Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Women in Holocaust Historiography
Faith, Friendship, Art and Education
Despite the horrendous conditions in the camps - death, disease, starvation, slavery, torture - inmates supported each other and formed "camp sister" relationships which sometimes endured beyond the camps as well. Often life itself depended on such friendships.
Some women were able to maintain their faith, improvising prayers, lighting "candles" on the eve of holidays, fasting on Yom Kippur and abstaining from eating bread on Passover, despite their ceaseless hunger.
Education also remained a concern for many. In Bergen Belsen, where families and individuals with foreign passports were kept in a separate camp for eventual exchange for Germans stranded in Allied territory, mothers attempted to educate their children. Bronia Koszicki, for example, who became the Bluzhever Rebbetzin, paid with her meagrebread rations for her sons' private lessons.
Women sang, told stories, and even gave theatrical performances in order to overcome the brutal realities of ghetto and camp life. Art was produced under impossible conditions, sometimes with stolen materials and often at the risk of the artist's life. Such works were later to serve as eyewitness accounts of every phase of ghetto and camp life.
Helga Weissova-Hoskova was deported as a teenager to Terezin. Her drawings, which she managed to bring with her after liberation, illustrate daily life in Terezin. Though virtually unknown, Esther Lurie's drawings provide a moving account of life in Ghetto Kovno (see "The Centre and the Arts"). The drawings of Violette Rougier (nee Lecoq), a non-Jew who was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck for her participation in the French Resistance, graphically depict the brutal conditions women faced in that camp and help the viewer to comprehend why fewer than a third of 132,00 women sent there survived. Mme. Rougier's drawings are powerful, first-rate historical documents which were used as evidence in the Hamburg War Trials.
What Mme. Rougier did in her drawings, another French Resistance fighter, Charlotte Delbo, achieved in the plays she wrote based on notes she took while in Auschwitz and Ravensbruck. One of these plays, Who Will Carry the Word, has been translated into English and has an all woman cast.