Beyond the Camps and Forced Labour

  • Helena Duffy (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Motherhood After the Holocaust: A Comparative Study of Soazig Aaron’s Le Non de Klara and Cynthia Ozick’s Short Stories The Shawl and Rosa

Despite the veneration of the figure of the mother in the Jewish tradition and the Nazis’ programmatic assault on Jewish mothers, the theme of motherhood has been relatively rarely engaged by Holocaust fiction, or indeed theorised. Amongst the literary texts taking up this subject are Cynthia Ozick’s short stories, The Shawl and Rosa, and Soazig Aaron’s more recent novel, Le Non de Klara; written by women, these works focus on female survivors’ trauma, including their problematic relationship with motherhood. While Rosa Lublin cannot come to terms with her daughter’s death in the camp and imagines that Magda is alive and thriving in America, Klara Adler’s eponymous denial pertains chiefly to her inability to resume her duties as a mother. In Klara’s case, the protagonist’s stance is shown to be as a direct consequence of her having witnessed the slaughter of Jewish babies in Auschwitz and the inexplicable death of the boy she briefly fostered in the camp. The aim of the paper is to compare and contrast the two protagonists’ responses to motherhood in post–Shoah reality, and to draw some conclusions regarding the irreparable emotional damage suffered by female Holocaust survivors, especially in relation to their traditional role as child bearers. My analysis will be framed by theoretical writings that deal with motherhood in the context of the Holocaust, and in particular with the binary perception of the female victim as heroic (the mother who dies to save her child or dies with her child) or monstrous (the mother who sacrifices her child to survive). Thus framed, the literary works under analysis only corroborate the view that normative notions of motherhood do not apply to the choices made by women under persecution.
Period10 Jan 201812 Jan 2018
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map


  • Holocaust
  • motherhood