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Anna Haag and her Secret Diary of the Second World War

A Democratic German Feminist’s Response to the Catastrophe of National Socialism

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Edward Timms

How was it possible for a well-educated nation to support a regime that made it a crime to think for yourself? This was the key question for the Stuttgart-based author Anna Haag (1888–1982), the democratic feminist whose anti-Nazi diaries are analysed in this book. Like Victor Klemperer, she deconstructed German political propaganda day by day, giving her critique a gendered focus by challenging the ethos of masculinity that sustained the Nazi regime. This pioneering study interprets her diaries, secretly written in twenty notebooks now preserved at the Stuttgart City Archive, as a fascinating source for the study of everyday life in the Third Reich. The opening sections sketch the paradigms that shaped Haag’s creativity, analysing the impact of the First World War and the feminist and pacifist commitments that influenced her literary and journalistic writings. Extensive quotations from the diaries are provided, with English translations, to illustrate her responses to the cataclysms that followed the rise of Hitler, from the military conquests and Jewish deportations to the devastation of strategic bombing. The book concludes with a chapter that traces the links between Haag’s critique of military tyranny and her contribution to post-war reconstruction.
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Chapter 4: Responses to Hitler’s Seizure of Power: A Purely Masculine Affair?

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CHAPTER 4

Responses to Hitler’s Seizure of Power: A Purely Masculine Affair?

Looking back in a diary entry dated 15 October 1941, Anna Haag described the early Nazi movement with its aggressive marches and thuggish brawls as a ‘purely masculine affair’.1 She was aware of German women’s political inexperience and credulity, but it was still astonishing that they should support such a chauvinistic movement. Having so recently won the right to vote, women should surely become agents of reconciliation, putting an end to the predatory wars caused by centuries of power politics. Hence Anna’s article in the Nürtinger Tagblatt of March 1925 (cited in the previous chapter), calling on women to band together and resist the madness of modern warfare. Female agency was all the more important because women outnumbered men as a result of the death toll during the 1914–1918 war.

During the early years of the Weimar Republic parties that espoused family values, led by the reformist Social Democrats and the Catholic Centre Party, made a strong appeal to women voters. By contrast, the aggressively male Nazi Party won only 12 seats in the Reichstag election of 1928 with 2.6 per cent of the national vote. But the situation was transformed two years later when mass unemployment threatened family life. Sensing that the faltering democratic system provided a crucial opportunity, the Nazis changed their tactics, targeting women for the first time. For the Presidential elections in 1932,...

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