"The Shawl'' was first published in the New Yorker in 1980. The story was reprinted in Cynthia Ozick's 1989 collection, The Shawl, where it was paired with "Rosa," a story that picks up the tale of the same characters some thirty years later. "The Shawl" is about the Holocaust, the systematic slaughter of some six million Jews, as well as at least that many gypsies, homosexuals, and other "undesirables" by the Nazis during World War H. Although Ozick was born and raised in the United States, she is well-versed in Jewish history and tradition, and her story quickly became one of the best-known stories about the Nazi death camps. "The Shawl" is particularly admired for its compactness. In only two thousand words, Ozick manages to evoke the horror of the Holocaust for her readers. The story touches on many themes, including survival, motherhood, nurture, prejudice, and betrayal.
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