First Responder: Hitler’s Furies

While many of us think of World War II and Nazi Germany, we rarely focus on the role that women played during the war. While one may believe that women kept to themselves and stayed out of the battlefields, in actuality many of these women did the exact opposite. In Wendy Lower’s: Hitler’s Furies, German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, she discusses how women in the Third Reich are largely a historical blind-spot, and many of them actively participated in the genocide of millions of Jews — while getting away with it.

Lower touches on some interesting points about what it was like to be a woman during the war, and their role in society. For many, the role of women was to continue the Aryan race and ensure the success of the German people. This is why mothers were glorified and others were taught how to find the perfect Aryan husband. Yet for many women this was not enough, and the need for adventure grew. For some this lead to travel and for others this lead to genocide.

What I found most impactful was how Hitler’s Germany created such a patriotic climate that women felt justified in participating in violence. Whether this was being a bystander or actively crushing jewish infants sculls, women were just as guilty of favouring duty over morality as the male Nazi counterparts.

As we have discussed in class, one of fascisms’ key components is its extreme nationalism, and Lower’s book is an excellent example of how far this nationalism can cause someone to act. Does this make Trumps “Make America Great Again” slogan problematic? Where is the line when patriotism goes too far? Another concept we discussed in class is the fetishization of youth which Lower also touches upon, since the terror regimes fed on the idealism and energy of young people. How are young people today being influenced by political agendas? The women in this book were effected by many different factors such as the political environment, and the economic crisis. Were they a product of their time? Or is fascism itself powerful enough to create such loyal and patriotic followers? Could this possibly happen again in the future? Finally, why do we tend to not look at women’s roles in the past? Is this still a problem today?

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