German Women’s Holocaust Guilt

Can genocide occur without the support of the society? Most of the research suggests that this is impossible. Therefore, some women must have been part of the sizeable genocidal system of Nazi Germany. Thus, why is genocide viewed as an only male business? This is the topic that Wendy Lower undertakes in her book Hitler’s Furies. However, knowing that women took part in the genocide, how much blame should they face for it?

The underlying theme of Lower’s book describes women either witnessing or actively partaking in the Holocaust due to two reasons. The first is that they were merely attempting to take advantage of the new economic situation in Germany. The economy was terrible so women had to get employed and the drafting of men into the army meant that the government needed women to help with administrative jobs. The second reason was that they believed that they were aiding the party and that it was their German duty, as the wife of an SS officer or other position, to partake in these atrocities.

Were women intended to participate in the genocide? Was it just by accident that women became accomplices and witness to the Holocaust? Lower mentions nurses who euthanized undesirable members of the German society. However, they could have been the exception to the rules as teachers were only supposed to teach children. Yet, teachers still needed to report Jews and other “undesirables.” So how much responsibility should they hold?

According to Lower, “refusing to kill Jews would not have resulted in punishment” (202). Attempting to help the Jews would have been punished severely. Thus, can all the women be treated as indirect or direct murderers? Or should the Nazi regime, a patriarchal one, face the blame.

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