Cultural Tensions in Europe: Sweeper

There are a lot of ways the migrant population has affected Europe. Especially since the recent refugee crisis, the EU has seen some tension resulting in the distribution of migrants. Values are one of the issues that are seen to be facing the Europeans that encounter the refugees, ie. can they be integrated into a culture that is secular when they are from a country that does not have that system? It was viewed by some in the group that if a person chooses to go to a country then they must adopt the values that are held there and this was agreed to work for migrant workers, such as is often an issue in the EU due to freedom of movement. However, refugees do not get the luxury to choose where they want to go. Being forced from their homeland, which they may very well want to remain in, refugees are fleeing death so accepting the values of another country is a point that is not as easy to think about.

As many Europeans are opting to not take refugees regardless of what the EU expresses there is the increasing feeling that Europeans are looking to protect their countries from some outside influences that are seen as negative. It is possible that if countries such as Germany had a clear strategy and openness with the public in dealing with refugees people may feel like their culture is less attacked. With openness and clarity, citizens would have the ability to understand what the future will look like with refugees in it.

Sweeper: Gender and body language

Our group discussed if there was a difference in the treatment between males who did not conform to popular gender roles, and women who didn’t conform to feminine expectations. We also thought the gender characteristics and expectations described in the reading were not inclusive of the entire population. The Russian Gulag camps, Tokyo Olympics, and politics of homosexuality in Germany discussed in this week’s readings were all events of the twentieth century.

After watching the depictions of males in the 1935 Triumph of the Will film we raised the question of when homosexuals began to be largely persecuted in Germany. The article by Dan Healey also categorized males and females in Russian gulag prisons into four main groups of dominant and submissive females and males. Healey also writes about men having feminine qualities and women having masculine qualities which relates to the question raised in class about how someone could hold masculine qualities if they are not male. Ideas about the body and expectations of gender behavior were  common themes this week. The stories from 1964 Tokyo Olympics were an interesting example of how athletes were taught and encouraged to train their bodies and how their performance would bring pride for the nation. It encourages us to compare the current olympics in Korea and the different athletes from over 200 countries.

Sweeper: Innocence in Lebensraum?

Were some of the young German women who went East during Generalplan Ost under the Nazi regime “just doing their jobs?” After our group discussion the answer seems to be no, but it’s complicated.

This became the fundamental topic that our class facilitator brought forward. Rightly so, the Lower book highlights the often downright malevolent complicity that German women working during the Eastern occupation carried out. But can we place a value on complicity? Can consent be treated as a sliding scale in this context? What about the nurses, secretaries and teachers who went? As we saw during a previous class, fascism harnesses the youth as a resource through social and institutional controls. For some young women in the Third Reich, new opportunities to travel and start careers that were never possible before were suddenly available and encouraged. If you were in their shoes, would you say no?

However as we discussed, the Nuremberg Trials made clear that “I was just following orders” is not tolerable. The Milgram Shocking Experiment came up, and we talked about how far people can go when instructed to do so by an authority figure. Combine that with years of racial brainwashing under the Nazi state, and the “innocence” argument loses its edge. You do not have to be working in the death camps to be complicit, and support for genocide could be as simple as forwarding an SS officer’s paperwork.

In sum, the women who participated should not be absolved. But Lower’s examination of some of these women’s circumstances shows how complex this topic really is.

 

 

First Responder – Who is Really Guilty in a Fascist Regime?

Hitler’s Furies as a book poses an interesting case. Many ways of how one could be caught up in a regime such as the one at the time of Nazi Germany are brought up, especially regarding women. One of the first questions that came to mind was how people could be complicit in such atrocities as the ones that occurred in WWII Germany. The book offers some good insight to this in what was offered to people who were. New opportunities were presented to people that they did not have before in achieving status, women could travel to new places and could reach a high status in the work they were doing. Wages were better than were possible for women in most instances so that joining a military role would be something appealing.

As there was no doubt a lot of people who didn’t necessarily vote for the government or were for it the, to begin with. Once the regime had taken power, however, it seems as though those who were acceptable to the vision of the regime, had a pretty easy time because the programs were put in place to benefit the people that it saw as meeting its standard. The government, having so much control is not something that one would think fighting against (as that probably would evacuate too much change) but rather joining it would help them become better off- those who did try and fight never had big results in their favor until the end of the war.

The last thing that I thought of was: how do you tell the difference from those just being part of the system and those that really believed in what they were doing. Who was taking advantage of opportunities and who were really happy about killing other people? This is certainly something the post-WWII Germany faced and something to consider about any fascist regime. Who has the guilt, everyone who didn’t protest or only the people who were looking to create their vision of the word?

First Response: The German women

Hitler’s Furies presented many accounts of women during the Nazi regime. The author, Wendy Lower, tells us that this book is not a full account of women during World War 2, and she only focuses on a select few women who she was able to gather more full profiles on.

Lower’s main focus in her book was on how women affected the progress of the Holocaust. I question what other forms of killing these women may have influenced beyond the extermination campaign. Women caught up in fascism may have had other deadly effects. Are there any accounts of the women who were genuinely ignorant of the Jewish extermination? Many women may have ratted out their neighbours, who could have been Aryan Germans, for other crimes not affiliated with racism.

Lower gives a brief account of the era in which these women were raised in. What she doesn’t do, however, is delve into more detail on the childhood of each individual woman. Each woman is given a brief introduction, but the book is mainly focused on their rise to Nazism and the after effects. Were there specific childhood experiences for each woman that would have contributed to her conversion? Is it fair to claim that the era in which these women grew up in is a justifiable account for why they followed Hitler? Lower’s reasoning for female Nazi’s can be summed up as: a desire for adventure, youth, idealism, marriage, and money.

Finally, what about the older women? This book focuses on the youthful women, but fails to discuss any older women and if they contributed to Hitler’s cause.

Sweeper: Importance of Historical Context

After the last class’ discussions there were some really great points to take away. The concept most interesting for me was the idea of how things are remembered. It appears more clearly from the lecture and discussion that history has a very large part in supporting ideas whether or not they be good or correct. Using history as some sort of propaganda will, as was seen, lead to some kind of distortion whether it be generalizations or misinterpreted facts. One example that Dr. Evans brought up was how some German people think about a “German Culture” when, in fact, there were times in German history were this culture was very different and diverse -not how they see it as being today. There are many other examples of this that can come up as well including the concept of “Making America Great Again.” There is more to the discussion than just whether one even thinks America is already great but if it ever was (“again”) or what made it great to begin with? Are the “great” factors of the “old” America exaggerated in the memory of American people?

 

Another topic that was discussed in our group is the use of words such as “fascism.” Often what is labeled “fascism” is not actually something that can be classified as that but rather populism. Labeling things or putting them “in a box” are not ways of fulling understanding what is happening. If everyone goes around calling people fascist, what do the real fascists become? Again a good critical analysis of history can help with this problem because people can then see the different types of fascist regimes that existed like the classic examples of Germany and Italy and then apply that knowledge.