Exploring the significance of Greek Jewish women’s hair and clothing during their imprisonment in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)

Abstract

During the intake process, women were stripped of their clothing and all their hair was shaved off. This thesis examines the significance of hair and clothing during and beyond the confines of the intake process in order to make three main contributions to the wider literature. Firstly, while the intake process is often seen as an act of dehumanisation, this thesis signals that survivors discussed their experience of the intake process and the camp experience as a whole around a broad range of themes including beauty, femininity, uncleanliness, and parasites. Secondly, through exploring sexual assault, sexual relations, and sexual barter, recent literature has tended to view their female body primarily through its reproductive nature. This thesis explores the gendered embodied experience through aspects of the non-reproductive body, in particular the hair on women’s heads and the clothing they adapted and wore. Here the thesis makes a third contribution by providing an insight into physical bodily management as women used their clothing to protect their body in, and from, the Auschwitz environment. Analysing the testimonies of Greek Jewish women, an often overlooked, underrepresented, and unique group of survivors, this thesis asks the following questions: what was the significance of hair and clothing to women prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and how did their lived bodily experience change throughout the camp experience?
Date of Award3 Oct 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorTim Cole (Supervisor) & Hannah Charnock (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Holocaust
  • Greece
  • Gender
  • women
  • Dehumanisation
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau
  • Hair
  • Clothing

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