New Data on Women and the Holocaust

In the twisted collective Nazi consciousness, the old saying “women and children first” was a death sentence rather than a reprieve, says Joan Ringelheim. Dr. Ringelheim, a philosopher, is writing a book about Jewish women as victims of the Nazis.

“It appears to me that more women were killed than men,” said Dr. Ringelheim, who is director of the Women and the Holocaust Project of New York City’s Institute for Research in History.

Women were especially endangered, said Dr. Ringelheim, because they were less likely to be seen as useful as workers for the Nazi war effort. They were seen simply as the vessel for a new generation of unwanted people.

Dr. Ringelheim observed that in the Polish ghetto of Lodz, 62 percent of those deported to a death camp were women, yet statistically women made up about 57 percent of the overall population.

In post-war displaced persons camps, said Dr. Ringelheim, 56 to 57 percent of the Jewish residents were men.

The Lodz ghetto is yet one example of a number of ghettos, for which Dr. Ringelheim has collected data to date. “These findings represent a significant pattern,” she states.

Dr. Ringelheim theorizes that the Jewish Councils — the Nazi approved male leadership in the ghettos — were aware that, in order to save Jews, they “had to save people the Nazis would be willing to keep alive.” That meant ablebodied men — not women.