It seems quite reasonable to wonder if there’s anything more to learn about the Holocaust. Scholars from a variety of disciplines have been researching...

It seems quite reasonable to wonder if there’s anything more to learn about the Holocaust. Scholars from a variety of disciplines have been researching and writing about the subject for decades. A simple search for “Holocaust” on Amazon turns up a stunning 27,642 results. How can there still be uncovered terrain?

Wendy Lower shows it is in fact possible to say new things about the Holocaust (to be fair, she’s following a handful of other scholars who have focused on gender and the Holocaust). Her questions are simple. What did the approximately 500,000 women who went East to live and work in the territories occupied by the German armies know about the killing of Jews (and other categories of victims)? To what degree did they participate in the killing? How did this experience affect them after the war?

Her answers are disturbing, to say the least. For Lower uncovers ample evidence that women both witnessed and participated in the so-called “Holocaust by Bullets” in Eastern Europe. The patterns of participation varied, as did their acknowledgement of their actions. But the evidence is undeniable that women played a significant role in facilitating the Final Solution.

Lower, along with people writing about Rwanda, about the frontiers of Australia and the United States, and a variety of other moments in time and space, illustrates our need to pay more attention to women and to gender in our study of mass violence. Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), is an admirable contribution to the discussion, well-researched, well-written and emotionally compelling. I can’t think of a better place to start in examining these issues.

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