Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"Hitler's Furies" and "Hitler's Beneficiaries"

German women, at the very least, allowed the Holocaust, Aktion T4 and other horrors of the Nazi era to go ahead.

Conversely, their wholesale public revulsion would have at least slowed it down.

The Nazi leadership never forgot the widespread protest of hungry housewives that hastened the surrender of Germany in WWI and greatly feared it repetition.

So much so that it is now a commonplace among a new generation of historians to argue that keeping the German family well fed during wartime no matter what led to the worst actions of the Nazis in the occupied lands.

In Simple Wiki speak : bad harvests back home led to wars and lead them to kill millions and millions people, simply to steal their food.

Very few of us have ever heard that least a half million women served Hitler's evil ways in the occupied lands - let alone what they did there.

Mostly very young, these German women in the occupied territories did everything, from typing the paperwork for the transport trains to the death camps, to bookkeepers counting the stolen loot.

Right up to the nurses and guards who gave the fatal needles or shot children in the face after hands-on torturing them.

Of course most German women stayed home.

But they were hardly guilt free : these women also silently accepted the daily mistreatment of enslaved peoples - all the millions of enslaved workers clearly being mistreated at their factory or farm.

Silently accepting as well, all the new apartments and new belongings made available when their Jewish neighbours 'disappeared' to the Eastern death camps, whose existence was known by virtually all, even if only as a whispered rumour.

Millions of German housewives saw that their families remained very well fed up to the last days of the war, while they knew families in the occupied lands were starving.

That was a big difference from the extremely harsh Great War food conditions which almost all these women directly remembered as a housewife or as a child.

Yet Germany wasn't producing any more food now in this war than in the last --- so they had to know where all the extra - and clearly foreign - food was coming from and how it was obtained.

Because their husbands and boyfriends told them.

How, despite the occupied lands being grossly starved, their foodstuffs remained miraculously widely available to Germans at ridiculously low prices.

That sort of 'good luck' for the Germans and 'bad luck' for the occupied people just couldn't have happened by accident.

Despite all this, literally only a handful of the tens of millions of guilty German women were tried, convicted and their sentence carried out fully.

A very few feminist historians have had the courage to address why women have been written out of the Nazi story (except as victims).

Wendy Lower's Hitler's Furies is one of the best.

In a few places, it is very hard to read, at least for the almost all of us who hold a special place in our hearts for children and still naively believe that all women feel the same.

However, it is unique in also examining in detail the lives of the more ordinary German women working in the occupied lands and hence allows one to begin to get inside the heads of those half million female Nazi assistants.

Lower's is one of the best books on this subject and rightly one of the best known too.

But I also want to add a male feminist to the list : Gotz Aly.

He is always provocative (and that rare non-tenured historian who tenured historians read and respond to in a professional manner.)

His "Hitler's Beneficiaries" is a successful attempt to show how every single (non-imprisoned) German benefited from stolen loot and from food stolen from the starving - and how every adult knew well how it came in their hands.

And in war, the majority of those stay-at-home loot profiteers were inevitably women.

It is troubling that these historians have been so alone in all of this .

Their published efforts, involving as they do the moral behavior of the majority of humanity (women), while hardly ignored by professional historians, haven't really become popular discussion books among ordinary people.

Above all, among ordinary feminists....

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