World War II

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Lucie Porges

Lucie Porges brought a combination of elegance and a relaxed sensibility to her long and fruitful collaboration with top fashion designer Pauline Trigère. As she continued to design, Porges also imparted her immense knowledge in the Fashion Department of the New School for Social Research.

Virginia Morris Pollak

During World War II, sculptor Virginia Morris Pollak used her deep understanding of clay, plaster, and metal to revolutionize reconstructive surgery for wounded servicemen. This earned her a presidential citation, and she was later appointed to JFK’s Commission for the Employment of the Handicapped. Pollak also co-founded her own sculpture studio and chaired the Norfolk Fine Arts Commission, beautifying her hometown with an outdoor sculpture museum at the Botanic Garden.

Poland: Women Leaders in the Jewish Underground During the Holocaust

There were prominent female leaders in nearly every Jewish underground in the Polish ghettos during WWII. Women often took on the role of delegate to central leadership, moving between ghettos. Jewish fighting organizations relied on these delegates to deliver arms, forged documents, and military instructions between ghettos.

Hantze Plotniczki

Hantze Plotniczki was an active leader of and participant in resistance movements during World War II. She had a gift for connecting with people and inspiring love and action from other members of the movement.

Frumka Plotniczki

Whether in her family, the kibbutz training program or the movement, what set Plotniczki apart was her ability to combine penetrating, uncompromising analysis with a loving heart and maternal compassion.

Nora Platiel

The Russian Revolution of 1917 made a convinced socialist of Nora Block and inspired her to study law. After leaving Nazi Germany for France and then Platiel, Platiel returned home, eventually becoming the first woman director of a German district court and being elected for three terms in the Hessian State Parliament.


The Palmah was the elite fighting brigades of the underground paramilitary force Haganah, active between 1941 and Israel’s founding in 1948. Women were active in the Palmah, but were they considered equal to men?

Lilli Palmer

After fleeing Nazi Germany, Lilli Palmer pursued her acting career in Paris, London, Hollywood, and New York. In the 1950s, she returned to Germany, becoming celebrated once again in her home country. Palmer was not only a prominent actor in numerous successful plays, films and television programs, but also a painter and an author of both fiction and non-fiction.

Chana Orloff

Sculptor Chana Orloff was a part of the avant-garde circle of Montparnasse, the international movement of artists in Paris. After immigrating to Paris from Palestine in 1910, Orloff became the unofficial portraitist of the Parisian elite, creating over three hundred portraits. Orloff’s sculpture figures are now in collections throughout Israel, Europe, and the United States.

Modern Netherlands

Like Jewish women everywhere, Dutch Jewish women struggled with issues of assimilation, emancipation, and equality as both Jews and women. This article summarizes the conditions and challenges facing Jewish women in the Netherlands and the paths to progress and change they sought—education, work, activism, and literature, among others—from the nineteenth century to the present, including after the particular decimation of Dutch Jewry during the Holocaust.

Irene Nemirovsky

Irène Némirovsky was a French novelist of Ukrainian-Jewish origin who wrote fourteen novels in thirteen years before her death in Auschwitz in 1942. Némirovsky’s sentiment towards Jews and conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1939 has drawn criticism in recent years.

Elinor Morgenthau

Elinor Morgenthau’s accomplishments were largely invisible, as she helped her husband, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., rise to great heights in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration. Because of her sharp political and social skills, she often filled in for her husband, and eventually she became Eleanor Roosevelt’s assistant in the Office of Civilian Defense.

Elsa Morante

Elsa Morante (1912-1985) was an Italian author whose writing often addressed persecution and injustice. After fleeing Fascist authorities during World War II, Morante traveled extensively while continuing to write prolifically; she later won the Viareggio literary prize, Strega Prize, and Prix Medicis.

Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar

Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar struggled between her allegiance to French culture and her identity as a Jewish person. In her published journal, she perceptively documented the abandonment of French Jews during the Holocaust and the struggles of assimilated French Jews.

Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner’s influential work concerning radioactivity in the early 20th century made her a target of the Nazis. She fled to Sweden in 1938, and it was there that she discovered the power of the fission reaction. Even though Meitner never worked on nuclear weapons, her 1939 research was essential in the research of nuclear power.

Zivia Lubetkin

Zivia Lubetkin was an important member of the underground resistance movement in Poland during World War II, and later an active member of the United Kibbutz Movement in Palestine.

Deborah Lipstadt

Deborah D. Lipstadt is an American Jewish historian of issues surrounding understanding the Holocaust, ranging from reception of news of the extermination of European Jews to denial of the existence of the Holocaust. Lipstadt achieved renown for her defense against libel brought by David Irving, a British Holocaust denier. Her dramatic trial was transformed into a film starring Rachel Weisz.

Rivka Kuper Liebeskind

Rivka Liebeskind joined the Akiva Zionist movement as a teenager, becoming a leader in her local chapter and encouraging members to continue their activities after the German occupation began. When the movement transitioned to resistance activities in 1942, she aided young people escaping the Krakow ghetto. Liebeskind survived her deportation to Birkneau and moved to Israel after the war.

Batia Lichansky

Batia Lichansky, Israel’s first woman sculptor, famously expressed the pioneer Zionist spirit during the formative years of the State of Israel through her portrait sculptures, reliefs, and memorials sculpted in stone, wood, and bronze. After studying across Europe, Lichansky became a prominent Israeli artist and won the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Dizengoff Prize twice, in 1944 and 1957.

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Rita Levi-Montalcini was a Nobel Prize winning doctor, known for her discovering of Nerve Growth Factor, which is responsible for the development and distribution of nerve cells. Throughout her life she combined research with wide-scale public activity.

Paola Levi-Montalcini

Paola Levi-Montalcini was an influential twentieth-century Italian painter who aimed for a synthetical expressiveness and played a key role in the development of the Movimento Arte Concreta in the 1950s. She debuted as a painter in 1931 at the first Quadriennal of National Art of Rome and continued to exhibit throughout Italy. The Rome Institute of Enciclopedia Italiana devoted an important retrospective exhibition to Levi-Montalcini after her death.

Hilde Levi

Hilde Levi was an exceptional physicist who worked first in Germany and later in 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.

Judith Leiber

Judith Leiber carved a unique place for herself in the world of fashion as the designer of some of the most inventive and sought-after handbags in the world. After fleeing the Nazi occupation of Hungary, Leiber worked for various handbag manufacturers in America before starting her own company in 1963.

Blume Lempel

Blume Lempel used stream-of-consciousness, flashback, and free association in her writing to create unique stories with themes rarely seen in Yiddish literature: eroticism, incest, and rape. She only wrote in Yiddish, and much of her work remained untranslated until very recently.

Lehi (Lohamei Herut Yisrael)

Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Lehi) was an underground Zionist extremist organization active between 1940 and 1949, during which it forcefully opposed the British Mandatory government and Palestinian Arab opponents to a Jewish state. Women participated in most areas of Lehi’s activity, from carrying out military actions to propaganda production.


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