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The Nazi Redefinition of Family

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Introduction

The Nazi Redefinition of Family The Nazi regime in Germany sought to influence and control nearly every institution in society. Because of the totalitarian nature of the regime, institutions in the society became infused with Nazi ideals and therefore willing to engage in the pursuit of Nazi goals. The family in Nazi Germany was considered to be "the foundation of the state" (Mosse 34), which was one of the main reasons that consolidating control over its enterprises was considered to be absolutely crucial to the maintenance of the regime. Because the family was seen as "the primordial cell of the Volk" (Pine 8), its structure and health, as well as its conformity to Nazi ideals, were prerequisite to establishing a well-populated, healthy, and subservient nation. The importance of the family in pursuing the goals of the state can also be seen in the area of eugenic reform, which was undertaken with all the intensity of a people striving to become a "master race." In all aspects of society, the Nazi ideal of the health and well-being of the Volk often trivialized or disregarded individual concerns, privacies, and even basic human rights. Before examining the ways in which the Nazis redefined family life, an understanding of the role of the family in Weimar Germany is necessary. The Family in Weimar Germany The family in Weimar Germany was generally considered to be an independent entity, with the freedom to procreate as it pleased. ...read more.

Middle

On the one hand, Nazi Germany oversaw the increasing stringency of abortion laws and the outlaw of birth control. The penalties for performing abortions were heightened and the amount of arrests doubled (Koonz 186), as the Nazis considered not only women (eugenically "fit" women, of course) who sought abortion, but also those that accommodated her to be guilty of "racial treason" (Proctor 121). On the other hand, the Nazis granted "permissibility of abortion on eugenic grounds" (qtd. in Proctor, 122), which was often not merely allowed, but forced. These are but a few of the legal measures the Nazis implemented that sought to expand Nazi control over reproduction for eugenic purposes, and which therefore affected family life in general. Another important means through which the Nazis attempted to consolidate their control over the family sphere was the creation and use of propaganda. The Role of Propaganda In a government-sponsored campaign to raise the birthrate of a nation, there is only so much that can be done legally. For instance, the legislation discussed above sought to improve Germany's birthrate through incentives appealing to financial or prestigious concerns, as well as through negative eugenic measures, like sterilization, but it could not very well force people to have children. Because the Nazi regime was limited in terms of the punitive damages it could inflict on childless women or couples, the use of propaganda rose as a means of psychological coercion in the attempt to raise the declining birthrate. ...read more.

Conclusion

The refusal of parents to "allow their children to join the youth organization" is regarded as adequate reason for taking the children away ("Hitler Youth"). The authority of youth group leaders took precedent over that accorded to parents in the Third Reich. Above all, the message was impressed upon children that their ultimate loyalty belonged to the Fuhrer, which caused the disruption and disintegration of the traditional family structure and role. Conclusion The Nazis sought to influence or control nearly every institution in society, not the least of which was the family. Control of the family was essential to the maintenance of the Nazi regime because of the enormous importance of eugenic reform to Nazi ideology. Because the Nazis wanted to control the reproduction of the nation, imbuing the family with Nazi ideals was necessary. The importance of eugenic reform was crucial in understanding how the Nazis redefined the role of families through legal measures as well as propaganda. It is also important to recognize the magnitude of the value placed on controlling the children of Nazi Germany. The Nazi regime recognized the necessity of indoctrinating its youth with its ideology if it wished to raise a nation of loyal followers and helpers. This indoctrination of the youth often had a destructive effect on family life, as it caused rifts to form between children and their parents. It was precisely because the Nazis recognized the value of controlling the family that the family institution was corrupted through the destructive influence of Nazi indoctrination, as well as the shift from the family as a private entity to the family as a tool of the state. ...read more.

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