Friday, 2 March 2007

Those crazy Nazis...

Funny enough, the title is NOT referring to university or my part-time job.

It's mandatory for all History students to have taken at least ONE German history class during their education. Specifically, a class which features the Nazis at some point. Considering these topics are extremely popular at Higher History level a worrying number of students in this class are potential teachers. Teaching - the fail safe option for people with social science degrees.

But enough ranting. I have a group presentation next week concerning the concept of the racial state in post-1933 Germany. Unsurprisingly, I was assigned the topic of women to research. It has proved some interesting reading. Although Jews were one of the main groups focused upon, they were not the only ones. This was helped by the Nazis criminalising social behaviour and making it racial. Female prostitution became a racial crime rather than a social one. You were threatening the Aryan race. Nice Aryan boys that were dipping their nib in the prostitution pool picked up all sorts of nasty STDs and kindly passed them onto nice Aryan girls when they got married. Obviously this could threaten the health of the Master Race which Hitler and his posse weren't too happy about.

Sterilisation was a common approach as well. The 'Final Solution' didn't really kick off until the late 1930s. One case example I read involved a heterosexual couple who had applied for a marriage license (which could be rejected on racial and social groups). They were denied the license because the woman was hard of hearing. Before they could get married the woman had to agree to be sterilised. Between 1933-39 over 400 women died from such procedures. How many men died from the same procedure? 80.

Earlier this week, I visited an open evening for the Lesbains Archive in the Glasgow Women's Library. One of the artefacts was a banner that had been made a feminist rally down in London. Various symbols were dotted along the banner. One I was extremely surprised at was the black triangle. It's one of the many feminist symbols I find uncomfortable. Why would you adopt a symbol from such a destructive regime to convey your cause? On a feminist message board, one member proudly posted she was getting a tattoo of the Black Triangle. In my opinion, that's not much different from getting a swastika printed on your body. Social movements trying to 're-claim' symbols do not work. Attempts to re-claim queer as a positive identity have not been hugely successful.

So, more of a pondering entry than a rant. Apologies for any disappointed readers ;-)


CB Buckland said...

Out of interest, is the death rate from the sterilisation procedure higher amongst women due to more procedures carried out or due to the more complex nature of the procedure?

A Woman with an Opinion said...

I suspect it's a combination of both. The Nazis were strictly against abortion so sterilising 'worthless' women was protection against that. Also, due to female reproductive organs being internal and more complex, I doubt little care was carried out in these operations. As we both know it's a lot more difficult for men to become pregnant ;-). 'Worthless' men would have been viewed as carrying less superior sperm which would have decreased chances of becoming pregnant.

The Racial State by Michael Burleigh and W. Wipperman is a good introduction to the topic. For a rather basic book on the female experience as a whole in Nazi Germany try Women in Nazi Germany by Jill Stephenson.