German women and the holocaust
other “undesirables”; yet the boundaries of the area I have chosen do not leave room to
discuss these persecuted German women.
The paper deals with aspects of the moral responsibility of German women. First,
I discuss the view of German women proposed by Gisella Bock: namely that all German
women were victims of the Nazi regime on account of the anti- and pro-natalist policies
of the Nazis. I argue that this is a one-dimensional view of German women and that it
fails to recognise and differentiate between the degree and the style of victimisation
suffered by Jewish and “Aryan” women respectively. I believe it also has undesirable
implications in the assessment of moral responsibility.
I then go on to an analysis of the argument that, though women may not have
been true victims, they cannot be held morally responsible because they did not do much
more than sustain the private sphere. I agree with Claudia Koonz that this act of
sustaining the private sphere reveals, in fact, that women played a complicit role in the
events of the Shoah. However, I shall argue that women did more than this as well.
Because some women chose to become Nazis and because other women decided to aid
the Jews, I claim that women were able to make moral decisions and thus must be
included in the discussion of moral responsibility, rather than being seen as just in a
Finally I focus on women as perpetrators. A discussion of the moral responsibility
of women would be incomplete without examining the small but significant number of
women who were perpetrators. I discuss the problem of women perpetrators who were
labour conscripts and how this affects their moral responsibility. I also consider the
sexism within the SS, and the brutality of certain notorious female perpetrators. I include
a discussion of the wives of male perpetrators, as well as some consideration of the role