In Hitler’s Furies, the concept of female complicity and their involvement in the war and Holocaust was a prominent theme. The question remains, are women the victims or perpetrators of this violence?
I can say that neither myself nor our group had a definitive answer. There were many perspectives presented by the author about the intentions behind the range of actions presented by the women. The author includes examples from the disregard and differentiation of Jewish people, being bystanders to the death camps around them, and to extreme of actually killing Jews as part of firing squads.
Our group discussed some of the potential underlying intentions for the various actions, including:
- Whether this was due to the systemic and overarching rules of the Nazi regime – Did the culture of fear and racism corrupt thoughts and actions where they wouldn’t normally outside of these circumstances.
- The ability to use these structures to move up the social ladder. At the time of the Holocaust and the war, women in Germany did not have social and political opportunity. Through being mothers, wives, and members of the Nazi party, they were able to exploit the system to gain opportunities and jobs.
- Did complicity come from being strictly in a “mother” role – Did this role perpetuate comfort for men in the battlefield and physically engaging with the Holocaust?
Not to excuse the horrific action of genocide through the Holocaust, but the ability to try and disseminate the individual intention versus the collective intention in the context of war, suffering and suppression was extremely insightful in how these multiple factors can feed into a problem.