Far-Right Women and Missing Voices

Written by Emma Bronsema

In many fascist societies, women play a large and important role. Historically, their roles and femininity has been overlooked, generalized, and propagandized; they were often marginalized, and their complex stories were simplified. However, it is not shocking that women were involved in nationalistic and war efforts. They were heavily ingrained in society as secretaries, social workers, and educators, to name a few. They were also in close proximity to where these wartime events were taking place; close to power and close to crime scenes. Many people became desensitized to what they were seeing, in addition to being ideologically indoctrinated by what their government propagandized.

In fascist Spain and Germany, women’s roles were often used to sell a story to various audiences – including women of a different political view to portray them as ideal and the better between the two. “Officially” both Spanish and German women returned back to a domestic role after the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War ended. Their stories and accounts of the wars and their contribution often went missing. There were many reasons for this, including the fact that many women did not speak about their actions and the events that took place. Moreover, women’s roles were often propagandized, generalized, victimized, hyper-sexualized, and or given a sympathetic image. Furthermore, many women were difficult to track down because they got married and changed their last names. 

Lastly, their stories were not recorded because they were not regarded as relevant at the time. Women’s roles and experience during the war was not an area of interest for reporters and historians at the time. Another reason for the lack in interest stems from political reasons and change in the government, or women were simply left out of studies done. This resulted in many phenomena that have been suppressed, overlooked and under-researched. As well as the stories that are recorded and get told today are a result of selective memory, where the person telling the story trailers it so it is inline with what their audience would like to hear.

Sources used:

Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez. “Blue Angels: Female Fascist Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 53, no. 4, (Oct. 2018), pp. 692–713. 

Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies (Houghton Mifflin, 2013), pp15-75.

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)