German women and the holocaust
German Women and the Holocaust
“Women were not strangers. Nor were they destroyers or warmongers, were they?
Women were nurturers and peacemakers, were they not? . . . [There is an]
assumption that most women were just better than most men.” [Owings 1993,
The Holocaust is undoubtedly one of the most horrific events, if not the most
horrific event, of modern times. At the core of the murder of six million Jews is the
chilling truth that a great number of “ordinary” German people were implicated in the
genocide, whether through active involvement or compliant inaction. The desire to know
why so large a number of people contributed to the evil of the Holocaust has led to
discussion of the acts of different groups within the German population. However, with
regard to the perpetrators and bystanders there has been little or no discussion of the
moral responsibility of women.
Women made up half the German population, yet very few historians have
discussed the roles they played or the issue of their moral responsibility. Indeed, more
often than not women are portrayed as an uninfluential sector of the population who if
anything were victims of Nazi rule themselves. Historians often indicate that women
were forced to remain within the non-political sphere, with no influence outside of wife-
and motherhood. [Stibbe 1993, 35] Thus, it is suggested that women cannot be held
morally responsible because they were unable to do anything to prevent the Shoah.1
1 I use the terms “Holocaust” and “Shoah” interchangeably to describe the Nazi genocide
of the Jews.