Periods are a fact of life, but little talked about. How did women in the concentration camps cope with the private being made public in the most dire and extreme circumstances? Menstruation is rarely a topic that comes to mind when we think about the Holocaust and has been largely avoided as an area of historical research. Oral testimonies and memoirs show that women felt ashamed discussing menstruation during their time in the concentration camps, but, at the same time, they kept bringing the subject up, overcoming the stigma that is attached to them. Typically, menstruation has been seen as a medical problem to be overcome rather than as a natural occurrence and a part of life.
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In , Marie Jalowicz, a Jewish girl hiding in Berlin, watched as a barkeep sold her for 15 marks to a man mysteriously nicknamed "the rubber director. The barkeep pulled Marie aside before she left with the man. Her fabricated backstory was simple; she just couldn't bear to live with her in-laws anymore. But, the barkeep added, her new patron was also "a Nazi whose fanaticism bordered on derangement. The "rubber director" earned his nickname from his wobbly gait, and Marie once heard that people in the late stages of syphilis "walked as if their legs were made of rubber, and they could no longer articulate properly. And she was to sleep with this man, just to have a place to hide. They arrived at his apartment, and the man showed off his wall-to-wall collection of aquarium tanks.
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The war-time Ukraine could serve as a focus and lens through which questions of sexual victimization and sexual agency of Jewish women during the Shoah could be studied. Sexual assault occurred in different locations, including Jewish homes, streets, and prisons, killing sites, and hiding places. In hundreds of ghettos and camps e. Sexual violence during the Holocaust in Ukraine, like everywhere in Nazi-dominated Europe, was gendered first of all in terms of sexes of the perpetrators and the victims.
The Nazi regime targeted all Jews, both men and women, for persecution and eventually death. The regime frequently subjected women, however, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to brutal persecution that was sometimes unique to the gender of the victims. Nazi ideology also targeted Roma Gypsy women, Polish women, and women with disabilities living in institutions.