Mothers and Their Roles in Nazi Germany

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Mothers and Their Roles in Nazi Germany

I am here today to discuss how gender played a critical role in the construction of the Nazi State, prior to 1938. Specifically, I would like to focus my analysis on how and why the Nazis constructed a conception of motherhood that defined the mother in relation to the state. For our purposes today, we will examine two ideal German mothers and explore their similarities in order to understand how and why the Nazis perceived mothers as public agents of the Volksgemeinschaft, or German community of people. Primary documents will allow us to examine first-hand experiences of mothers written within the context of Nazi Germany.

But first, on must begin by understanding precisely how the Nazis defined motherhood. The Nazis essentially invoked the ethos or authority of nature in order to define motherhood. For instance, they state, “To be a mother means giving life to healthy children, bringing to fruition all the physical, mental, and spiritual faculties in these children” (HCC 282). Raising healthy children and encouraging physical, mental, and spiritual growth are clearly universal or natural goals that any mother should hope to attain, even today. The Nazis definition of motherhood, in this instance, seems to be inclusive rather than exclusionary. In addition to nature, the Nazis invoke the ethos of nationalism to define motherhood. For example, the Nazis state that mothers must create “a home for them which represents a place where nationalist and racialist culture is nurtured” (HCC 282). This nationalistic definition of motherhood is not inclusive. Rather, it is implicitly exclusive because it defines political and racial boundaries. It is important to ma...

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...ng considered non-citizens still identified themselves as German Jews and nationalists. Hitler was incorrect when he asserted that Jews are a “foreign race, unwilling and unable to sacrifice its racial characteristics, to deny its own feeling, thinking, and striving” (HCC 142). How then do people like Marta Appel and her family identify themselves as German Jews? By juxtaposing Marta Appel to the Aryan peasant mother it becomes clear that the Nazis not only constructed an arbitrary definition of motherhood, but also of a whole race. Thus defining a mother as a public agent of the Volksmeingeschaft was nothing more than a means by which the Nazis carried out their anti-Semitic political agenda. The Nazis claimed to be exposing natural distinctions between races, but in reality they were creating superficial divisions between people who were essentially the same.
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