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Sex after Fascism

Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany

Dagmar Herzog
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Sex after Fascism
    Book Description:

    What is the relationship between sexual and other kinds of politics? Few societies have posed this puzzle as urgently, or as disturbingly, as Nazi Germany. What exactly were Nazism's sexual politics? Were they repressive for everyone, or were some individuals and groups given sexual license while others were persecuted, tormented, and killed? How do we make sense of the evolution of postwar interpretations of Nazism's sexual politics? What do we make of the fact that scholars from the 1960s to the present have routinely asserted that the Third Reich was "sex-hostile"?

    In response to these and other questions, Sex after Fascism fundamentally reconceives central topics in twentieth-century German history. Among other things, it changes the way we understand the immense popular appeal of the Nazi regime and the nature of antisemitism, the role of Christianity in the consolidation of postfascist conservatism in the West, the countercultural rebellions of the 1960s-1970s, as well as the negotiations between government and citizenry under East German communism. Beginning with a new interpretation of the Third Reich's sexual politics and ending with the revisions of Germany's past facilitated by communism's collapse, Sex after Fascism examines the intimately intertwined histories of capitalism and communism, pleasure and state policies, religious renewal and secularizing trends.

    A history of sexual attitudes and practices in twentieth-century Germany, investigating such issues as contraception, pornography, and theories of sexual orientation, Sex after Fascism also demonstrates how Germans made sexuality a key site for managing the memory and legacies of Nazism and the Holocaust.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4332-9
    Subjects: History, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    What is the relationship between sexual morality and mass murder and its aftermath? In view of Nazism’s horrific crimes, sexuality might be seen as a frivolous or inappropriate subject for scholarly study of twentieth-century Germany. Yet precisely the opposite is the case.

    Careful attention to the history of sexuality prompts us to reconsider how we periodize twentieth-century German history; it changes our interpretation of ruptures and continuities across the conventional divides of 1918, 1933, 1945, 1968, and 1989. Consideration of the history of sexuality and insistence on integrating the history of sexuality with more traditional topics of historiography can also...

  2. CHAPTER ONE Sex and the Third Reich
    (pp. 10-63)

    Sex was no marginal matter for the National Socialists. Rather, sexuality in all its aspects was a major preoccupation for the regime and its supporters for the duration of the Third Reich. While racism of any kind has necessarily always been also about sex, this was especially true for National Socialism.

    The Third Reich was an immense venture in reproductive engineering. But no less important than the dual project of prohibiting (through sterilization, abortion, and murder) the reproduction of those deemed “undesirable” and of encouraging and enforcing (through restrictions on contraception and abortion, financial incentives, and propagandistic enticements) the reproduction...

  3. CHAPTER TWO The Fragility of Heterosexuality
    (pp. 64-100)

    The postwar months and years were not a time of silence about Nazism. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, sexuality became a central focus of efforts to master Nazism—and its defeat. Especially in the western zones of occupation, postwar discussions of sex proved a singularly important site for efforts to come to terms with the recent past. From church-affiliated Christians on the one side to the defenders of “healthy” pro-sex sensualism on the other, from medical professionals to mainstream journalists and middlebrow advicegivers, postwar commentators, far from suppressing references to Nazism, invoked it with frequency....

  4. CHAPTER THREE Desperately Seeking Normality
    (pp. 101-140)

    Why would the Federal Republic of Germany, so soon after the end of Nazism and the Holocaust, direct so much moral energy to the reorganization of sexual relations? While the immediate postwar years were a time of remarkable sexual freedom and avid and open public discussion of sexual issues, the early to mid-1950s saw an abrupt shift toward far greater sexual conservatism. Within a short time, liberal commentators on sexual matters were on the defensive, and conservative politicians, religious leaders, journalists, and legal and medical authorities took an aggressive lead in promoting normative notions of sexual and familial relations. And...

  5. CHAPTER FOUR The Morality of Pleasure
    (pp. 141-183)

    The sexual revolution arrived on the West German scene in the mid-1960s, escalating in extent and intensity throughout the remainder of the decade and into the early 1970s. The sexual revolution in all its dimensions demolished the postfascist culture of sexual conservatism. In making this revolution possible, the commercialization, liberalization, and politicization of sex were inseparable developments. While the sudden mass availability of reliable birth control in the form of the pill certainly contributed mightily to the change in sexual mores, it did not on its own create the revolution. Just as important was the thorough saturation of the visual...

  6. CHAPTER FIVE The Romance of Socialism
    (pp. 184-219)

    If in West Germany the restoration of conservative Christian values with regard to sex, gender, and family relations was a primary means for dealing with the inheritance of Nazism, how did the self-styled antifascist regime of East Germany deal with the legacies of the Third Reich’s sexual politics? In the Federal Republic of Germany, the Christian churches had considerable influence in shaping official sexual norms. How, by contrast, were sexual mores negotiated in the formally secularized German Democratic Republic? How were sexually conservative arguments advanced here without reference to God? And if the sexual liberalization of West Germany had depended...

  7. CHAPTER SIX Antifascist Bodies
    (pp. 220-258)

    What happened to the anticapitalist and antifascist impulse within the West? This chapter picks up the story of sexuality and memory after Nazism in the melancholic wake of the political upheavals of 1968 in West Germany. It is a story of the death of faith in the redemptive power of sexual love and of the dissolution of previously fiercely held beliefs about the inherent connections between sexual liberation and political struggle. At the same time, and however paradoxically, it is also a story that exemplifies once again the inextricability of conflicts over sexuality and the trajectory of other political developments....

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 259-266)

    From the perspective of the history of sexuality, a notable conjunction of continuities and discontinuities characterizes each of the standard demarcation lines in twentieth-century German history. Neither Germany’s entry into World War I in 1914 nor its defeat in 1918, for example, marked the onset of sexual liberalization; rather the aftermath of defeat saw an exacerbation of trends already underway as the century began. Organized homosexual rights activism existed as early as the middle of the first decade of the century; so too did a profusion of physicians’ commentaries on the loosening of premarital heterosexual mores and the use of...