chapter  12
23 Pages

Antinatalism, maternity and paternity in National Socialist racism

Understanding the policy of the National Socialist regime towards women as mothers within a European perspective requires this issue to be placed in a context which allows the identification of similarities as well as differences between the National Socialist experience and that of other European countries. This can best be approached by examining three broad areas of research: first, those features of National Socialism which come close to, or are at least comparable with other countries' welfare reforms and which allow us to see Nazi Germany as a kind of welfare state (or as a society in the process of 'modernization'};1 yet studies of the emergence of the European welfare states usually do not include women-and family-related National Socialist policies such as the introduction of child allowances in 1935/36. Second, there is the extreme opposite of social reform, i.e. National Socialist racism. Its various forms - particularly anti-Jewish and anti-Gypsy policy, race hygiene or eugenics - illustrate that in this respect National Socialism was unique, despi:e the fact that racism was an international phenomenon. It was unique most of all because, from its rise to power in 1933, it began to institutionalize racism at the level of the state, through innumerable laws and decrees which discriminated against those considered to be 'racially inferior'. National Socialism transformed racism into a state-sponsored race policy, and put into practice all its forms to a degree unheard of before and after. In this field too, women-related policies are rarely considered, even though women were half of all victims. Third, there is a growing body of research on women under National Socialism and the regime's policy towards them. Its most salient common assumption is that National Socialism meant pronatalism and brought a cult of motherhood, that it used propaganda, incentives, and even force in order to have all women bear as many children as possible and to keep them out of employment for the sake of motherhood. Whereas research on National Socialist racism usually does not deal with women, research in women's history usually does not deal with National Socialist racism, and female victims of racism are mentioned marginally at best.