|In the transition period between the living memory of the Holocaust and its history, it is time to forge the tools for its historical study. Here is a pioneer work that does this, by Judith Buber Agassi, a compassionate historian, sociologist, and political scientist. Her study uses a surprising number of preserved camp documents as well as registrations and interviews carried out immediately after the war, the many outstanding and moving autobiographies of Jewish women survivors, as well as dozens of interviews that she held with survivors. Her book centers on one episode of the Holocaust, the history of Ravensbrück, the only Nazi concentration-camp for women only (where her mother was incarcerated for five long years). It turns out to be very significant and informative. As the character of the war against the Jews altered so did the camp, and Dr. Buber Agassi describes five different periods of the 6 years of the existence of this hell on earth, where the Jewish prisoners constituted a minority group at the bottom of a hierarchy of tormented prisoners. This is a broad survey of diverse aspects of the horror, including also attempts at clandestine social organization and of the interpersonal relations among Jewish prisoners and between them and other prisoners. Among these women and girls, she shows, as larger scale social organization had become impossible, there was a great number of tightly knit small groups or “camp families” that somewhat increased the chance of survival of its members and – most important – helped them “not to lose their human face”.
Vittorio Dan Segre,
Haifa University and l'Università della Svizzera Italiana a Lugano.