Leiber recalled in Enid Nemy’s book, Judith Leiber: The Artful Handbag. She was born Judith Peto in Budapest, Hungary, on January 11, 1921. Her well-to-do parents, Emil and Helen Peto, originally planned that she make a fortune in skin creams. Instead, she enrolled in the Hungarian Handbag Guild as its first woman member. Judith, her older sister Eva, and her mother survived the Nazi occupation of Budapest by staying in a building designated for Jews and then in a house set aside for Swiss citizens. Her father, an Austro-Hungarian who managed the grain department of a bank, obtained a pass for himself and forged the words “and family,” using the same typewriter used to issue the pass.

Lehi (Lohamei Herut Yisrael)

The underground movement Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, known by its acronym, Lehi) came into existence in 1940 in the wake of the opposition on the part of Avraham (“Ya’ir”) Stern (1907–1942) to the cessation of hostilities against the British rule in The Land of IsraelErez Israel (Palestine) proclaimed by David Raziel (1910–1941), the commander of the Irgun Zeva’i Le’ummi (IZL) during World War II. Stern regarded this decision as mistaken and as the loss of a rare historic opportunity to take advantage of the war situation to obtain concessions from the British, who he felt should be compelled by use of force to fulfill its promise to establish a Jewish state in Erez Israel. “Even in time of war, England is fighting the Jewish Jewish community in Palestine prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. "Old Yishuv" refers to the Jewish community prior to 1882; "New Yishuv" to that following 1882.Yishuv, attempting to restrict it, and even manages to provide the military forces to prevent the rescue of Holocaust survivors. In reality, Britain is a foreign power, whose interests in the Middle East do not include a Jewish state … we must not cease our war until Britain is expelled and an independent State of Israel is established.”

Lawyers in Germany and Austria

Even more than medicine and other male-dominated professions, law was a notoriously difficult field for women to break into in Germany and Austria. Since women lawyers were admitted to German bar examinations only in 1922, they had very limited opportunities to establish themselves in legal careers before the Nazi era. Therefore, although a disproportionately high percentage of women law students in Germany and Austria were Jews, very few Jewish women actually practiced law. According to official census data, fifteen Jewish women made up forty percent of the women lawyers in Prussia in 1925 and thirty-two Jewish women comprised thirteen percent of all women lawyers in Germany in 1933.

Madeleine May Kunin

The specifics of Madeleine May Kunin’s life, as she herself states in her autobiography, Living a Political Life (1994), hardly suggest a typical governor of Vermont: “As a feminist, an immigrant, and a Jew, I was perhaps too different from the average Vermont voter, yet it was this identity that inspired me to enter public life and shaped my values.”

Mariana Kroutoiarskaia

As a composer, music producer and supervisor, Mariana Kroutoiarskaia dedicated her entire life to music, film and television. Perhaps because she usually worked behind the scenes and was of small, delicate stature, she appears initially not to have been acknowledged by many people. But whoever came to know her better was usually overwhelmed by her energy, her love of life and her creative capacity.

Matilda Steinam Kubie

Matilda Steinam Kubie directed her energies toward the support and growth of charitable institutions that sought to better the lives of those in the Jewish community. She helped many organizations extend their reach through her leadership and her savvy use of advertising.

Rokhl Häring Korn

Rokhl Häring Korn is a major figure in modern Yiddish literature. Her early work established her reputation as a brilliant narrative writer in verse and prose and a passionate lyric poet. In her later work she developed into a poet of complex, sustained meditation, with a remarkable ability to turn her life into symbol. In the course of her writing career she published eight volumes of poetry and two collections of fiction.

Rozka Korczak-Marla

“We did not have the privilege of choosing between converting to Christianity and sacrificing ourselves to sanctify the name of God—in this we differed from our ancestors. … We did have a choice of the manner in which to live to the very end as free Jews and die as liberated people.” Thus, in 1982, Korczak-Marla referred to the choice made by members of Halutz movements in the Vilna Ghetto.

Gisela Peiper Konopka

Gisela Konopka’s outstanding career in youth and adolescent services, social work, education and history is reflected in her litany: “All my life I have been fighting for justice, and for respect for all people. I abhor any arrogance related to race, religion, nationality, appearance, sex, age, intelligence, profession, money. That arrogance is wrong. What is important is what a person is, and does, for the community.”

Hedwig Kohn

Prior to World War II, only three women achieved the German qualification for teaching at a university, the Habilitation in the field of physics: Lise Meitner, Hertha Sponer, and Hedwig Kohn. All three ultimately fled Nazi Germany.

Lia Koenig

Lia Koenig has performed at the Habimah theater without a break for more than forty years. In 1986 she was awarded the Israel Prize for her distinguished achievements as an outstanding actor.

Irene Caroline Diner Koenigsberger

A distinguished chemist credited with discovering the structure of rubber, Irene Caroline Koenigsberger was also an important figure in the Washington, D.C., Jewish community.

Sarah Kofman

The Holocaust, the study of philosophy and the undergoing of analysis—all three profoundly marked the course of Sarah Kofman’s life and are what link the texts that she authored. Thus one cannot adequately summarize Kofman’s texts and intellectual positions without invoking her biography. Yet she repeatedly denied that her autobiography could be found anywhere other than in her most impressive bibliography.

Bronia Klibanski

Bronia (Bronka) Klibanski is well known as one of the heroic Kashariyot (couriers) of the Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. She worked with Mordechai Tenenbaum, the leader of the Jewish resistance in the Bialystok ghetto, becoming the primary kasharit for the Dror Zionist group in 1943. She obtained critical weapons for the ghetto revolt, gathered intelligence, rescued other Jews and saved the secret archive of the Bialystok ghetto.

Reizia Cohen Klingberg

Reizia Cohen Klingberg (alias Maria Kalina) was born on August 8, 1920, to Chava (1892–1943) and Menahem Mendel Klingberg (1890–1944), a member of a well-known hasidic family in Craców. She was the granddaughter of Rabbi Shem Klingberg (1873–1943). Her father, the chairman of Po’alei Agudat Israel, encouraged her to learn English and German.

Chajka Klinger

“The avant-garde must die where its people are dying.” Chajka Klinger repeated this dictum several times in her diaries. For her it was the ultimate motive for the ghetto uprising.

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