Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
History and American Studies
Department Chair or Program Director
Dr. Claudine Ferrell
Dr. Steve Harris
Major or Concentration
To date, Holocaust historians have often grappled with documenting life and death in the Nazi concentration camps for pregnant women. As a result of limited source material, historians have struggled to incorporate the narratives of pregnant women into the historiography and tend to group topics surrounding pregnancy into larger works on gender in the Holocaust. This approach has created a gap in the historiography on reproductive health and female bodies in the Holocaust. In this paper, I will examine the narratives of Holocaust survivors, including the testimonies from pregnant women and doctors, as well as the photographs and drawings from inmates who witnessed the murder of pregnant women and children. My paper will answer the following question: how did pregnancy, abortion, and childbirth influence the experience of pregnant women in the Nazi concentration camps? I will argue that while pregnancy increased the risk of experimentation and extermination for women, the bodies of pregnant women within the camp system experienced a physical deterioration which concealed the pregnancies of many women during subsequent selections and led to an increase in abortions performed by inmates in secret and infanticides after childbirth. To answer my research question, I will focus on the following camps: Theresienstadt, Ravensbruck, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. These camps will showcase the ways in which hybrid, work, and death camps influenced the experiences of pregnant women. Beyond its focus on pregnant women, this study can help historians better understand how a particular demographic could have different experiences depending on the type of camp they were imprisoned in.
Corkran, Grace, "Between Life and Death: Pregnancy, Abortion, and Childbirth in the Nazi Concentration Camps" (2021). Student Research Submissions. 394.