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Gisella Perl's memoir is the extraordinarily candid account of women's extreme efforts to survive Auschwitz. With writing as powerful as that of Charlotte Delbo and Ruth Kluger, her story individualizes and therefore humanizes a victim of mass dehumanization. Perl accomplished this by representing her life before imprisonment, in Auschwitz and other camps, and in the struggle to remake her life. It is also the first memoir by a woman Holocaust survivor and establishes the model for understanding the gendered Nazi policies and practices targeting Jewish women as racially poisonous. Perl's memoir is also significant for its inclusion of the Nazis' Roma victims as well as in-depth representations of Nazi women guards and other personnel. Unlike many important Holocaust memoirs, Perl's writing is both graphic in its horrific detail and eloquent in its emotional responses. One of the memoir's major historical contributions is Perl's account of being forced to work alongside Dr. Josef Mengele in his infamous so-called clinic and using her position to save the lives of other women prisoners. These efforts including infanticide and abortion, topics that would remain silenced for decades and, unfortunately, continue to be marginalized from all too many Holocaust accounts. After decades out of print, this new edition will ensure the crucial place of Perl's testimony on Holocaust memory and education.
About the Author
Phyllis Lassner is professor emerita in the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies at Northwestern University. Her most recent book is Espionage and Exile: Fascism and Anti-Fascism in British Spy Fiction and Film. Danny M. Cohen is associate professor of instruction at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy and the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies.