Jewish Women's Response to the Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :


The eyes of the women... showed how cruelly one was once again torn from the illusion of a normal middleclass existence.... That more and more each day the Jew was becoming fair game was the devastating realization that underscored every experience of this kind (Kaplan, 1998, p. 52)."

The look of the German woman, on the other hand, became one of increasing masculinity with their sense of superiority, which could not have been achieved without denigrating all things Jewish, including Jewish women. Irene Guenther (2004) writes"

On May 10, 1933, Propaganda Chief Goebbels met with Bella Fromm to discuss a fashion show that was being planned at the racetrack club in Berlin. Fromm, the social columnist for the Vossische Zeitung, one of several newspapers published by Ullstein Verlag, had been staging these shows for quite some time. At their meeting, Goebbels informed Fromm that he was satisfied with her work on past fashion presentations, but then issued the following order: "From now on, I want the French fashion to be omitted. Have it replaced by German models. " Later that evening, Fromm wrote in her diary, "I could not help but smiling. It was too wonderful to imagine - the race track, the elegant crowd. In place of our stylish models, however, the 'Hitler Maidens, ' with 'Gretchen' braids, flat heels, and clean-scrubbed faces! Black skirts down to the ankles, brown jackets bearing the swastika! Neither rouge nor lipstick! (Guenther, 2004, p. 91)."

This image was in keeping with the Socialist movement's attempt to elevate the ordinary Germany wife above the perhaps more sophisticated Jewish wife of a businessman. It was important to the new and emerging German identity to develop distinct and separate identities, and that meant when calling up the image of a German woman vs. A Jewish woman, it was important that the German woman, even in the most basic appearance of an unfashionable German wife, be perceived as more grand, elegant, smarter than the image of any Jewish woman.

In January 1933, as Hitler came to power, a "handbook and suggestion book" for all Nazi leaders, organizations, and members was published. Titled the ABC's of National Socialism, the book addressed the ideological pillars of Nazism. Its contents ranged from praises for the farmer and his "simple" life, as part of the Nazis' "blood and soil" philosophy, to the necessity for the nation to implement a policy of autarky, the goal of which was economic self-sufficiency and non-reliance on imports.

AntiSemitism was rife throughout the publication. The author censured large department stores that "keep Jews wealthy and in finery because of their huge mark-ups. " Additionally, he criticized the "overall slovenliness" of Jewish households. "Dirty tableware, sticky doors, smeared rugs... while the Jewish housewife, herself, is no picture of cleanliness, but idly sits around, painted up and powdered and adorned in silk and baubles (Guenther, 2004, p. 92). "

This really brings home the idea that German leadership understood that it was necessary to dismantle the Jewish family, socially and racially, in order to bring about complete destruction of the Jews in Europe.

Even single women who had careers in the public spotlight were ostracized from their arts because their Jewish heritage. Helen Bergner was an actress, one whose star was really just beginning to shine when Germany was in the grips of Socialism and Nazi fascists.

In 1933 Bergner made her stage debut in London in Escape Me Never. Then in 1934 Bergner returned to Berlin for the opening of Catharine the Great, a British film. The Nazi censor passed the film and the premiere attracted a fashionable crowd of Germans and foreign diplomats. However, when the first celebrities arrived, rioters began yelling, "Down with the Jew," and spattered eggs on posters in the lobby. They tried to prevent the theatergoers from entering the theater. The police had to escort them inside. Col. Ernest Roehm, leader of the Storm Troopers, speaking for Hitler, took the stage and begged the audience to remember that Germany was a land of law and order. The film went on to rave reviews but the next day it was withdrawn and the Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, informed Bergner that she could no longer make films in Germany. She found that the event occurred three days after Goebbels had announced that non-Aryans, previously banned from German theaters, had been reappearing; he "requested" German authorities to prevent such lawbreaking and if the request was ignored, declared that the public might resort to "self-help to defend itself (Cossner, S., 1998, p. 15)."

Eventually, Bergner escaped Germany, but there was widespread resentment towards her in the film industry and her career never recovered (Cossner, 1998, p. 15). It might be said that even after some Germans escaped Nazi Germany, they were nonetheless its victims.

As the war and the move towards Germany's final solution progressed, those Jewish women who were in mixed marriages came under the scrutiny of the German government.

The Nazi decision to privilege male over female "Aryans" reflected Nazi misogynist and the higher status of males in German society. The "household" was defined by its male head. In addition, "Aryan" men married to Jewish women still served in the military (until they and "first-degree Mischlinge" were banned in April 1940, the month Germany invaded Denmark and Norway), and the Nazis feared that the morale of these men would suffer if their families were treated like Jews. In addition, Nazi leaders may have assumed that women were passive but that men would protest their own forced transfer -- or that of their wives and children -- into a Judenhaus. Finally, the Nazis probably transformed into racial law the sexist German legal practice regarding marriages with foreigners: when German women married foreigners, they lost their German citizenship, but when German men married foreigners, their wives became German citizens. In other words, German women lost their blood ties to the Volk when they married "out," and Jewish women gained some protection from being "incorporated" when they married "in (Kaplan, 1998, pp. 149-150)."

It is a mistake to think that women were afforded any leeway or special treatments because of their gender in WWII Germany. It is in fact shown here that women were, once boycotting and closing of Jewish businesses in Germany began, the glue that held the Jewish family together. Likewise, when the deportation to concentration camps and the implementation of the final solution commenced in reality rather than philosophy; the German government understood the threat the family posed to its agenda, and separated family, husbands from wives, mothers and children, in one of the most horrific and inhumane movements against humanity that have ever occurred in human history.

It there were solace to be gained, it would have been that gained from the union between a husband and his wife, the mother of his children, and that between two lovers, or the sustenance a young child receives in the arms of a young mother. That these things were targeted by the Nazis demonstrates the strength that emanates from those relationships, and how those relationships, emanating from the fortitude of the female spirit, posed a threat to what has been described by some as the most powerful army ever to have existed in the history of the world.

Works Cited

Cosner, Shaaron, and Victoria Cosner. Women under the Third Reich: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. Questia. 7 Apr. 2008


Fox, Jo. Filming Women in the Third Reich / . Oxford: Berg, 2000. Questia. 7 Apr. 2008


Guenther, Irene. Nazi Chic? Fashioning Women in the Third Reich. Oxford, England: Berg, 2004. Questia. 7 Apr. 2008


Kaplan, Marion a. Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Questia. 7 Apr. 2008

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