Publication Date

April 2019


Erik Grimmer-Solem


History (HIST)


English (United States)


Historians have long neglected the role of women as active participants in Nazi medical crimes. Notable is the relative preponderance of historical investigations on the role of men within the Nazi medical profession. Although scholars have advanced beyond the reductive categorization of women only as victims, there remains room for the reconciliation of women and violence in a way that does not sensationalize that synthesis. Prevailing gender roles have allowed female perpetrators to hide behind the socially imposed feminine ideal, and ultimately evade personal culpability. Our understanding of perpetratorship remains gendered, so that the few women perpetrators who have been acknowledged within historical discourse are sensationalized in the mainstream and presented as monstrous anomalies; and exceptions to the rule. This is only amplified in the case of female doctors, as they embody two identities historically presumed to be in conflict with perpetratorship. In this way, the intersection of gender and medical practice marks a sphere historically dissociated with violence and murder. What is the scope of women doctors’ human agency within gender-defined structures and norms and the male hierarchy of the German medical profession? How did gender, professionalism and the nature of German medical practice interact to enable women doctors’ participation in Nazi medical crimes? To address these questions this thesis will deploy a prosopographical analysis to reconstruct the narratives of four women doctors’ involved in Nazi eugenic crimes, with particular regard for the continuities between the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany.



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