Holocaust Mothers and Daughters: Family, History, and Trauma

Federica K. Clementi

Cover of "Holocaust Mothers and Daughters."An astonishing analysis of Jewish mother-daughter relations before, during and after the Shoah as described in daughters’ memoirs.

In this brave and original work, Federica Clementi focuses on the mother-daughter bond as depicted in six works by women who experienced the Holocaust, sometimes with their mothers, sometimes not. The daughters’ memoirs, which record the “all-too-human” qualities of those who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis, show that the Holocaust cannot be used to neatly segregate lives into the categories of before and after. Her discussions of differences in social status, along with the persistence of antisemitism and patriarchal structures, support this point strongly, demonstrating the tenacity of trauma—individual, familial and collective—among Jews in 20th-century Europe.

“Do daughters feel differently about their mothers in situations of extremity such as war or genocide? In this illuminating study of six autobiographical works by Jewish Holocaust victims or survivors, F.K. Clementi shows that their mother/daughter plots follow some of the same complex, ambivalent, contradictory and ultimately devastating trajectories characterizing ordinary times. Yet in giving space and close attention to the intimate stories of women, 'Holocaust Mothers and Daughters' discovers unexpected aspects of creativity and survival in times of catastrophe.” —Marianne Hirsch, Columbia University

“After reading [this book], it is impossible to think about Jewish Holocaust experiences without paying attention to gender, specifically family ties, the centrality of mothers and the distinct dynamics of mother-daughter bonds that shaped these writers’ — and presumably other women’s — existences during the war and thereafter.” —Alexandra Garbarini, Williams College

About the Author

Federica K. Clementi is assistant professor of Jewish Studies at the University of South Carolina.