Nazism’s Lessons and Legacies

By: Andreea Gustin

Following a period in history as cruel and as heinous as the holocaust, it is impossible to move forward without acknowledging the past. This week’s sources centered on the lessons and the legacies of Nazism. I think often times, when taught about the holocaust or the events of WWII, the question of what happened next is often left unanswered. As a history student, once this period in history has been covered, we close the book and we move on to the next. However, this week shows the reality of the impacts of these events. For many, the pain does not stop just because the holocaust did. They are not able to close the book on this chapter because for them, it is a pain and a trauma that will follow them for the rest of their story. Smith’s essay, “It Takes A Village to Create a Nation’s Memory”, gave us a glimpse into how it felt for Jews to face the difficult past upon returning back to Germany as we saw with Hugo Spiegel. Personally, this was the source that stood out for me this week. I wish that we got to learn more about how Germany moved forward as a nation however, I think through the individual story of Hugo Spiegel, we got to see how ordinary citizens coped and came to terms with the horrors that occurred in order to move forward with their lives while still fighting for the remembrance and the acknowledgment of the terrors committed. Ultimately, this source demonstrated how Germany could not face it’s past alone. The Jews returning home was critical to Germans confronting the wrong-doings and working alongside the Jews in their community to commemorate the past. 

Women and The Far-Right

By: Andreea Gustin

This week’s sources allowed us to take a look at both the historical and contemporary appeal of the far-right to women. I’ve had the chance to take other courses centered on Europe during the twentieth century in which I’ve previously learned about the Nazi regime and fascist ideologies. However, I had always felt like there was a gap in my knowledge as none of these courses explicitly covered the role of women. This week’s readings provided a fascinating perspective and challenged my expectations of women’s involvement in the Nazi movement.  

Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields provided a foundational understanding of why and how women participated in the Nazi movement. One early female activist recounted the political awakening of women to the Nazi movement, in which she said “women could not remain uninvolved in this struggle, for it was their future too, and the future of their children” (p.20). During this time period, women were beginning to gain greater independence – they had a youthful energy and aspirations for a better life. They supported Hitler and contributed to his rise in power as they believed it would be benefitting their nation – in turn, these women aided in committing atrocious crimes. 

It was interesting to read the Guardian article afterwards, From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: how the European far-right sets its sights on women, as it showed commonalities of what interests’ women in the far-right today. Although not the entire reason, one of the contemporary appeals for women to the far-right is the fact that they “feel left behind”. It’s incredibly fascinating to see women gravitate to groups which are or once were dominated by patriarchal ideology in order to further their own aspirations. All in all, I think this week’s sources all provided an intriguing look at the critical role women play in conflict and populist movements. 

Gender and Genocide: How Women in Germany Contributed to the Nazi Killing Machine

By Austin Pellizzer

 In the book Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower, Lower discusses in-depth the way women as a whole were not just complacent in the slaughter of millions of people under the Nazi regime, but rather, they played an instrumental roll in perpetuating the Nazi system both at home and abroad in the East (6). 

By giving women heavily controlled agency (11) to serve the State in significant ways such as on the Eastern front, in the medical corps, and or behind a desk, there were also social expectations they needed to uphold (21). Hitler believed that the roles of women were both in the movement and the home. He stated, “What man offers in heroism on the field of battle, woman equals with unending perseverance and sacrifice, with unending pain and suffering,” …”Every child she brings into the world is a battle, a battle she wages for the existence of her people. The National Socialist Community of the Volk was established on a firm basis precisely because millions of women became our most loyal, fanatical fellow-combatants” (22). As we can see, there were sharp contrasts and gendered roles prescribed from the highest levels of the Reich. These women were expected to fall in line with the Nazi policies and suppress their feelings. While also producing the perfect Aryan offspring (22) to support the thousand-year Reich.

With this, one question stuck out to me throughout the chapters that dealt with the ideas of performative gender and To what extent did these women have to walk a fine line between being a mother and embodying female Aryan ideals while taking on a hardened and ‘masculine’ trait of being ruthless and a murderer? Did these women have to police themselves to ensure one did not perform more of one gendered characteristic over the other? Did these women change their demeanour based on their social environments? And, what were society’s perceptions of these evil women who committed such unspeakable atrocities?

Works Cited

Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies (Houghton Mifflin, 2013)

Masculinity and The Ideal Citizen

By: Andreea Gustin 

This week, we focused on the topic of Consent, Coercion and Acceptance in relation to gender and sexual identity – specifically how these ideas played a role in authoritarian and fascist regimes in Europe. The sources we covered all centered on the theme of understanding how authoritarian and nationalist regimes used gender and sexuality to create the boundary between the “ideal” citizen and the opponent. 

One of the main focuses regarding this theme was the concept of masculinity. Kühne’s article, Protean Masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich, stressed the importance of, what he referred to as, “hard masculinity” to the fascist ideology in Nazi Germany. There was a lot of pressure on the men to be physically, emotionally and morally tough. This masculinity made up the ideal citizen; strong, aggressive, resilient and in control. 

However, what I also found interesting was the discussion of protean masculinity and “soft” manliness. This, according to Kühne, could be displayed if one was ready to prove – or even better if he had already proved – “hard” manliness. Soldiers were facing difficult and tragic situations and there was acknowledgement that they faced periods of weakness. However, it was not the periods of weakness or “softness” that mattered, but the fact that they were “manly” enough to overcome it. This piece was the one that got my attention the most out of this week’s sources because it was interesting to gain some perspective on the fluidity and ambiguity of the experiences of masculinity in this kind of all-male homosocial setting. 

Leisure and Tourism in Nazi Germany

By: Andreea Gustin

This week’s sources provided a look at fascism from a perspective I had never considered. When thinking of fascism and what made people go along with it, my mind always instantly went to things like force, brutality, harsh restrictions etc. Never did I really consider how tourism or leisure could act as a form of propaganda to appeal to the masses and gain popular consent. Obviously, it is not to say that most people supported fascist regimes during this time, however, as can be seen in sources like Shelly Baranowski’s Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich, the Third Reich and the Kraft durch Freude (KdF) were able to weaponize leisure and tourism in order to persuade citizens to think that the regime had improved their lives and to further the narrative of German superiority. 

This source showcases how leisure activities and tourism were used to create this idealistic image of leadership under the Nazi regime and internally as well as externally create a sense of German nationalism. Hitler’s regime wanted to give German travellers and those travelling from other countries a look at “Aryan superiority”. However, in reality this was an illusion to make it appear as through their living conditions and lifestyles were of a higher level. After having read this week’s sources, it becomes easier to understand why to some, there may have been some sort of appeal in regards to fascism that went beyond ideology. Leisure and travel were instrumentalized to achieve wider Nazi goals and to create a sense of normality in a way to manufacture and maintain popular consent.