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War, Gender, and Lasting Emotion: Letters and Photographs of Masha Bruskina and Olga Bancic, 1941-44

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2/01/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Women's History Review
Issue number1
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)36-61
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date27/06/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


On 21 October 1941, seventeen-year-old Masha Bruskina was hanged in Minsk, a fate thinly veiled in a note smuggled out of prison to her mother in the ghetto. Bessarabian Jew Olga Bancic addressed her last letter to her daughter, Dolores, the day before she was decapitated in Stuttgart in May 1944. Caught at a fleeting juncture between life and death, these letters became memento mori and now appear on websites that do neither mention their origins and trajectories nor the role played by intermediaries, motivated by humanism, political allegiance, and economic gain. Also disregarded is the fact that Bruskina's letter shared the fate of her mother, who was murdered two weeks after her daughter. While the decontextualised use of the letters, often accompanied by photographs, elicits an emotional response, this article will show that it also extends the violence inflicted on these women. By tracing the journeys of these letters and photographs my investigation will reveal affective and micro-economic relationships that individualise these Holocaust victims. Even if their executions illustrate Foucault's ‘economies of punishment’, the material culture that speaks for them merges affect with activism, foregrounding a means to resist that has been ignored or misappropriated.