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“Victims or Perpetrators?” - An analysis of the role of women in Nazi Germany

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Introduction

Extended Essay in History "Victims or Perpetrators?" - An analysis of the role of women in Nazi Germany Bita Pourmotamed 3848 words Candidate code: MAY 2002 - 0511 038 Abstract The main focus of this essay lies on the much-debated role of women as either "victims" or "perpetrators" in Nazi Germany between the years of 1933 to 1939. During the time Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP (National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) ruled the country, the Nazi party started and continued to consistently emphasize the primacy of motherhood and marriage for a woman, but also altered the role of females according to the needs of the party and the German state. To be able to reach a final assumption to the research question, this essay firstly examines the situation of women in the Nazi state by primarily establishing an idea about their circumstances before Hitler's seizure of power in January 1933 and then continues with a brief description of the Nazi attitude towards the female population of Germany. This essay later proceeds to depicting the roles of women as mothers and views and as an important source of labour. Then by analysing the differences between male and female education and the Nazi organizations of women, the main body of the essay is completed with a historical debate. The conclusion reached in this essay is that due to the fact that the majority of the German women experienced a highly complex and ambiguous relationship with the Nazi regime, they can both be classified as both "victims" and "perpetrators" at the same time. 229 words Table of Contents Introduction..........................................................................................4 Background..........................................................................................5 Nazi Women and their Roles in the 'Private Sphere' of Life..............................6 Women and the Nazi Population Policy........................................................6 Women in the Different Areas of Work........................................................8 Women and Education............................................................................11 The Nazi Organizations of Women.............................................................12 "Victims or Perpetrators?" A Historical Debate about the Role of Women in Nazi Germany.............................................................................................13 Conclusion...........................................................................................14 Bibliography........................................................................................15 Introduction As Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP1 came into power in January 1933, a whole new era began in Germany where women formed a vital part of the Nazi state policy. ...read more.

Middle

after the Wall Street Crash and in June 1933 the dismissal of a married woman in the employment market, lower pay rates for females compared to males and the Marriage Loan became written legislations intending to lower the male unemployment in the country.28 Yet as the historian Tim Mason states, "the campaign against married women who worked was a largely ineffectual and deeply irrelevant exercise in paternalistic and male chauvinist demagoguery"29 and 1935, when a sudden and fast economical revival brought shortages of labour indicating that male workers would not suffice for the Nazi regime's ambitions, women were encouraged to take up employment even in occupational areas that had before only belonged to men. By 1939, four years after Hitler's rearmament plan had taken shape, Germany did not only experienced virtually full-employment, but the "available and willing reserves of female labour had patently been exhausted."30 i) Women as Industrial Workers The female industrial workers that formed approximately half of the workforce in consumer good industries were particularly increasing in textile production in the beginning of the Nazi regime. Yet, as Germany started to recover from the shared worldwide depression and the rearmament plan meant both the manufacturing of steel and building the motorways,31 the number of women employed in the industry, increased from 1.21 million in 1933 to 1.85 million in 1938. In factories, most women worked out of need and were restricted to unskilled or semi-skilled jobs, with usually a salary half of that of as mans. The German Labour Front, a union that had been given the task to assess the factory environment, ensured through the 'Law for Protection of Mothers in Gainful Employment', that pregnant 'Aryan' women's health was safeguarded due to the fact that their primary task was to produce healthy progeny. During wartime, the government tried like never before to attract women into war-related industry and although employment of women rose slightly in this sector, female labour was finally worn out.32 ii) ...read more.

Conclusion

As a final argument she believes that the Nazi organizations of women, which was ruled by women themselves, contributed incredibly to the National Socialistic indoctrination and hence makes women in some areas accomplices to Nazi men. In summery, it can be said that there are many different factors in the behaviour of women in Nazi Germany that enables the classification of both victims and perpetrators. Hence as Saldern suggests, "there are strong arguments in favour of abandoning 'pure types' (...) and instead understanding that in the everyday lives of the German population, ordinary women became complex and contradictory combinations of both victims and perpetrators."54 Conclusion After the description of the different roles of women in the various areas of life in Nazi Germany, it now seems possible to formulate an answer to the research question of whether women were victims or perpetrators in the Nazi regime. Females are naturally seen as victims of the German patriarchal system between 1933 to 1939 firstly because it denied them political and employment rights, secondly since regulated them to the private sphere of home and children and finally since the sterilization process and the lack of a wide scope education had its psychological effects. Nevertheless there were women who collaborated in the crimes of Nazism through indoctrination of their families and the women's organizations. While men had the occasion to commit crimes against all humankind, given their greater role in the public sphere, women were confined to their homes and were perpetrators in the extent that they created stability in the country. Hence it can be concluded that women were neither victims nor perpetrators in the National Socialistic regime of Hitler and the NSDAP but had a very ambiguous role that cannot allow any kind of generalization upon the whole German female gender. It will be left to the current and future historians to continue to debate the matter of female guilt during Hitler and the NSDAP's reign, yet however they argue, the clarification of the role of women will never be simple or uncomplicated. ...read more.

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