Holocaust and Fiction

Holocaust-inspired fictions are criticized. They are deemed insensible, disrespectful, or inaccurate. But what if they were necessary to spark an interest in the event and keep it in the collective memory?

76 years have passed since the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust. The tragedy was apprehended in different ways since, from denial to memorials. Research, memoirs, documentaries and museums have tried to unveil the horrors that happened, to present the reality to the public and, to a certain extent, to fulfill the “Never again” promise. More recently, memories of the Holocaust seem to have found their way in the popular culture through literature or cinema. And the appeal is here: on Amazon, almost all of the best-seller books in the Jewish literature section are Holocaust fictions. These include titles such as We Were the Lucky Ones and The Things We Cannot Say.

This sudden influx could be explained first on the part of the writers, that are now distanced from the events. Authors are often from the third or fourth generation after the Holocaust and are looking to tell family stories. The detachment allows for a more in-depth approach that would not have been possible with survivors of concentration camps, for example, who would not want to revive bad memories by recounting them. The result is novels or TV series and movies that narrate fictional stories based on true events.

The debate around the fictional aspect mixed with the Holocaust in the popular culture involves the moral aspect as well as the possible disinformation. As outlined in critics on the recent TV series Hunters (a story loosely based on Nazi hunters in the 1970), is it ok to invent equally horrible but false situations, inspired by the truth? Or does it, and other fictional work, exploit real sufferings in order to attract a public and gain popularity? Are imagined depictions conveying incorrect information that could contribute to historical inaccuracy or even to the Holocaust denial? Is the creation side leading to a falsification of the truth, that eventually lessens the burden of the responsibilities of the perpetrators?

The word to remember here is fiction. The Holocaust proved to be an endless source of inspiration for artists, who draw it from true events, and shape them with their own words or images into a product destined to an eager public. The interest, on its part, potentially comes from an historical curiosity. But it mainly holds such a growing place in the popular culture because books like The Tattooist of Auschwitz go beyond merely informing the readers. It allows them to have an emotional connection to the Holocaust through the characters, to visualize events, and to engage in real-time by provoking empathy or hatred in a more vivid way than a museum could.

On remarks that his novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, contains incorrect elements, author John Boyne responded that made-up stories can’t be inaccurate since they are fictions. This valid point must be advertised, so that readers and viewers are aware that they are consuming a fiction work that is only based on the true events of the Holocaust. It gives an idea of the kind of things that happened, but states cautiously that it is romanticized.

The beauty of the phenomenon of fiction that reached the Holocaust, is that it proposes an approach to the subject that might be less traumatic, while still conveying the tragic aura. The entertaining aspect attracts a larger public than academic work, which is the starting point for an interest in this time period.

Of course, some Holocaust-related material is just plainly distasteful and wrong. Concentration camps themed Christmas ornaments, for example, only serve to generate profit. This kind of product doesn’t honor or commemorate the victims, and it doesn’t place the Holocaust at an accessible level like fiction does. Putting the Holocaust in the popular culture needs to remain respectful and linked to history, but it is also a way to nurture the interest, and by such, the remembrance. Fiction raises awareness. It is then up to the public to forge its own opinion and do its own research.

Don’t Blame the UK Vets and the Armed Forces: The Far-Right is Listening and We Are Only Window-Dressing

Jake Rooke

What did they serve for? Was it for the illegal war in Iraq, physical trauma from an IED, the PTSD, the low-pay, the distance from family, or the cynicism from the public? For many neglected veterans and active military personnel in the modern era, it seems that it is only the far-right that is listening.

Many vets have legitimate grievances against the state, which used them, and then binned them. The far-right are festering in this reality.

Professor Alberto Testa, an expert on far-right terrorism, said that extremism in the Armed Forces is magnified. “The Army [is] an ideal organization because the far-right groups are shaped on Army narratives, symbols and structure and this helps in their recruitment strategies.” These groups also provide veterans and active members with a sense of community and appreciation of their identity based on a military ethos. This is scarily similar to the pre-war Blackshirts and Brownshirts.

            In popular culture the Armed Forces invoke a deep sense of respect due to ideals of sacrifice. Sacrificing for your neighbours instills an image of selflessness that transcends petty politics. However, in modern Britain, there has been a decrease in collective remembrance, for our grandparents participation, but also recent conflicts. For those that do participate, standing in silence once a year is not enough, as veterans and active personnel matter 364+1.

The benchmark in collective historical memory of ‘sacrifice’ can be largely appreciated in Britain’s victor narrative after World War Two; the ‘standing alone’ in the face of Nazism. But what about the vets in our ‘less glorious’ wars and conflicts, such Afghanistan and Iraq? Well, the 2011 British Social Attitudes survey showed that the British public is doubtful of the missions’ achievements and cynical about the purpose. This public reaction throws cynicism on sacrifice.

            456 and 178 UK military personnel gave the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, with an additional 2348 injured. The battle does not end there for many of our vets, as the British Journal of Psychiatry found, 6% of current members and veterans in 2014-2016 were suffering from PTSD. Sir Wesseley at King College said that part of the legacy of conflicts on mental health is that it can take time to reveal itself. Irrespective of opinions on conflicts in the Middle East, our Armed Forces are operatives, not politicians. They answered the call, it was up to all of us to make sure that the cause was legitimate. We cannot simply wash our hands with another foreign policy disaster by turning our backs on those that served.

            The far-right is exploiting this public reality, surging it’s support in active Armed Forces and leading very pro-military agendas. Recently the conviction of Lance Corporal Vehvilainen in 2018 is demonstrative. Vehvilainen, a member of the banned right-wing terrorist organization National Action, attempted to form a cell within the Armed Forces, reportingly recruiting other soldiers. Similarly, in 2019, two black paratroopers sued the Army for racial abuse from other soldiers that draped their barracks with Nazi flags. Other examples include, a video of soldiers using a poster of former Labour leader Corbyn as a target, or pictures of British cadets posing with right-wing extremist and former EDL leader, Tommy Robinson. These are active forces, but what about the veteran community that are civilians now. Here is the real surge of support.

Far-right groups and individuals, such as Britain First and Tommy Robinson have largely taken up the fight against Black Lives Matter in the UK, seen in 2020 with their ‘defence’ of memorials and statues. Ironically, this also included far-right activists giving Nazi salutes in front of the Cenotaph war memorial, as well as at Churchill’s statute. They also exploit other emotionally provoking instants, such as the murder of military drummer and Fusilier, Lee Rigby, in 2013. Far right groups use Rigby’s brutal murder by two homegrown terrorists to parrot anti-immigrant and anti-Islam narratives, even though Rigby’s family have denounced the far-right’s attempt to co-opt Rigby’s death for political gains.

If we want to stem far-right narratives in veterans and military communities, we need a new covenant. One that moves past window-dressing remembrance and token-appreciation. Our men and women, active and decommissioned deserve more. Firstly, the Ministry of Defence must take an active role in transitioning military personnel to civilian life. This can include increased funding for mental health support centres that focus on PTSD and homelessness. The government can increase public-private partnerships that seek to hire veterans and give them jobs retraining. In regards to active personnel, recommendations include, Army recruiters doing extensive background checks for radicalization before entering service, make countering violent extremism training mandatory, and engage with family and friends of military personnel to give our veterans and military families the support they need at home.

A Traditional Europe?

I enjoyed this weeks combination of articles discussing the way Europe is conceptualized in the sense of who belongs where and the traditional idea of who belongs. In the Göle reading for instance, it reminded me of a paper that i had written this last semester about the impact that Bosniak Muslims have had in the culture of the Balkan region as well as the formation and breakup of Yugoslavia. In the former Ottoman Balkans in the 17th century where Bosniak culture was respected and revered saw a very different look after Turkey withdrew from the region and those people became repressed under a system that sought to favour the more desirable and ‘traditional’ eastern orthodox Serbian-Croatian denominations. Not only this, but Muslim influence has extended into the mediterranean region and the Iberian peninsula.

The theme of this imagined rightful demographic to situate itself in Europe extends into the New York Times article by Norimitsu Onishi about how immigrants are colonizing the white homelands of the French and of other white Europeans as stated by Renaud Camus. This idea that Immigrants are replacing Whites has had a direct influence on French politicians and has resonated widely beyond France with right wing white supremacist groups. Interestingly Mr. Camus was known a novelist and a pioneering writer of gay literature before turning to writing about the “great replacement”

These ideas expand to many types of people and are not reserved for a single stereotype. The majority of these ideas lay in misinformation of the lack of proper education on the matter, for example Mr. Camus had his ideas based solely on his experience on Facebook and Twitter….how can one fully grasp the situation of immigration and integration so far removed. The Göle article is the opposite and tries to show us that “Europe and Islam as connected histories, yet with competing narratives, cultural values, and time-space constructs of modernity”

Buckling European Identity with Postcolonialism: Start by Acknowledging Al-Andalus

I want to start my reflection by drawing attention to the title of Nilufer Gole’s reading this week: “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam.” I found myself shaping my view of this article quite closely with what I experience in Medieval Studies; as we saw in first week, the study still struggles to escape its Eurocentric time-space setting. Gole’s understanding of postcolonialism, and even arguing beyond the mirror of postcolonialism, buckles the outdated European Identity that still lives. One example given by Gole is Al-Andalus (although not explicitly named in the article), the Islamic region of Spain for over 400 years, as well as a region that continued to have a large Muslim population for another 400 years before they were expelled by Christians. Notably, it is a history that is contested today, especially by the far-right Vox in Spain currently and it links into the Othering of Islam.

By recentering Islam and decentering Europe, this specific postcolonial movement may indeed be the solution needed in the current politically climate to be able to show the interconnectedness of Islam to Europe. Seen in the New York Times article, Renaud Camus’s “great replacement theory,” or equally seen by Viktor Orban’s “Christian” Hungary in the Guardian article, the far-right holds close to a European identity. Gole expresses yet another example with the EU denying Turkey as a European country. It is certainly problematic, and Fatima El-Tayeb best summarizes why by explaining the thinking of a coalition of queer activists, feminists, conservatives, nationalists, and white supremacists alike. As she argues “what they have in common is an understanding of Islam as not a religion, practiced in a variety of forms, but as an all-encompassing ideology, stripping its adherents of all individuality.” (82)

The Othering of Islam, often from Western perspectives, fails to showcase the individuality of all who follow the faith, emphasis here on faith as the ideology exists only through Islamism. El-Tayeb’s study on queer Muslims, for example, proves how specific studies can combat the European (Western) identity that places the West in a position of modernity over the East – specifically showing Said’s theory of Orientalism. Queer Muslims and their coming out shows the connection of Islam to Europe and proves individuality away from this believe that every Muslim is traditionalist. On the Christian side, here too is postcolonialism working to counter the “Christian Europe” identity. Dan Stone’s article on Holocaust Memory and the European refugee crisis shows how the current climate has the likeness to the Holocaust, and although not the same, it is critical for many to avoid falling into that environment, especially with the Othering of refugees. Orban as an example also shows hope by Christians like Pastor Gabor Ivanyi as he calls out that Hungary is not a Christian-state for actions that no Christian should ever do. Just as one example, outside of academia, Ivanyi shows the separation from European Identity.

Thus, as a question for a multi-cultural Europe? I point once again to al-Andalus as proof, just as Gole suggests, to show how medieval Europe already was multi-cultural and interreligious. Islam already exists interconnected with Europe – the issue is that some do not want to except that. In which case, European Identity should buckle the further scholars move forward in decentering Europe and recentering Islam.


Julian Coman, “The Pastor and the Populist: Hungary’s New Faith Faultline” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/29/pastor-v-populist-viktor-orbanhungary-faith-faultline

Fatima El-Tayeb, “”Gays Who Cannot Properly be Gay.’ Queer Muslims in the Neoliberal European City” European Journal of Women’s Studies 19/1, (2012): 79-95.

Nilüfer Göle, “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam” New Literary History, Volume 43, Number 4 (Autumn 2012): 665-685.

Norimitsu Onishi, “The Great Replacement and Renaud Camus” (September 20, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/world/europe/renaud-camus-greatreplacement.html

Dan Stone, “On Neighbours and Those Knocking at the Door: Holocaust Memory and Europe’s Refugee Crisis.” Patterns of Prejudice 52, no. 2/3 (May 2018): 231–43.

Emergence of the Nouvelle Droit

Rejecting left-wing ideas of human equality, the Nouvelle Droite was heavily influenced by the tactics of the New Left and some forms of Marxism such as the socio cultural ideas of Gramsci, thus propelling a counter to this is the formation of the New Right. Despite this positioning the Nouvelle Droite in Roger Griffin’s “Between metapolitics and apoliteia: the Nouvelle Droite’s strategy for conserving the fascist vision in the ‘interregnum’” It represents something odd as political allegiances and tactics seem to have a lack of ideological positioning and makes the case that ” accepting a particular definition of generic fascism, whose main empirical basis is writings by self-styled fascist ideologues” (pg.36) this looks to emphasize he idea of redefining what far right nationalism was in this era and makes me question whether or not this attempt at rebranding worked.

This transitions over into the Riccardo Marchi article and the transformation of the portuguese right wing parties in how they dealt with the “French ND and the reactions to it in the extreme-right milieu.” (pg.236) and the re-branding of the far-right politics became adopted in Portugal among the student followers. These followers played a central role in the new liberalization of the country and lead the transitioning process in which they utilized the ideas to try and “battle to win the hearts and minds of the nation.” (pg. 237)

Finally, in Tamir Bar-On’s “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite” the sophisticated European cultural revolution in the anti-fascist age helper produce a turn of ideology of extreme nationalist into “pan-europeans” and sought to show that “If the rhetoric of the left was always more transnational, as in Marx’s famous dictum ‘Workers of the World Unite!’, it is also true that the mimetic rival of the revolutionary left, the revolutionary right, theorized and behaved through a transnational lens.” (pg. 221)

Armenian Democracy on the Brink

Armenian democrats have long been left disappointed, and 2021 promises no better.

In the last months of 2020, Armenia mobilized its armed forces as territorial tensions with neighboring Azerbaijan escalated to bloodshed, killing thousands between September and November. The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh has long dominated politics in both countries, even during Soviet times; but it has become much more salient as both Armenia and Azerbaijan secured their independence from the USSR and immediately went to war over this region, internationally recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan but inhabited and controlled by ethnic Armenians agitating for independence. The ultimate fate of Nagorno-Karabakh is a key part of both countries’ political narratives, making it very difficult for either government to back down from a conflict without crippling its domestic legitimacy – hence the several wars and skirmishes since 1989.

Those passions overwhelmed coronavirus precautions, leading Armenia to mobilize its male population – prompting travel and close-quarters training that one might link to the massive ‘second wave’ the country faced in the following weeks. Despite these military efforts, Armenia was forced into a ceasefire described by its Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as “incredibly painful both for me and both for our people”, with many territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh ceded back to Azeri control. Protests immediately erupted in Armenia, backed by many opposition politicians, calling for the resignation of the government over this ‘national humiliation’.


Looking to secure his own political survival even after this crippling blow, Pashinyan tried to sack the army’s chief of staff – though this decree was bucked by President Sarkisian, a usually ceremonial figure in Armenian politics – and claimed Russia had given Armenia’s armed forces defective Iskander missiles.

This attempt to shift the blame onto the Armenian military was met with a strongly-worded letter by the general staff of the armed forces, insisting that “the Armenian armed forces patiently endured discrediting attacks by the current government, but everything has its limits”: the civilian government was to step down. Since then, though protests continue – including storming government buildings – there has not yet been an overhaul of government leadership, though Pashinyan just days ago floated the idea of – with conditions – holding a snap election.

This may, despite the precedent sent, be the best of bad options.


Either the military succeeds and Pashinyan is forced out of power, or he remains – presumably by pivoting to a more militaristic direction. A resurgence in military nationalism has correlated poorly for democracy in the Former Soviet Union, and particularly in Armenia – a country scarred by memories of the Armenian genocide, and constantly fearing a new ‘white genocide’ – this will likely leave the country vulnerable to anti-democratic influences from friendly Iran and military ally Russia, both of whom use the Nagorno-Karabakh issue to cement their grip on Armenia’s politics.

Pashinyan is currently supported by Turkey, with Ankara apparently deciding that bolstering its anti-coup position was more important than retaliating for Pashinyan’s wartime comments that Turkey was committing a new Armenian genocide by helping Azerbaijan in the conflict. The risk is that Pashinyan – or whoever replaces him, if he himself is forced to step down but his party is allowed to remain in power – takes a book out of Ankara’s book, and weaponizes the military’s withdrawn pseudo-coup ultimatum to justify a wide-ranging crackdown on the political opposition that backed the threat. In Turkey, after a July 2016 coup attempt, tens of thousands have been arrested or purged from the civil service – including some just a few months ago. For further inspiration, Pashinyan could also look to neighboring Georgia, which last week arrested a prominent opposition politician, accusing him of spearheading crowds of protesters that took over government buildings in 2019.

The region’s democracies are faltering, and Armenia has little to keep it from following suit.

Armenia had, if you squinted at it and on a good day, a fragile democracy. None of this bodes well for it.

The paths that memories make

Some memories can be too painful to deal with and people will choose to bury them in the back of their mind, letting it collect dust then face up to it head-on and deal with lasting consequences. They can either leave scars that retain bitter reminders of a dark time but they can also serve as a way to redemption and reconciliation but only if the memory is brought out from the darkness and brought to light. Like Hugo Spiegel who returned to his hometown to rebuild his life after the war, he also sought to rebuild and remind those of the tragedy that not only he endured but Jews everywhere. People did not want to be reminded, or think about that dark time but just because something is hard to deal with doesn’t mean you can push it down and block it out. Remembrance is an essential part of the healing process, confronting what happened in all forms from Spiegel’s attempt at erecting a simple memorial plaque is a very simple reminder of the essence of Holocaust remembrance. It is what gave us culturally significant moments such as “Schindler’s List; the Stockholm Declaration of 2000 making commemoration of the Nazi genocide central to European identity; and the 2005 dedication, after years of debate and controversy, of the vast Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the center of Berlin.” (Walser Smith, 2021)

While rekindling a memory can help heal, it can also cause blowback. The holocaust was a tragedy of epic proportions but the changed meaning of Holocaust memory has become distorted as we get further and further away from the end of WWII. Comparisons have been utilized by conservative thinkers that have used the juxtaposition of Nazism with Stalinism and liberal thinkers who focus more on colonial violence, slavery, and, more broadly, coming to terms with anti-Black racism. Was the gulag system similar to concentration camps? Was the forced migration of Africans comparable to the forced deportation of Jews? It doesn’t matter if one group suffered more than the other as it dilutes and lessens the necessity for responsibility. More so, it is important that the relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor can come to terms with the past through mediums such as “community work, the necessity of reaching across divides, and the crucial role that local school teachers, archivists, retirees, hobby historians, and preservationists may well play in the great transformations of a nation’s memory.” (Walser Smith, 2021)


Michael Rothberg, “Comparing Comparison: From the “Historikerstreit to the Mbembe
Affair” Geschichte der Gegenwart September 23, 2020

Helmut Walser Smith, “It Takes a Village to Create a Nation’s Memory” Zocalo Public
Sphere https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2021/01/11/post-war-germany-jewishreturn-memory-national-reckoning/ideas/essay/

Women’s Role in Far-Right Movements

Angry white men voting for angry white men, this trend was seen as the standard in the right of populism but interestingly women are now coming to dominate right-wing leadership. With this, the gender gap in women’s roles in these movements seems to be shrinking with similar attitudes in feeling ‘left behind’ as well as becoming increasingly worried about immigration and Islam. With at least some power shifting into the favour of women, a new challenge comes from these women to combat the masculinity that is a traditional standard in the more right-leaning parties, trying to move away from the idea of traditional female roles or in the case of Marie Le Pen, trying to soften the party stance on anti-abortion and combatting the need to entice women voters by changing the idea of what it means to be a woman with these views and the male voters not likely to want to move away from these traditional aspects. So now we are thrust into a scenario where the fundamental aspects of right-wing populism are being challenged by the inclusion of women who are then not welcomed for their rebranding efforts.

The Traditionalist View of Apolitical Feminity

Back in 2017, a coworker of mine said she was relieved Marine Le Pen had lost the French presidential election to Emmanuel Macron – because ‘she wasn’t pretty enough’.

The sentiment threw me at first, and our break ended before I had the chance to press her much on what she meant, but the sentence stuck in my mind – and this class has been quite useful in understanding how exactly to situate it in history. It’s a sentiment which arguably tracks with the conservative/traditionalist gender roles discussed in this class, an idea that demands men act ‘as befits men’ and that women act ‘as befits women’, and allows transgression in one realm only if one’s ‘masculinity’/‘femininity’ is indisputably or exaggeratedly demonstrated elsewhere. Exceptions to the gender roles are bought through adherence to them.

This could mean the Nazi model described by Thomas Kühne, under which men were allowed ‘feminine habits’ like pushing their child’s stroller or demonstrating emotion only if they had proved their ‘masculine strength’ through their use of violence. Or it could mean, as I now understand my coworker’s framing, that Le Pen was not seen as having a sufficiently ‘feminine’ appearance to make up for the ‘masculine-ness’ of her political ambitions.

This framing of government as an inherently masculine activity, barred to women unless they meet whatever arbitrary and demanding metric of femininity elsewhere in their lives, has been dissected and lampooned elsewhere with much greater understanding, knowledge, and precision than I can put forth here (or, to be frank, anywhere). It’s a way to silence a demographic, to perpetuate the hold on power of certain groups, so on and so forth; it’s a tactic repeated far beyond the male/female faultline.

That rhetorical ploy to secure male hegemony over governance politics, though, has had interesting repercussions on the discourse regarding other forms of politics.

For one, the ideological tenet that of apolitical femininity left its believers incapable of adequately responding to the very political actions that some women undertook against them. Sofia Rodriguez Lopez and Antonio Cazorla Sanchez demonstrate this well in Blue Angels, where both the Republican and the Nationalist structures dismissed women as incapable of having political agency, despite the fact that said women were quite effective in supporting their sides.

In those cases where the women were punished for their dissidence, they were often framed as being the wives, sisters, or daughters of dissidents – justifying the participation of ‘apolitical women’ in these ‘political crimes’ by emphasizing their connection to men, and thus distancing them from that feminine apolitical ideal. This can also, in a sense, be seen in Hochst Höchst’s quote that she merited her position in modern Germany’s right-wing Alternative für Deutschland because “I could kill every man in the party” – in her interview with the Guardian’s Angelique Chrisafis, Höchst emphasizes her prowess in martial arts, reframing it as a ‘masculine trait’ that overrides her woman-ness sufficiently to legitimize her presence in traditionalist politics.

Another example comes in Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies, and ties into some contemporary discussions. Culture is unarguably a form of politics, with heavy influence on who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’, and the construction of societal discriminations based off those hierarchies. However, the power of culture in a political sense is that it comes off as completely natural – of course things are like this, of course we do things this way, of course power is distributed in this way, because that’s our culture! Given the important role of women in household and formal cultural education, though, as described by Lower, there is a tension between the obviously political (if subconscious) aims of this indoctrination and the allegedly-apolitical nature of women put forth by that ideology. And for a long time, regimes built on the idea of feminine apoliticism insisted that no activity so dominated by women could be political. Nowadays, though, that blinder is being pulled back, and culture is being exposed to political dissection and contestation on a greater scale than previously possible – no longer shielded by some traditionalist myth that women are innately apolitical.

Women and the Far-Right: The Secret Weapon

by Jackie Howell

Women’s participation in politics has been limited or unreported, as women tend to occupy positions outside the scope of analysis. Stereotypes like “women are not dangerous” or “women are peaceful” have led to omissions of women’s roles in history. Historians have also failed to include LGBTQ individuals in their historical analysis. This omission has painted an inaccurate picture of the participants in historical movements. Women have often have been relegated to secondary roles to men during World War II, civil rights movements, or diplomatic missions. What was the true impact of women’s participation in politics, and why did these women participate?

This week’s readings, particularly Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies, uncover the role women played in nationalist movements. Traditionally, historians reflected on women’s roles as subordinate to men. Women were depicted as the nurturing, motherly type, either caring for the wounded or children at home. Rarely were women depicted as dangerous in a military sense, as men (and historians) underestimated the extent of women’s participation. While historians have described women’s actions on the home front, they fail to analyze women’s participation in acts of war. Uncovering the gendered bias in historical analysis is a crucial step in illuminating the role that women can play in conflict and political movements.

This week’s readings target gender stereotypes in historical analysis, primarily focusing on how women participated in wars. Lower’s chapter, “The East Needs You,” discusses the four key roles that women played in the expansion of the Nazi regime: teachers, nurses, secretaries, and wives. Interestingly, secretaries and wives turned out to be the most murderous of the group, even though some nurses did participate in the murders of those with disabilities. Historians often underestimate women’s participation in a male-dominated ideology. This brings one to question the extent of women’s participation that has been unreported or missed. For example, the media depiction of the Capitol riots in January often focused on white men, as they seemed to form the majority. However, Women for Trump has gained popularity since 2016, and Europe’s far-right parties have increased their women supporters. The narrative that the far-right ideology is for “white men only” has seemingly been disproven.

 Moreover, Rodriguez Lopez and Cazorla Sanchez point out that women failed to receive an equal punishment to their male counterparts, as women were rarely punished or executed. This failure to punish further perpetuates the narrative that women are not as dangerous or intelligent as men, which is still evident today. For example, a handful of women were arrested from the U.S. Capitol riots, and one woman was even granted permission to travel on a work-related trip to Mexico. This glaring act of (white) privilege further illustrates how (white) women are punished differently due to their portrayal as less dangerous individuals.

To advance the discourse on fascist and populist movements, women’s participation must be analyzed, for it is a disservice to history to only study a portion of participants.


Chrisafis, A. (Jan. 29, 2019). From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: How the European far-right set its sight on women. The Guardian, theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/29/from-le-pen-to-alice-weidelhow-the-european-far-right-set-its-sights-on-women

Lower, W. (2013). Introduction. In Hitler’s furies (pp. 1-14). Houghton Mifflin.

Lower, W. (2013). The East needs you. In Hitler’s furies (pp. 32-74).Houghton Mifflin.

Lower, W. (2013). The lost generation of German women. In Hitler’s furies (pp. 15-31). Houghton Mifflin.

Rodríguez López, S., and Cazorla Sánchez, A. (2018). Blue angels: Female fascist resisters, spies and intelligence officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9. Journal of Contemporary History, 53(4): 692–713.