By Lani Lederer Berman
Szydlowiec, Poland, Jewish women and children living in a ghetto yard. Yad Vashem Photo Archive
On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, The Eden Center wishes to salute the courage and heroism of women during the Shoah, when Jewish existence was threatened both physically and spiritually. Though this blog is not an exhaustive examination of the topic, it is meant to join the conversation in an attempt to pay respect to those who endured the suffering and thereby fought for the physical and spiritual survival of our nation.
The story of the 93 young women, all students of Sarah Schenirer, who took their own lives rather than be subject to rape at the hands of the Nazis is well known:
“We are girls between 14 and 22 years of age…Yesterday and the day before we were given warm water to wash and we were told that German soldiers would visit us this evening. Yesterday we all swore to die. Today we were all taken out to a large apartment with four well-lit rooms and beautiful beds. The Germans don’t know that this bath is our purification bath before death…”1a
Over the years, this story has been both sensationalized and discredited as historically inaccurate by many scholars and by institutions such as Yad Vashem. Judith Baumel and Rabbi Dr. JJ Schacter, who have studied stories of Jewish martyrdom, conclude that this story is “an archetype, one of the most