A Democratic German Feminist’s Response to the Catastrophe of National Socialism
Chapter 7: Avalanche: Super-Criminals, Yellow Stars, Deportations, Plunder, Slaughter – and the Spectre of Poison Gas
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Avalanche: Super-Criminals, Yellow Stars, Deportations, Plunder, Slaughter – and the Spectre of Poison Gas
Diaries recording responses to a crisis have a special value for those denied access to the public sphere, as many women were during the Nazi period. National Socialism valued domesticity and rewarded motherhood, while female employment was largely confined to lower paid jobs and various forms of labour service. This is not to say that public discourse was monopolized by males, for under the leadership of Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, Hitler’s Reichsfrauenführerin, women were systematically groomed to support the conquests of the master race. Recent archival research has highlighted female agency, arguing that women took the lead role in such sectors as Air Raid Precautions (‘Luftschutz).1
Letters written to husbands and sons at the front are also cited to give weight to women’s voices, but they tend to be muted by a concern not to sound unpatriotic, as well as by fear of censorship. Thus uncensored private journals become all the more significant, especially for historians debating how much ordinary Germans actually knew about the deportation of Jews and the ordeals that awaited them. Reminiscences recorded many years after the event offer evasive answers. Among the five hundred German women interviewed by the historian Margarete Dörr for a study of women’s experiences during the war, published in 1998, scarcely a single respondent referred to the deportations, let alone to hearing about the massacres. Even the...
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