Publication Date

April 2016

Advisor(s)

Erik Grimmer-Solem, Nathanael Greene

Major

History (HIST)

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

This work will examine the spaces of the Nazi East and Ravensbrück concentration camp as spaces in which women found greater opportunities for power, personal and career advancement, and emancipation. It will also address how these possibilities ultimately came at the expense of a subjugated population. My thesis will focus on two groups of women: women who went to the occupied eastern territories as settlement advisors, and women who worked at Ravensbrück concentration camp as guards. In each of these roles, women exercised agency and power in service of the genocidal Nazi regime. I consider these two spaces, the occupied Nazi east and Ravensbrück, to be colonial- or frontier-like spaces, in which women were provided with opportunities to escape from the rigid gender roles of the metropole. In these new spaces, importantly existing outside the bounds of established Nazi society, the gender hierarchy became subordinate to the racial hierarchy, thus providing a space for German women to gain power and independence as Germans/Aryans first, and women second. In order to defend these newly gained privileges as part of the master race, privileges unimaginable to women within the metropole, women working in the eastern territories and in Ravensbrück continually had to define themselves against a racial or social “other.” As women they might face constraints and subordination, but as Germans they could share in the dominance, camaraderie, and power of the master race in these spaces. This coexistence and interdependence of emancipation and extermination thus integrated these women into the Nazi system of oppression and genocide, making them perpetrators and accomplices to the Nazis’ crimes against humanity.

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