Navigating the multi-layered identities of the Aufseherinnen : female camp guards during and after the Holocaust.
The profiles, training, and roles of Aufseherinnen portray women acting out a femininity which both contradicted and fulfilled Nazi ideals of womanhood. Additionally, they account for the two layers of reality—both ought and is—so common to the Nazi system. The individual narratives of former victims develop the picture of an Aufseherin more fully by depicting the overall "object-identity" of the female camp staff—that is, their identity as experienced by the inmates—and the overall role of femaleness in the Lager. Interestingly, narratives usually portray their guards as humans (is) instead of monsters (ought). This human status was, however, contradicted by the understanding of the female defendants throughout the war crimes trials. Trial transcripts and media coverage of the Belsen Trial reveal a lack of understanding of the role of women in the camp system, as well as a general influence of gender stereotyping on the incongruent verdicts and sentencing of female defendants. The identities of the Aufseherinnen were therefore experienced as strikingly different from those of male perpetrators.