Sadly, Hedgepth and Saidel may be asking too much of their readers: three hundred pages chronicling the literal and metaphorical rapes of women (who were often subsequently murdered) is a visceral discomfort few will be willing to undertake. But these essays, describing experiences of forced sex, "sex for survival," prostitution, sterilization, abortion, and general sexual humiliation, add greatly to what is known about the lives of Jewish women during WWII. Much of the content here is a philosophical extension of first-person accounts of sexual torture. One essay on victim psychology demonstrates how trauma can render the first-person unreliable. Several essays deal with WWII sexual violence as depicted in fiction and film. Taken together, these essays illustrate how this subject is discussed, or not, across the globe. The fact that this exhaustive volume represents the first set of essays on the subject written in English underpins a fundamental truth held by the editors: while English-speaking countries are comfortable discussing these horrors, the fates specific to the murdered women and survivors of sexual assault are considered by many to be too shameful for discourse.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Saidel and Hedgepeth knew rape was not documented in the same way as the number of trains that traveled to a concentration camp, but they sought out scholars from seven countries and collected 16 essays, drawing upon oral histories, literature, psychoanalysis, eyewitness reports and diaries. The stories of rape and sexual abuse began to emerge as if they were old photographic film waiting for the right chemicals, and long-erased pictures of Jewish women who had suffered sexual abuse began to emerge.”―Cindy Cooper, Women’s E-News
“This revelatory anthology would be crucial as long-overdue truth even if it were unique, but the suppression of its truth probably left us even less prepared for sexual abuse in Bosnia, Rwanda, the Congo―and more. Rochelle and Sonja have given us the greatest gift: a truth of history that can keep us from repeating its suffering.”―Gloria Steinem, reported in The Forward
“Saidel and Hedgepeth demonstrate that there is ample documentation of the most vicious sexual abuse in the heart of ‘civilized’ Europe during the Holocaust. In their excellent collection, they go far in shining a spotlight on this fraught topic.”―Women’s Review of Books
"The subject of sexual brutality against women in the Holocaust has been pretty much neglected; this book is a vital addition to women's history, Jewish history and the history of the world."―Na’amat Woman