chapter  5
20 Pages

Equality and difference in National Socialist racism

ByGisela Bock

According to one opinion, National Socialism favoured women. A first version of this view holds that, before 1933, ‘equality’ was emphasized, particularly by the women’s movement, ‘difference’ was played down, and having children was scorned. National Socialism is supposed to have made child-bearing respectable again, to have rewarded mothers and upgraded the family, to have promoted not

an illusory and undesirable ‘equality’ of women with men but their ‘equal value’. Another version of the same position underlines a different link between the earlier women’s movement and Nazi gender policies. The former supported women’s distinctiveness and ‘separate sphere’, the centrality of maternity and demands for the improvement of the situation of mothers; National Socialism is said to have taken over this radical feminist programme.2 A further and influential version argues that, regardless of countervailing ideologies, National Socialism produced for women ‘a new status of relative if unconventional equality’. Women experienced improved job opportunities and rising wages and benefited from social policies related to maternity; their loss of political status did not differ from the same loss as experienced by men.3