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International Women’s Day 2015: Honoring Stories of Courage and Leadership During the Holocaust

On March 8, 2015, thousands of people will gather globally in honor of International Women's Day. Each year, events range from a celebration of respect and appreciation for women, to recognition of their economic, political, and social achievements. This years’ theme, "Make it Happen," acknowledges that there is still a great deal of progress to be made in these areas and calls for movement towards greater equality.

As International Women’s Day approaches, Echoes and Reflections supports educators in utilizing the voices of history to inspire action today by highlighting the powerful role of women in the Holocaust and featuring their stories of persistence, rebellion, and fearlessness.

Emanuel Ringelblum, an historian who documented the Warsaw ghetto, is quoted in an online exhibition called “Spots of Light,” a resource developed by Echoes and Reflections Partner Yad Vashem: “The future historian will have to dedicate an appropriate page to the Jewish woman in the war. She will take up an important page in Jewish history for her courage and steadfastness. By her merit, thousands of families have managed to surmount the terror of the times.”

On the Echoes and Reflections Lessons Components page the strength of women and their acts of bravery is centrally featured. Here are a few inspirational examples:

 

Ellen Brandt speaks of her activism and protesting in Nazi GermanyEllen Brandt, a Holocaust survivor from Berlin, as a young woman in Nazi Germany took to the streets with her friends to protest the government’s violation of their rights. In Lesson 3: Nazi Germany, she talks about how together they defied their prejudiced context and publicly marched despite the grave risk in doing so.

 

 

Helen Fagin speaks about founding a school for Jewish girls who were denied access to education in Nazi GermanyHelen Fagin in Lesson 6: Jewish Resistance tells about her work to establish an underground school for girls when Jewish students were denied the right to attend. By inspiring her students to dream she was able to provide a refuge from the horrors of the world around them.

 

 

 

Mira Shelub discusses her participation as a partisan fighting against the NazisAs an active member of the partisans, Mira Shelub in Lesson 6: Jewish Resistance describes her acts of sabotage. In blowing up a train and attacking police stations, she and her comrades disrupted transportation and communication at the Nazi front.

 

 

Examples of women in the Holocaust taking on strong leadership roles, standing up for their rights, and risking everything to protect their families in the face of grave challenges are innumerable. In an educational unit from Yad Vashem on women in the Holocaust entitled, “Everyday Heroines,” author and editor Yehudit Inbar writes, “Women in the Holocaust applied their minds to a place that deprived them of their minds; brought strength to a place where they had no strength. And in a place where they and their families had no right to live, they marched all the way to death and infused every additional moment of life with meaning. It is these women’s voices that we wish to sound and whose stories to tell.”

At Echoes and Reflections, we express our deepest gratitude and respect for the incredible acts of bravery of all women in history. Follow International Women’s Day on March 8, 2015 and use your voice in social media with #MakeItHappen, #womensday, and #IWD2015.

Let us know how you acknowledge International Women’s Day in your classrooms and how these resources support your efforts at info@echoesandreflections.org.