Beginning in late 1940, over three thousand Jewish girls and young women were forced from their family homes in Sosnowiec, Poland, and its surrounding towns to worksites in Germany. Believing that they were helping their families to survive, these young people were thrust into a world where they labored at textile work for twelve hours a day, lived in barracks with little food, and received only periodic news of events back home. By late 1943, their barracks had been transformed into concentration camps, where they were held until liberation in 1945.
Using a fresh approach to testimony collections, Janine P. Holc reconstructs the forced labor experiences of young Jewish females, as told by the women who survived and shared their testimony. Incorporating new source material, the book carefully constructs survivors’ stories while also taking a theoretical approach, one alert to socially constructed, intersectional systems of exploitation and harm. The Weavers of Trautenau elucidates the limits and possibilities of social relations inside camps and the challenges of moral and emotional repair in the face of indescribable loss during the Holocaust.
Janine Holc’s compelling Weavers of Trautenau makes a threefold contribution to Holocaust scholarship. It illuminates the scarcely-studied subject of factory camps for the “coerced labor” of Jewish women, displays a nuanced and sophisticated use of the post-war testimonies of 125 survivors as Holc’s key source
of historical evidence, and plots the evolution of the exploitation of female Jewish
labor in the Trautenau-region camps from the relatively lax supervision of local
factory employees under the distant oversight of Organization Schmelt to a strict
regime of ‘sexualized violence’ imposed by SS functionaries dispatched from the
notorious Gross-Rosen concentration camp.
—Christopher R. Browning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“This ingeniously constructed book offers uncommonly comprehensive access to the experiences of often very young Jewish women dragged into the Nazi forced and slave labor system. The result is a remarkably sensitive and insightful study.
—Peter Hayes, Northwestern University
There is, in all of Janine Holc’s work, an ethical care that is simply breathtaking. The coerced labor experiences of girls and young women during the Holocaust have remained a woefully understudied topic; in this beautiful book they are at the center. With her technique of juxtaposing diverse perspectives on incidents of extraordinary, wrenching intensity, and her tender, multidimensionally nuanced interpretations, Holc has made the voices of testimony-
givers matter in wholly new ways.
—Dagmar Herzog, City University of New York
Meticulously researched and astutely observed, The Weavers of Trautenau is the first history of the 3,000 Jewish young women and girls detailed to forced labor in the Trautenau region (now in the Czech Republic) during the Holocaust years. Using a panoply of voices, Holc reconstructs their daily lives with great sensitivity. Insights abound as the narrative plumbs the girls’ experiences through an achingly perceptive analysis of their postwar testimonies.
—Debórah Dwork, City University of New York
A startlingly intelligent, beautiful book that explores the nature of forced labor and female survival networks and reveals through radical empathy the hidden story of 3000 Jewish women
in the Schmelt camps.
—Anna Hájková, author of The Last Ghetto: An Everyday History of Theresienstadt
Janine P. Holc is Professor of Political Science at Loyola University Maryland. She has published on gender and democratization in Eastern Europe, anti-Semitism in Poland, and cultural representations of masculinity in Polish film. Her previous book, The Politics of Trauma and Memory Activism, addressed social activism around Holocaust memory in Poland.