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 Women as Perpetrators in Nazi Germany

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amelikian

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PostSubject: Women as Perpetrators in Nazi Germany   Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:28 pm

"Revealed: Women's Role in Nazi Crimes"

German historian Kathrin Kompisch released a book in February called Female Perpetrators: Women Under National Socialism with the purpose of revealing the secret history of the role of German women in perpetrating violence against targeted groups during the Holocaust. Kompisch explains in this article with the Telegraph that the history of Nazism in Germany largely focused on placing the blame on men as the sole perpetrators because they were the ones who held leadership positions. With her book, though, she wanted to break down the “popular picture” depicted in propaganda that the only responsibility of non-Jewish German women was motherhood. In the article Kompisch said that many women active in the Nazi party during the war attempted to downplay their roles as perpetrators afterward by stating that they had been caught up in the male-dominated “machine” that gave them the orders they followed.

The book points out that many women instead performed significant active roles for the Nazi regime by filling positions including assistants to doctors who performed sterilization procedures, radio operators, and Gestapo secretaries who recorded statistics on victims murdered by the SS. It was also common that women, specifically in Dusseldorf, would denounce their husbands as Communists or anti-Nazi spies to the authorities, leading to arrests that would change the family power structure and make women the heads of their households.

This sounded like it fit with the topic of our class because it examines the role of women in the Holocaust, but women active
specifically on the perpetrators’ side who carried out orders and violence against the many groups marginalized by the Nazis. The book has only been published in German in Germany so far but it sounds as if it would be a fascinating and informative read when it’s released here.
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spatterson
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PostSubject: Re: Women as Perpetrators in Nazi Germany   Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:36 am

Yes, I agree with you Ashley ... what do you take from this? Why do you think this has been under-researched before now? What implications does is have for women (if any)? Do you think perhaps that before now it was almost "impossible" to think of women as perpetrators? I also find it interesting (but I'm not sure why) that the research comes out of Germany ...

Sounds like a book to read once it's translated ...
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Gianna526



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PostSubject: Re: Women as Perpetrators in Nazi Germany   Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:42 pm

That sounds really fascinating! I think we spend so much time thinking about the female vicitms (especially in the context of our class) that we might ignore the fact that there were women who were helping the Nazis and bought into the whole Aryan supremacy. I read an old article (I think it was in MS. Magazine) about female leaders in the KKK and your media artifact reminded me of it. I wonder why "the participation of women in the crimes of the Nazis has been blended out of the collective conscious of the Germans for a long time". Why specifically is women's participation being ignored? Maybe because the female stereotype of being kind and nuturing is alive and well all over the world?
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PostSubject: Re: Women as Perpetrators in Nazi Germany   Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:59 pm

Excellent point ...
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amelikian

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PostSubject: Re: Women as Perpetrators in Nazi Germany   Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:28 am

I agree with Gianna that there is so much focus on viewing women as victims during the Holocaust (if they weren't targeted victims, it seems like the other way to view them is as blindly accepting the decisions the men in their government made while they watched) that we overlook the history of the women who were active in carrying out Nazi violence and who knew exactly what they were doing. Maybe because they weren't the majority of the population and propaganda portrayed German women as feminine, nurturing wives and mothers. The women themselves immediately started denying their participation after the war ended and I wonder if that could have helped make it easier for this subject to go so long without being researched. It's interesting learning that women were active leaders in the KKK, too--maybe because active participation in organizations that carried out violence against others contradicted expectations of women and what their roles were so it was difficult to associate them with perpetrating it.
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kkreiser



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PostSubject: Re: Women as Perpetrators in Nazi Germany   Tue Apr 14, 2009 10:01 pm

I'm from Professor Jennings class but this topic caught my eye so I hope it is okay to comment.

My film theory class was just discussing the film The Reader which actually tells the story of a woman on trial for participating in the Nazi Party. In the film Kate Winslet plays a Nazi Guard who made the choice to have people murdered in the concentration camps. What I find interesting is how the film portrays this woman. Yes, she is a Nazi but the film doesn't reveal that until the movie is halfway though. Instead we are introduced to a woman who appears kind and hardworking. When the audience learns she is a Nazi we are just as confused as Michael (her lover) because we aren't sure how to feel because as Gianna526 said, isn't the female stereotype of being kind and nuturing still alive and well all over the world? How is the audience of this film supposed to feel about this woman? Obviously her crimes were beyond horrible, beyond forgiveness yet the audience is almost made to sympathize with her. But can you sympathize with a Nazi? It is coincidental that German historian Kathrin Kompisch released a book recently called Female Perpetrators: Women Under National Socialism since this film was recently released in theaters. The difference between the two mediums being that the book works to break down the stereotype of the innocent woman but the film keeps it a gray area.
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