Historiography of Women in Nazi Germany

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In the entirety of World War II scholarship, a heav interest has been paid to Nazi crimes and the Holocaust. Immediately following the end of the war, scholars and citizens alike have searched for a justifiable cause of one of the most inhumane eras of humankind. A large portion of the scholarship has focused on the men. Indeed, as Michelle Mouton states, “in the immediate postwar era, public explanation blamed Hitler and his henchmen for the Nazi crimes,” however, “subsequent historical scholarship, media, and autobiographies have revealed a more widespread societal and personal responsibility.” While the initial interest in the Nazi Regime studied the actions and ideologies of the men at the top echelons of Nazi power, recent study has also turned away from just Hitler and his henchmen to include lower levels of Nazi party members and ordinary people. This study of ordinary people in the relam of Nazi Germany includes women.

Perhaps the most well known of the debates in the field of women’s history in nazi Germany is the Historikerinnenstreit, perhaps all the more well known because of its two opponents-Claudia Koonz and Gisela Bock. Though multifaceted in depth, one major theme of the arguemtn is the role of women-were they Öpfer (victims), as Bock suggests, or Täterinnen (Perpetrators), as Koonz argues. The Historikerinnenstreit mirrors the Historikerstreit happening between male historians around roughly the same time.

While the Historikerinnenstreit is not the primary focus of this review, it does pose an interesting question of how scholars in the 67 years since the end of war have handled German women in the realm of National Socialism. Is the debate the same now as it was then? Were women either victims or perpetrators? Did women have any agency? Has the methodology changed any in seven decades to allow for new intepretations of women in a National Socialistic state?

What has been revealved in this review, though hardly exhaustive, is the...
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