Journal Article — Gretchens and the German Garrison — by Jaclyn Foster

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Abstract

Women in Germany played a role in the rise and fall of the Nazis. Many historians have written about the various roles of women before and during the Third Reich. However, there are many different categories that historians write about including: politics, genetics, race, ideology, and class, that played a part in active or non-active roles women took. Specific women; Magda Goebbels, Leni Riefenstahl, Eva Braun, Marlene Dietrich, Gertrud Scholtz-Klink and Traudl Junge are explored for their roles and sometimes, contradictions, in Nazi doctrine. Even before the rise of the Nazis, Germany was always more male-dominated than other European industrialized societies. Women worked and were more independent, only to have their roles totally reversed. Historians agree that the Nazis had a criteria of who the ideal Nazi woman was, but it is unlikely that every women fit or followed this criteria. Women outnumbered men by two million. A woman’s most important role, as mother, was also linked to the Nazi obsession with genetics and pure Aryan blood. Women with the right genes were encouraged to reproduce as many children as they could, and children born out of wedlock were not looked down upon. Before the Nazis, the German Nationalist People’s Party (DNVP) encouraged women in politics. Many of the party’s ideals were similar to those of the Nazis and could explain why women from the DNVP joined the Nazis. According to the Nazis, women had no place in politics. Unfortunately, there is little evidence concerning voting, but many historians conclude that women were influenced by male figures. Women joined Hitler groups, which contradicted their home life. How could they be at home while taking part in these meetings? While the men were at war they joined, or were forced into the labor force, many women tried to get out of it. A look into Hitler’s relationships with women and his family background also gives insight into his policies towards women. These are all just a few of the many categories that link women and the rise of Hitler; nothing is black and white.

Recommended Citation

Foster, Jaclyn. 2008. “Gretchens and the German Garrison.” Pp. 29-38 in Microcosms of Hope: Celebrating Student Scholars (Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Volume VI, Issue 4, 2008.) Belmont, MA: Okcir Press (an imprint of Ahead Publishing House).

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