Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 December 2008
Zygmunt Bauman's book, Modernity and the Holocaust, argues that the Holocaust was not an aberration from modernity, but rather the most extreme symptom of a distinctively modern pathology. Women are conspicuously absent from this indictment of modernity; Bauman, a socilogist, mentions neither gender as an issue nor women as individuals. This gap in Bauman's text is in fact full of meaning, for the absence of women as persons does not preclude the hidden presence of gender as a category of analysis. I shall use the absence and presence of gender in Bauman's text as a starting point for an examination of the historiography of women and gender and its relevance for our understanding of the Holocaust. First, I will tease out the hidden, gendered implications of Bauman's theory; second, I will look at the ways in which recent feminist scholarship has approached the question of women's responsibility for the Holocaust. Finally, I shall suggest that a consideration of the cultural construction of gender, as explored by recent scholarship in many fields, is necessary to our understanding of the historical and ethical concerns that Bauman and others have raised.
2. “German” is placed in quotation marks because it denotes the category defined by the National Socialists, who placed Jewish and other women of minority groups outside the national community. Of course, many of the women so excluded were, in fact, German citizens.
4. Bauman, Modernity, 153.
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50. Von Saldern, “Victims or Perpetrators?”
51. Bergen, Twisted Cross.
52. I thank Kenneth Barkin for suggesting this question.
53. Rupp, Mobilizing Women for War.