Women, Theater, and the Holocaust Resource Handbook, 5th Edition

Theater has the power to make history more alive for viewers, whether it is strictly factual or evokes the spirit of what actually transpired. This resource handbook, with plays by and about women that were written and presented from the time of the Holocaust until today, helps us to better understand the experiences that women suffered as women.

First published in 2015, the newly interactive fifth edition is available as a free PDF. Following an introduction by Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel, Section 1 is an annotated bibliography with three parts: Part 1 lists plays about women and the Holocaust; Part 2 lists plays about the Holocaust by women; and Part 3 lists books about women, theater, and the Holocaust. The listings have numerous additional and updated entries from the past four years. 

Section 2 of this resource handbook offers nine personal essays, three of which are new, describing the creation and staging of theatrical works about women and the Holocaust. In alphabetical order, the essays are written by: Dr. Meghan Brodie, Cynthia L. Cooper, Dr. Patrick Henry, Dr. Velina Hasu Houston, Susan B. Katz, Naomi Patz, Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel, and Dr. Alice Shalvi. 

  1. Dr. Meghan Brodie, Assistant Professor of Theater, Ursinus College, describes her experience working with her students at the University of Southern Maine on In the Underworld, a play about Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp translated from camp political prisoner Germaine Tillion’s Le Verfügbar aux Enfers.
  2. In her second essay, Dr. Meghan Brodie comments on industry-wide conversations about who should be cast in what roles across theater, film, and television.
  3. Cynthia L. Cooper details how she became engaged with the story of Gisa Peiper, a young Jewish member of the resistance in Hamburg, and how she carried out research on site in Hamburg and elsewhere to create her play, Silence Not, A Love Story.
  4. Dr. Patrick Henry tells us about the play he wrote based on political prisoner Charlotte Delbo’s Auschwitz and After.
  5. Dr. Velina Hasu Houston, Distinguished Professor of Theatre, University of Southern California, shares how her Japanese upbringing intersects with World War II history, particularly Jewish and Japanese relations in Kobe, Japan, the city in which Dr. Houston’s parents met.
  6. Susan B. Katz describes writing her play Courage Untold, about the women who took part in the October 1944 prisoners’ uprising in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  7. Naomi Patz discusses how she reconstructed and reimagined her version of The Last Cyclist from a cabaret originally penned in the Terezín Ghetto in 1944.
  8. Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel writes a tribute to Nava Semel and her work.
  9. Dr. Alice Shalvi, an Israel Prize awardee for Lifetime Achievement, writes about the initiation and implementation of Refidim Junction, a musical theater piece that originated with the discovery of letters written by her mother in 1930s Germany.

Section 3 offers teachers an outline frame, created by Karen Shulman, educational consultant for Remember the Women Institute, for a study plan that uses theater to teach about women in the Holocaust.

Our resource handbook project also cooperates with two projects that deal with the Holocaust and theater in general: the Holocaust Theater Catalog of the National Jewish Theater Foundation in the United States and All About Jewish Theatre, a virtual encyclopedia in Israel.

Remember the Women Institute is grateful to everyone who has contributed to this resource handbook, especially Patti Askwith Kenner, the Indian Trail Charitable Foundation, and the Five Millers Family Foundation for providing funding for the handbook’s publication. We also thank Dr. Meghan Brodie and Cynthia L. Cooper, our Women, Theater, and the Holocaust project colleagues; for generously sharing with us their time, talent, and love of meaningful theater for eight years.

We welcome reader recommendations for additions to the bibliographies, as well as other essays and lesson plans about women, theater, and the Holocaust. Suggestions can be sent to [email protected].