Agency in the Regime

Emma C

One of the themes that was present this week was the question of how much agency did people wield for and against the regime. We can see this question play out in Marhoefer’s article about homosexuality in Nazi Germany. The Nazi regime typically targeted homosexual men and prosecuted them as they made homosexuality illegal. Lesbians were still around during the Nazi regime, but weren’t specifically targeted like gay men were. Instead, the regime relied on witnesses coming and reporting lesbians, as it was not technically illegal. Witnesses who reported to the regime were more likely to raise suspicions and might be investigated by the regime themselves. People were able to wield some agency against the regime, by deciding to not report people, they were taking back what little power they had over their lives, by protecting themselves and those around them from unwanted scrutiny. Being able to show this type of agency during the regime, demonstrates how even when people have little control over their lives, they will do what they can to stand on their own.

                We can also see how soldiers were able to have some agency while serving the regime as shown in Kunhe’s article. Soldiers were expected to be embody manliness as it would help to make them a better soldier. These soldiers were able to shape themselves into the ideal of “hard” manliness and once their male identity was established without question, they were able to display some feminine qualities, such as showing affection to fellow soldiers as well as to women. Once they had established themselves as soldiers, they were able to take some agency back and show some softer sides of themselves, which went against how Nazi soldiers were expected to be. We can see how everyday people as well as soldiers in the regime were able to wield varying levels of agency against the regime.

Laurie Marhoefer, “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: a Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation, 1939-1943” The American Historical Review 121: 4 (2016): 1167-1195.

Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

One Reply to “Agency in the Regime”

  1. You point out some interesting things here Emma. I found the Kunhe article especially fascinating, showing how soldiers in Nazi Germany were able to incorporate their agency to their obedience to the state. I think it also connects with what we talked about last week; trying to focus on how fascists see themselves instead of how we see them.

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