World War II

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Dame Miriam Rothschild

Born on August 5, 1908 in Ashton, Northamptonshire, Miriam Louisa Rothschild was the first child of the Honorable (Nathaniel) Charles Rothschild (1877–1923) and Roszika von Werthemstein (1870–1940). Dame Miriam was a world authority on fleas, a pioneer of the organic movement and an ardent campaigner for the protection of animals and wildlife conservation.

Bethsabée Rothschild

Baroness Bethsabée (Hebrew: Batsheva) de Rothschild, scion of a well-known philanthropic family, was a modest and generous woman with a mighty vision. The foundations she established helped support numerous activities in the United States and Israel, especially dance, music and science.

Romania, Women and Jewish Education

The delay in opening schools for girls (both general and Jewish) illustrates one of the obvious ways in which the gender balance of power was slanted in favor of the male: women were restricted to the private sphere, excluded from the centers of power and achievement in Romanian society—the fields of finance, politics and the army—which required higher education. Such an approach was especially apparent in traditional, conservative societies such as Romania’s in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and until 1950.

Romanian Yiddish Theater

One facet of the rich Jewish cultural scene that developed in Romania in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries consisted of theatrical activity in its various forms.

Resistance, Jewish Organizations in France: 1940-1944

In terms of numbers, the proportion of Jewish women active in Jewish underground organizations in occupied France is impressive.

Havivah Reik

Driving along one of Israel’s inner roads in the upper Shomron plain, one passes two settlements with similar names—Givat Havivah and Lahavot Havivah. Both are named after Havivah Reik, one of the seven members of the “Parachutists’ Mission” who lost their lives during World War II while attempting to aid European Jewry under the Nazis.

Ravensbruck Women's Concentration Camp

Ravensbrück, the concentration camp that the Nazis created to incarcerate women, received its first transport of prisoners in the spring of 1939. While not created as a camp specifically for Jewish women, they were among the camp’s inmate population for nearly all of its six-year existence.

Antonietta Raphaël

The celebrated painter and sculptor Antoinetta Raphael, whose artistic works vividly portray both the imaginary and the familiar.

Erna Proskauer

At the age of sixty-five, Erna Proskauer took over her former husband’s general law office after his death in 1968. In this office she once again went into joint practice, working until the age of eighty-four.

Olga Benário Prestes

Although Olga Benário Prestes is famous in Brazil and was considered a great heroine in the German Democratic Republic, her name is not well known in the United States.

Zosha Posnanska

Sofia (Zosha) Posnanska, one of the unsung Jewish heroes of World War II, lived only thirty-six years, three of them during the war in Europe.

Lucie Porges

Lucie Porges continued to design, while also imparting her immense knowledge in the Fashion Department of the New School for Social Research.

Poland: Women Leaders in the Jewish Underground During the Holocaust

The presence of so many young women in the Jewish Underground leadership and their unique role within this leadership are unusual phenomena, not only against the background of a pre-feminist era, but even in comparison with social and political organizations today.

Virginia Morris Pollak

During World War II, sculptor Virginia Morris Pollak discovered that her training in casting methods and her family’s tradition of community service dovetailed perfectly. Working with plastic surgeons at Halloran Hospital on Staten Island, Pollak not only developed a superior modeling material for reconstructive surgery but also modeled plates for skull replacements from the notoriously difficult metal tantalum.

Hantze Plotniczki

When she was fourteen, her brother Eliyahu brought her into the Freiheit movement on the eve of his immigration to Palestine in 1932. Although Plotniczki was well-versed in Polish literature and culture and spoke only a broken Yiddish peppered with Polish phrases, she nonetheless found a way to connect with the members and integrate into 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 had made a convinced socialist of Nora Block and she soon realized that studying law would provide a better context for her ideas of the ideal society. Nora Block was interned with many other emigrants in the Vélodrome D’Hiver in Paris, under terrible conditions. Despite all the attempts to prevent both contact with the outside world and communication among the interned women in the camp, Nora Block managed to establish an office to help women who were unable to help themselves by translating letters and documents for them. She was appointed the first woman director of a German district court in 1951. In 1954 she ran for the Hessian State Parliament and was elected for three successive terms and served for six years as a deputy party whip.She was also a member of the Hessian Supreme Court, the committee for electing the judges and numerous other committees.

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.

Palmah

Discussion of women’s military service, both pre-State and later, focused more on the need for participation and partnership than on the issue of equality of the sexes. Women’s participation in the Haganah, the Palmah, Ezel (Irgun Zeva’i Le’ummi) and Lehi (Lohamei Herut Israel) during the struggle for statehood, as well as their role in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the War of Independence, generated a sense of joint achievement, the result of common effort and sacrifice. They also engendered a feeling of having conquered a stronghold, a bridgehead in the fight for equality which must not be surrendered.

Chana Orloff

Critics have always found dignity and humor, plus “an unerringly true adjustment of weight to line” in the sculpture of Chana Orloff, one of the “Ecole de Paris,” who said that she wanted her works “to be as alive as life …”

Irene Nemirovsky

The story of Irene Nemirovsky’s life is as complex, captivating and heartbreaking as any of her numerous novels, yet this story would have remained hidden from history if not for a controversial and unprecedented panel decision that rocked the French literary establishment in November 2004.

Modern Netherlands

Dutch Jews acquired full citizenship rights in 1796. Overnight the “Jewish Nation” as a legal corporation was transformed into a community of individual “Jewish Netherlanders.” In the nineteenth and twentieth century they had to secure a place for themselves in a society which sometimes welcomed them but which was nevertheless permeated with anti-Jewish sentiments and prejudices. Consequently, even fully integrated, “modern” Jews retained an ambivalent relationship with mainstream Dutch-Christian culture.

Elinor Morgenthau

Elinor Morgenthau was an assimilationist German Jewish success story. Morgenthau achieved prominence by promoting the men around her and by camouflaging her Judaism. She was a product of her era and was adept at its political and social strategies.

Elsa Morante

Elsa Morante was born in Rome on August 18, 1912, to Irma Poggibonsi from Emilia (near Modena), and a Sicilian father, Francesco Lo Monaco. In 1930 she began writing for the children’s journals Il Corriere dei Piccoli and I diritti della scuola, publishing her novelQualcuno bussa alla porta in installments in the latter in 1935.

Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar

Few testimonies to the plight of French Jews during and after World War II are as moving and as eloquent as those of Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar. Few writers describe so wrenchingly the drastic psychological and material schism that resulted from the Vichy government’s abandonment of its Jewish population during the Holocaust.

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