CAGR Conference Summary - Heroines of the Holocaust: New Frameworks of Resistance (June 2022)

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 5:00pm


“Heroines of the Holocaust: New Frameworks of Resistance”

Organized by the Wagner College Holocaust Center

Cosponsored by the USC Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research

June 14-16, 2022

Summary by Laura Morowitz (Wagner College)

The Wagner College Holocaust Center was so proud to present our groundbreaking symposium, "Heroines of the Holocaust: New Frameworks of Resistance." On June 14-16, 2022, we brought together 50 scholars in person and on Zoom, from seven different countries, to explore and establish a new narrative around female resistance and rescue during the Shoah and other genocides. Scholars, educators, artists and first and second-generation survivors shared their research and experience of the courage, fortitude, and strategies of women who fought back in every manner possible. Throughout the symposium, leading senior scholars in the field alternated presentations with graduate students pioneering new approaches to the study of the Holocaust and female agency.

As co-organizer Laura Morowitz, with co-organizer and director of the Wagner College Holocaust Center, Lori Weintrob, noted in her opening remarks, “…women used every means available to resist and to rescue, from open defiance to subterfuge, as medical personnel, as teachers, as partisans, as couriers, as underground leaders, as bombers, as lawyers, as diplomats, as smugglers, as ordinary housewives, as letter writers, as students, as gun toting badasses. They plotted their resistance deep in the woods or at kitchen tables. Their acts of bravery were sometimes years in the making, and sometimes spontaneous, decided in the flicker of a second. They fought and they sacrificed their lives to save thousands, or sometimes to save a single newborn baby.”

The symposium kicked off with a screening of the award-winning film "Who Will Write Our History" (2018), on the Emanuel Ringelblum archive, followed by a Q&A with director Roberta Grossman. Wednesday morning opened with a roundtable devoted to “A New Canon of Heroines.” Panels focused on “Female Solidarity” and “Public and Private Identities.” On Wednesday afternoon, participants ferried into New York City for a behind-the-scenes visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage, followed by dinner in Manhattan. Back on the Wagner College campus, directors Martha Lubell and Barbara Attie answered questions and reflected on their film, "Daring to Resist: Three Women Face the Holocaust," made over two decades ago, before the topic of female resistance had received wide coverage. 

Thursdays panels included topics such as “Medical and Legal Rescuers,” “Female Resistance Leaders,” “Women in Genocide,” “In the Lion’s Den,” “Women in the Camps,” and “Women in the Partisans.” An educator’s workshop was facilitated by Echoes and Reflections and the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. Keynote speaker Judy Batalion, best-selling author of The Light of Days, answered questions about her work and inspiration. Dr. Bernard Schanzer and Henry Schanzer, Esq., rescued as eight year olds in the south of France by two courageous women, told their story and paid homage to these righteous among nations during our luncheon. The roundtables concluded with one dedicated to forms of resistance: spiritual, cultural, psychological, and armed.

The final event of the symposium was a cocktail hour, with remarks by Consul Anton Klix of the New York branch of the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany. Artist Linda Stein spoke to us about the inspiration for her tapestries "Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females," seven of which were on display in our Union Gallery. Jay Saper and Corbin Allardice, Yiddish translators and poets, read some of the harrowing poetry of Lithiuanian Holocaust survivor and partisan Rikle Glezer. The symposium came to a moving end as three talented Wagner College students gave a beautiful rendition of "The Partisan Song (Zog nit keynmol)" and the "Female Partisan song (Shtil di Nacht)," both written by Hirsh Glik, murdered by the Nazis at the age of 22.

“An important outcome of the symposium,” said Lori Weintrob, co-organizer and director of the Wagner College Holocaust Center, “is the effort to advance the goals of Holocaust education and its ongoing relevance to human rights struggles.” The symposium was made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany; the USC Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research; the Foundation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah; and the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College; along with individual sponsors Stephen Greenwald, Bernard and Henry Schanzer, and Fern Zagor.

Additional supporters and information in individual participants and panels can be found on our website:

Martha Stroud