What springs to mind at mention of the Holocaust? The mass suffering and oppression of the Jewish people? Displacement? The gas chambers, the ghettos or the concentration camps? So many of these aspects of the Holocaust have been explored by scholars, however in many studies the division of experience along gender lines is often not considered. The suffering and prosecution is discussed as a universal experience, when in fact gender did have a profound impact in how men and women experienced this horrific event, particularly in the concentration camps.
How did the experience in the concentration camps differ between men and women?
A fundamental factor in the difference of experience between men and women is due to the biological makeup of the sexes. Men and women are built differently; as a result men did not suffer the consequences that women did in regards to pregnancy and menstruation.
Pregnancy was an automatic pre curser for death for women. In the initial selection a pregnant women was sent directly to the gas chambers.  There was minimal interaction between the sexes in the camp and so there are few instances of pregnancy occurring while in incarnated in the camps. However, in cases where this did occur the women were beaten or mauled by dogs and later thrown in the crematorium alive.  Additionally, the women who fell pregnant, in fear for their own lives, underwent abortions as late as five months into the pregnancy.  While the child was successfully aborted, in many cases the mothers themselves did not survive.
“To the left [to the gas chambers]: women with children, pregnant women, older women.” 
Menstruation caused two main concerns for women: excessive bleeding or amenorrhea. Holocaust testimonies reveal that women ceased to have their period within a few weeks of incarceration in the camps. This was cause by severe malnutrition and in some camps by a chemical mixed with the food called Bromide.  The cessation of menstruation was a psychological assault on women. Additionally excessive bleeding was a problem. Women were not provided with sanitary products. Elisabeth De Jong recalls the intense humiliation women felt in having the blood streak uncontrollably down their legs.  Often the presence of bloodstains on the tunic had worse consequences. Stains were against the aesthetics of the camps and women who were found to have bloodstains on their tunics were gassed. 
“It was embarrassing, you saw but you tried to pretend you didn’t” 
The sexuality of men and women additionally altered their experience of the camps from one another. In particular sexual humiliation and rape are two main aspects of the differentiation of experience.
The women testimonies reveal a more acute sense of humiliation in the initiation into the camps. Upon arrival those who were chosen to remain in forced labour, both men and women, were stripped naked, shaved and showered before being send to roll call. The women were forced to strip naked in front of SS men, their entire bodies were shaven by men and the sadistic SS guards would come watch them shower and degrade them.  For many it was the first time they had been seen naked in front of a male and to be met with this kind of humiliation crippled the women’s sense of sexual identity and self-respect. Of course the men suffered humiliation in this way, for the traditional Jewish men having their beards and curl shaven was also humiliating. However from the female testimonies this process is focused on and described as more intensely humiliating for their female sensitiveness, whereas the male testimonies do not appear to dwell on this process and describe it only in passing as a fact of initiation.
“Shortly after our arrival and the deadly “selection”… we were ordered to undress… they stripped us of our clothing and shaved off all our hair. We felt humiliated and degraded by being forced to stand naked in front of all those SS men and women. Our feminine sensitivities were callously trampled on.”  Judy Cohen
“When the selection was over we were stood to the side. We stood there naked, wondering what they were going to with to us.”  David Leitner
Additionally women were more subjected to rape and sexual assault than males. Rape was relatively rare in camps because of the separation of the sexes, The Aryan Blood Honor Law and the fact that the guards degraded the Jews to such a point that they were not even considered human let alone sexual objects.  However rape exists in the testimonies and as a part of the sexual experience within camps. Of course rape is not absent from male testimonies, but it is quite rare. One story emerged of a 15-year-old boy being raped by another male prisoner, or of male homosexuals becoming concubines to the Kapos.  Of course rape is more common within female testimonies, proving women where more venerable to rape in the camps then males.
“Five soldiers held her down and took turns raping and sodomizing her. They spilled alcohol on her. They laughed. They said they’d kill her. She didn’t yet have breasts for the dog to attack.” 
Male and female experience can be distinguished in a number of ways, among those is biological and sexual distinctions which provided for different experiences, or displayed females to be more venerable to an experience than males because of their gender. Gender impacts and changes the experiences of men and women in day-to-day life. It is important to recognise the differences in how the sexes experience events in order to recognise their unique histories, learn from them and apply them to future events.
 Marlene Heinemann, Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1986), p.19.
 Gisella Perl, Child Birth in Camp C” in Women and the Holocaust, ed Ritter & Roth, p.113.
 Judy Cohen, “Personal Reflections”. www.theverylongview.com
 Jackson, “The Coming of Age” in Women and the Holocaust, eds Rittter & Roth, p. 80.
 Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and the Nazi Politics (London: Jonathan Cape, 1987), p. 406.
 Ibid, p. 404.
 Judith Jaregerman “Personal Reflections” www.theverylongview.com
 Heinemann, Gender and Destiny, p. 139.
 Judy Cohen. “Personal Reflections – in camps” http://www.theverylongview.com
 David Leitner, “Holocaust Survivor: David Leitner” http://judaism.about.com/library/2_holocaust/testimonies/bl_leitner.htm
 Heinemann, Gender and Destiny, p. 15.
 Zoe Waxman, Writing the Holocaust: Identity Testimony, Representation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006) p. 89.
 Jessica Ravitz, “Silence Lifted: The Untold Stories of Rape During the Holocaust”, CNN World, Junes 24 2011, http://articles.cnn.com/2011-06-24/world/holocaust.rape_1_holocaust-history-sexual-violence-survivors?_s=PM:WORLD