“When I resisted him, I didn’t know what he’s going to do to me”: Jewish resistance to sexualized violence in Nazi forced labour, concentration, and death camps




Van Der Meer, Kästle

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Despite the recent rise in research concerning sexualized violence in the Holocaust, virtually no studies exist concerning the ways in which those who experienced sexualized violence in Nazi camps resisted such abuse. That so little has been written about this topic means that many questions are left unanswered: Who resisted such violence? How did they do so? What factors impacted one’s ability to resist? What punishments did prisoners experience if they resisted a camp authority figure? In an attempt to answer some of these questions, this study looks at Jewish experiences of sexualized violence by Nazis in forced labour camps, concentration camps, and death camps and investigates how such violence was resisted. An analysis of survivor testimony shows that sexualized violence was resisted vigorously and in a variety of ways, the result of prisoners utilizing both their agency and luck. This study demonstrates that resistance did not always end in death; it was possible to resist sexualized violence and survive. This is critical, because in the face of genocide, survival was the ultimate act of defiance. Indeed, survivors’ own testimonies seem to suggest that those who resisted often went unpunished for resisting, even while perpetrators themselves faced consequences. Yet, even if attempts at resistance were unsuccessful or resulted in one’s death, they challenged the power structure that the camp system relied on, exemplifying the importance of individual resistance in the survival strategies of prisoners.



Holocaust, Sexualized violence, Gender, Survivor testimony